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'Torn in two' was a good thing
March 21, 2011
by Rev. David R. Erbel, St. Peter Ev. Lutheran Church, Lester Prairie

If you have ever had the opportunity to fly in a large commercial airplane – or if you have seen pictures of the interior of such an airplane – you know that there is a curtain that separates the first class from the coach section.

When you attend a play, there is a curtain which separates the audience from the stage until the actors are ready to perform.

During this season of Lent, Matthew 27:50-51 tells us of an event where a large curtain was torn in two. It reads: “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”

Not everyone was at Calvary for Jesus’ crucifixion, but many people near the temple knew what was going on there. Darkness had fallen over the whole land. And, the immovable temple curtain was torn in two.

This double curtain, being the width of the interior of the temple of worship, was very large – about 60 feet high and 6 inches thick. The temple curtain was well anchored – and if it ever fell down, it most certainly would be put up again.

But it doesn’t fall down, and it cannot be put up again. The temple curtain is torn in two, and rendered useless.

This temple curtain had formed a separation that reminded the people of their sin. Isaiah 59:2 reads: “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden God’s face from you.” The curtain separated the people in their sins from God.

To have sins forgiven, people on the outside of the curtain would bring perfect animals, without blemish, for the priest to sacrifice. Their sins were symbolically transferred to the animal, which was then sacrificed. This “curtain of separation” meant that the people had no direct access to God.

The moment Christ died, all separation ended. The tearing of the temple curtain is symbolic of Christ Himself being the only way to God. Now, Christ is our high priest – and as believers in His forgiving our sins, and of His resurrection, we can now enter the Holy of Holies through Him. Jesus is the perfect and final sacrifice for sin.

In the Bible, Hebrews 10:19-22 tells of the access to God that we are now privileged to enjoy through Jesus Christ. It reads: “Brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened up for us through the “curtain,” that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Are there some “curtains” in your life that are separating you from the Holiness of God? “Curtains of separation” come in many forms – they may be addictions, abuses, covetous relationships, material idols, and other sins. What is your “curtain of separation”?

The temple curtain was a constant reminder that sin renders humanity unfit for the presence of God. Jesus Christ, through his death and resurrection, has removed the barriers between God and man. Now, we may approach him with confidence and boldness.

So where can you go when the dangers of a “curtain of separation” are in your life? There is really only one place. Jesus Christ came for the sole purpose of forgiving you your sins and giving you access to God.

During this Lenten season, as you prepare to celebrate the resurrection on Easter, may you seek the Holiness of God.

Be glad . . . rejoice.