It’s easy for me to take for granted the direct access I have to God. Anytime of the night or day, I can go to Him. Whatever mood I’m in—fearful, trusting, depressed, joyful, angry, peaceful—I can know that He will be happy to see me. I can count on that.
But it hasn’t always been that easy. Until that terrible-wonderful day on Golgotha, this kind of free access to God was unheard of.
The gospel writers give only the briefest mention of this event that forever changed everything about our freedom to approach God.
Matthew says, “At that moment [when Jesus gave up His spirit] the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split” (Matthew 27:51). Luke adds that the sun stopped shining (Luke 23:45; see Mark 15:38).
A rock-splitting earthquake would have been terrifying—especially in the dark. But what was more incredible than those catastrophic natural events was what happened in the temple.
The torn curtain the gospel writers wrote about was no ordinary curtain. It was long, wide, and thick. It measured something like 60 feet from top to bottom, 30 feet from side to side, and 4 inches thick. The Jewish historian Josephus is quoted as saying that “horses tied to each side could not tear it apart.”
The curtain served as a barrier separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. In other words, it separated holy God from sinful people. Only the high priest was allowed to go behind the curtain into God’s presence, and even he could only once a year, after he had made a bunch of animal sacrifices.
However, the moment Jesus died, that imposing barrier was forever destroyed. No more separation from God. No more need for priests. No more need for animal sacrifices. No limited, once-a-year access to God. Jesus’ perfect, once-for-all sacrifice means that you and I may enter freely into God’s presence whenever we desire.
It is because of this torn curtain that the writer of Hebrews is able to invite us to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:16).
So this Passion Week I thank Jesus not only for buying me eternal life by His death on the cross, but also for gaining for me direct access to the Father through prayer. I cannot imagine life without being able to talk to God whenever I need to, whenever I want to, without fear, without shame, without doubt about whether He will receive me or not. Thankfully, I don’t have to.