Put yourself into the story today. You are a priest in the Temple of Jesus’ time. You are there because you were born into a family of priests, the lineage that carried special responsibilities in the Temple. Your job tends the relationship of the Israelites to their God.
Yet even you cannot venture behind the heavy curtain hanging in the Temple, shutting off the room called the Holy of Holies. Behind that curtain is the Ark of the Covenant, the place of God’s presence here in the Temple. Only the high priest can approach God in that sacred place; and he enters only one time a year, after he has completed a regimen of purification and preparation that makes him acceptable to stand in the presence of the Almighty.
Any other person who enters at any other time and in any other way will be struck dead. You have known this all your life. You are in awe of the presence of Almighty God. His appearances in the history of your people have been accompanied by fire, have struck people dead or left them marred physically for life. You, a priest, are very careful to observe all the laws, every detail, about the proper way to approach God.
On this afternoon, you go about your duties but your thoughts are not in the Temple. The grapevine is sizzling with the news: that man who called himself the Son of God, who has stirred up your people with outlandish teaching and sensational miracles, is being executed. He was arrested last night. Your mind goes to that place outside the city where criminals are executed. Finally, there will be an end to the turmoil of the last three years.
Suddenly you feel dizzy. Then you realize the earth itself is moving, the floor of the temple is shifting under your feet. You lose your balance and fall to your knees as screams and shouts tell of the terrified confusion of other priests.
The heavy curtain, thicker than a man’s hand, is tearing from the top to the bottom. Sixty feet in the air, the elaborately embroidered cloth is beginning to rip apart, as though an unseen hand is tearing away the barrier between you and the Holy of Holies. Admittance into the presence of the holy God is laid open to everyone.
You will hear more news later, as the city buzzes about the afternoon’s events; and you will remember that the tearing apart of the curtain came at the very moment that man Jesus died.
you have endowed [me] with eternal blessings
and given [me] the joy of your presence.
© Elaine Starner 2015
Photo credit: Claire Pridgeon