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Torn for You: A Good Friday Meditation

The Gospels have famously been described as “Passion narratives with extended introductions.” The first half of each Gospel highlights select events and teachings in Jesus’s three-year ministry. But then comes Passion Week—and the evangelists show no interest in moving quickly. Here they linger, every word dripping with divine mercy, every detail unfolding new vistas of God’s unsearchable love for his people. The evangelists don’t simply recount what happens at Golgotha; they tell us the moment’s meaning.

One paragraph that takes us to the moment emphasizes four significant events: cosmic darkness, Jesus’s cry of dereliction, the temple curtain’s rending, and the centurion’s surprising confession (Mark 15:33–39).

This Good Friday, consider one detail: the curtain’s rending.

Ripped Apart

Have you ever considered what’s the first thing that happened after Jesus died? According to Mark, it was the tearing of the temple curtain: “Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (vv. 37–38).

Mark has anticipated this moment for some time, as Jesus’s sights have been set on the temple for five chapters. From ending his triumphal entry at the temple (chap. 11), to arguing with the temple authorities (chap. 12), to predicting its destruction (chap. 13), Jesus has repeatedly made it plain that the old order and old temple are passing away.

But this moment is far more than the vindication of Jesus’s final week of teaching. The torn veil resolves a problem as old as creation itself.

The torn veil resolves a problem as old as creation itself.

At the beginning of the Bible, Adam and Eve enjoyed unrestricted access to God. Eden wasn’t any ordinary garden. It was a garden-sanctuary, a temple: the place where God dwelled with man. But when Adam and Eve sinned, they were exiled from Eden and excluded from fellowship with their Creator. God placed angelic centurions with a flaming sword on the garden’s eastern edge. The point was clear: if anyone tried to reenter God’s presence, that flaming sword would come down on his or her head.

The penalty for sinners trying to access God’s presence was death. Yet in the Old Testament, God made a way to dwell with his people—at least in a limited sense. Both the tabernacle and the temple were made to look like miniature Edens. The furniture, the implements, and the embroidered curtains all mimicked a lush garden. But this new Eden had restrictions. Temple worshipers could enter the outer court. The priests could minister in the holy place. But the innermost room, the Holy of Holies, was utterly inaccessible except to the high priest once a year. That’s where God himself dwelled.

The curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple wasn’t flimsy and thin like the one in my dining room. This curtain was a wall. Some scholars estimate it may have been a foot thick. Embroidered into it were cherubim (Ex. 26:31–35). Just like Eden, they barred access to God’s presence. And just like Eden, the access point to his presence faced the east—accessible only from the land of Adam’s exile (vv. 18–22).

At the death of Christ, that curtain separating man from God was torn in two—ripped by God himself. The angelic centurions were called off duty. The flaming sword was sheathed in Christ’s heart. The threat of judgment hanging over those who dare enter God’s presence fell on his head. In their place, condemned he stood.

Access to God

The torn curtain symbolizes that the barriers separating us and God have now been completely removed. We’re no longer under the threat of his just condemnation. By Christ’s blood and righteousness, we’ve been made holy and acceptable to God. No barriers keep us from going to God, and nothing keeps him from dispensing his mercy or exercising his love.

When we’re in conflict with someone, we often use the phrase “There’s something between us.” The torn veil teaches us that Christians must never use that phrase about their objective relationship with God. There’s nothing, legally speaking, between you and God. There’s no distance between his mercy and those who have trusted in Christ’s work. There’s no barrier separating his grace from those who hunger for it.

Fellowship with the Trinity

But the image of the torn curtain runs deeper still. The open doorway into the Holy of Holies means we who are in Christ now dwell with God and he with us. The Spirit who once resided in the Holy of Holies has been poured out on his people. As Paul declares, “Through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18).

This is staggering. Those who come to Christ enjoy, by the Spirit, the fellowship with the Father that the Son himself enjoys. His death accomplishes more than the removal of God’s wrath—though that alone would be more than we deserve! He also ushers us into the gloriously happy fellowship and infinite love that has forever existed between Father, Son, and Spirit.

At the death of Christ, that curtain separating man from God was torn in two—ripped by God himself.

As Bobby Jamieson put it, “The Father sent his Son to redeem us, and his Spirit to indwell us, in order that we would share in the Son’s own relation to the Father. The Christian life is not merely (and not ultimately!) about forgiveness and freedom from condemnation; it’s about being permanently inserted into the love and glory that the Father has eternally shared with the Son.” Or as Jesus prayed, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

Christian, the torn veil is an invitation—an open door to the Trinity’s infinite love. Our destiny isn’t simply eternal gratitude that we’re not in hell. For all eternity, we’ll grow increasingly happy as we’re brought further up and further in to the infinitely sweet triune fellowship. Both now and forever, God will love us no less than he loves his own Son. Both now and forever, he’ll love us with the same degree of intensity with which he has eternally loved Jesus Christ.

Those who’ve internalized the torn curtain’s message can be in no doubt that God loves them.


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