Why the veil was torn in two when Jesus died


At this moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split“, Matthew 27:51

Matthew, Mark, and Luke documented the tearing of the veil in the temple after Jesus died on the cross.

  • “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom,” Mark 15:38 bed.
  • Luke wrote, “because the sun has ceased to shine. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two” (Luke 23:45).
  • John simply records the last words of Jesus, “It’s finish,” and “thereupon he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 7:30 p.m.).

The Apostle Matthew left a historical record of Jesus’ death by recording the events that immediately followed. John, perhaps tied in emotional knots as he lay at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother at the time of his death, can only move on after mentioning the last earthly breath of his Savior before the crucifixion.

What happened when Jesus died on the cross?

Jesus, who is God the Son, went to the cross of his own free will in submission to God the Father. He came to earth to save us from the sin that separated us from the presence of God.

The tearing of the curtain that separated sinful people from the holy presence of God signifies what happened when the flesh of Jesus was torn“, John Piper preachedThe rending of Jesus’ flesh ensured reconciliation between God and his sinful people. That’s what the tearing of the curtain meant.

The veil, or curtain, in the temple was torn when Jesus died. Chad Ashby featuring thegospelcoalition.org wrote, “His last piercing cry received a resounding response from the temple: Behold, the curtain was torn in tow, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks split. The graves were also opened. (Matt 27:51)”

What is the context and significance of the tearing of the veil in the temple?

Matthew, Mark and Luke, the three synoptic gospels (so titled because they contain many of the same stories in the same sequence), all mention the tearing of the veil. Matthew referred to the innermost curtain, explained by Professor Daniel M. Gurtner:

This veil, first and most fully described in the tabernacle descriptions, was made of blue, purple, and scarlet thread and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked on it by a skilled artisan (Exodus 26:31; 36:35). It was to be hung in front of the holy of holies, which was a perfect cube ten cubits on a side. The veil was suspended by golden hooks on an acacia wood frame, itself covered with gold (Exodus 26:32-33), and the ark of the covenant was kept behind the veil (Exodus 26:33).

The curtain symbolized the separation of God and man. Only the high priest and direct descendant of Aaron could walk through the curtain on the Day of Atonement to sprinkle the blood of the atoning sacrifice. Because of our sin, man is not worthy to stand in the presence of our Holy God.

Only a ritually pure and flawless high priest could approach Yahweh without being put to death.,” wrote Professor Daniel M. GurtnerEven Moses was forbidden to see the face of the Lord, “because man may not see my face and yet life.” (author’s translation of Exodus 33:20)

The tearing of the veil in the temple was significant not only because it happened, but also in how it happened. God tore the curtain, top to bottom, in two pieces. God made a way for us through Jesus, and so He tore the veil that separated us from Him. This curtain was ornate, massive and specially designed. Nothing of man can resist the power of God. The curtain represented all the laws that God’s people followed in an effort to maintain a right standing with God, and when it was torn, it signified how deprived we all were of the glory of God. The way God made by the death of Christ is the only way we can stand in the presence of God.

In Jesus’ time, who would have found this event significant?

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the most holy place through the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which has been opened for us through the curtain, that is, -say his body, and since we have a high priest over the house of God, let us approach God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that comes from faith, having the heart sprinkled to cleanse us from a bad conscience and having the body washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22

The temple curtain, or veil, was extremely important to the Jews. The holy of holies contained the Ark of the Covenant, which God instructed Moses to build to house the Ten Commandments. The Law of God, which no man was able to keep, was kept behind a curtain which only the high priest could enter once a year on the Day of Atonement. In the book of Leviticus, laws abound as to the particular way God’s people were to live. They undoubtedly knew exactly what the apostles were communicating in the gospels by the mere mention of the veil in the torn temple.

What should Christians learn from this today?

Jesus came so that we could live life fully (John 10:10). When he gave his life on the cross, God tore the curtain of the temple from top to bottom to show us that there is nothing we could have done to remove that curtain.

The severance of the body of Jesus at the crucifixion is the unprecedented means by which believers gain access to the presence of God.” (Professor Daniel M. Gurtner)

The veil of sin in our lives and the deception of our enemy must no longer keep us from living a full life. God made a way, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, for us to come to Him. Believers can approach God boldly as adopted children of Christ. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sin. Through Christ we are brought into the presence of God.

God’s ancient people followed religious laws for all lifestyles, from personal to societal, even in the way they worshiped God! When the curtain, which represented so much of this, was torn in two from top to bottom, it signified a new Way…a new life in Christ for all believers.

God took our rebellion and nailed it to the cross,” said John Piper. And suddenly, the curtain was torn in two. The veil has been removed. We can now live fully free in Christ. But we must choose to walk with Him. It is our responsibility to fully receive God’s gift of grace, daily, and to take up our own cross to follow Jesus. In Him our lives are now a living sacrifice, destined to give glory to God. We will suffer in this life, but we will have an all-sustaining joy and peace that surpasses all understanding. Hallelujah… Christ is risen!

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/mbolina

mega writes about everyday life in the love of Christ as a freelance writer, blogger at Sunny&80and author of “Friends with everyone, friendship in the love of Christ,” “Surface, releasing the gift of sensitivity”, and “Glory Up, the Daily Pursuit of Praise”, and “Home, finding our identity in Christ.” She earned a marketing/PR degree from Ashland University, but left the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters… which led her to pursue her passion for writing. A member of Faith Church in Sandusky, OH, she is communications director and leads Bible studies for women and teenage girls. Meg is a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, living on Lake Erie in northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters and a golden doodle.

This article is part of our larger library of Holy Week and Easter resources focusing on the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles will help you understand the meaning and history of important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you to take the time to reflect on all that God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ!

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