- Uniquely Matthew
- Uniquely Mark
- Uniquely Luke
- Uniquely John
Last Gem I left you with a number of questions or points to which I drew your attention. I am going to deal with them one by one or in related sets. The first issue I listed was that of the different treatment of the death of Jesus and the tearing of the curtain between the synoptic gospels; Matthew and Mark as compared with Luke’s account. Luke records the tearing of the curtain before the death of Jesus where as Matthew and Mark record the death first and then the rending of the temple curtain. Is there significance to the differences? Is it a matter of the timing in the sequencing? In other words do we have a discrepancy here between the accounts? Did Jesus breathe His last before or after the tearing of the temple curtain? Which account here is correct in terms of timing? I believe the fact that these gospel accounts appear to contain a difference in the timing indicates that there cannot be a factual problem here. Luke places the tearing of the curtain first, while Matthew and Mark place Jesus breathing His last or Jesus releasing His Spirit first. To me that indicates the event took place simultaneously. The moment Jesus breathed His last was the moment the veil was torn. That fact is highly significant.
Furthermore, I believe Luke is placing the tearing of the curtain in the place of emphasis. Rather than saying the curtain was torn first, then Jesus breathed His last, Luke is simply giving prominence to the tearing of the curtain in his pairing of events that happened at the same time. Despite the fact that Luke tells us darkness was over the land until the 9th hour and adds that the sun’s light failed, His focus is the tearing of the veil. [I will address the matter of the darkness and the timing but first things first.]
First the significance of the veil. Our first question to ask is what veil is this? There are two possibilities.
- the curtain or veil which separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.
- the curtain which covered the entrance to the temple from the forecourt before it.
While there are these two possibilities most experts agree and all ancient references in related literature suggest the curtain concerned is the first option, i.e. the curtain or veil between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place. This was a very significant curtain. It was set there to divide off the inner Most Holy Place – the Holy of Holies. The place which symbolised the Presence (of God) was to be kept holy and separated from the people. Only the High Priest was to go into this area and even he only once a year. The Jewish historian, Josephus, describes the curtain in Herod’s temple as 80 feet high (24.4 meters), 24 feet wide (7.4 meters) and 4 inches (10 cm) thick. It was proportionate to the size of the temple itself. It was made from heavily embroidered material which was extremely heavy and took 300 priests to carry it. With the veil or curtain being upward of 10 cm in thickness it would have been impossible for any one person to take it in their hands and tear it. It would have been the equivalent of trying to tear a thick telephone book.
Notice too that Matthew records for us that the temple curtain was torn in two, down the middle (Luke), from top to bottom. I asked the question in the last Gem: Is there any significance to Matthew’s comment that the veil was torn from top to bottom? The inclusion of this statement is tantamount to saying this was not done by any human agent. This temple was torn in two from the top. The Agent behind such an event had to have been God Himself. Yes, it was hugely significant that the temple was torn from the top, from heaven. Now we know the source of the tearing, what was the reason? The answer to that is hidden in the significance of the connection between the tearing of the veil and Jesus dying at that precise moment. As the curtain was torn at 3.00 pm it happened at the precise moment the priests would have been preparing the sacrifice for the Passover. Talk about God’s prefect timing. Just as YHWH provided the lamb for Abraham as a substitute for Isaac, so too did YHWH provided the lamb on this particular Passover and for all time thereafter.
Let’s look at another part of the Bible which sheds light on these events:
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By His death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.Hebrews 10:19-22
This explains what Jesus meant when He said, “It is finished?” – [tetelestai] was an accounting term which could be translated “Paid in Full”. The debt has been paid in full. What debt? The debt between mankind and God. God Himself took care of it. Which of course adds volumes of significance between the death of Jesus and Him releasing His Spirit coupled with the simultaneous tearing of the veil which separated Man from God. This was a transaction of cosmic proportions which took place. Luke’s order of the events brings this action into focus and adds emphasis to the timing of these two events and their significance.
This was God Himself working personally in the affairs of Man to provide a way for Man to come back to God.
Next Gem we will address the matter of “the darkness”.
- What actually happened to cause such darkness?
- How extensive was the darkness?
We go from the curtain to the darkness behind the curtain in the next Gem.
Our own self-love draws a thick veil between us and our faults.Lord Chesterfield
God rejoices more in the mistakes of those who are passionate about His purpose than He does the virtues of those who are afraid to do anything!Anon
Until you “own” your mistakes … you will continue to only “rent” your dreams!Rick Godwin
God loved you before you knew what love was. He loved when you were looking for love in the wrong places.Anon