Matthew 27:51-54 The Curtain is Torn (Holy Week- Good Friday)

29 03 2013

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“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection andwent into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’” Matthew 27:51:54 (NRSV)

At the moment of Jesus’ death, there was a fundamental change in the relationship between God and man.

At the very moment His suffering and sacrifice were complete, the barrier between the Presence of God and the mundane world of humanity was broken.  God’s Presence broke free from the Holy of Holies.  The barrier between God and man had been broken forever.  God was no longer confined to a “holy space” where regular people were never allowed.

In some Christian traditions the tendency is to glaze over the experience of Good Friday and Calvary and fast forward straight to Easter Sunday.  That discomfort with the Passion of Christ is easy to understand.  It’s not pleasant to relive the gory and painful reality of Jesus’ torture and death.  It is not comfortable to know that our salvation came at such an awesomely exorbitant price. It is important for us to come to some understanding of Jesus’ suffering, however, lest we fall into the trap of thinking that the grace that was freely given had no cost.  Grace is not cheap.

We need to remember Jesus’ Passion.  We need to understand He did not die an “easy death.” We need to know that we are just as responsible for Jesus’ death as the people in the crowd who shouted “Crucify Him!”   It is good for us to enter into the experience of the Passion, at least on some level, though I would caution, it is also important to remember that death and suffering are not the end of the story.

If not for Jesus’ sacrifice and His total surrender, there would be no setting the Holy Spirit afoot in and through the world as the curtain was torn.  There would be no redemption of our broken and often profane world.  The sacred would still be beyond the reach of common humanity.  If not for Jesus’ sacrifice there would be no salvation for humanity, and no life beyond physical death and the grave.

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“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?‘)” Matthew 27:45:46 (NRSV)

As we contemplate on and remember that Jesus died to save me, and you, and that cranky old guy across the road, and the convicted murderer consigned to prison we have to remember that in His eyes we are all on the same footing.  Lost, fallible, flawed, makers of bad decisions and law-breakers- all people fall into that category.

All people fall into the category of those Jesus came to save and redeem.  All people are invited to breathe in the Holy Spirit that was set free the day the curtain was torn and to participate in the Kingdom of God.  No one is “too far gone” to be beyond the reach of Jesus.

Death and suffering are not the end.  But today, we remember just how high the cost of our salvation was.