"Ripped (Part 1)"
Topic: Sermons Passage: Matthew 27:45–27:54
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded 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. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” —Matthew 27:45-54
We live in the most worshipful time of all history. Before our time a godly person, no matter how godly, could never put their head down at night and feel like they had a truly clear conscience. Before our time a godly person knew God, but never felt as though she could get truly close to him. Before our time, the focus of spiritual life was on rituals.
But now, we live in an amazing time of spiritual freedom and confidence and privilege. It’s a time when every possible barrier between us and God has been removed. When a child of God can sleep with a clean conscience at night. Can worship without a mediator, without a priest. When those who love God can haver a direct and personal relationship with the creator of the universe.
When did all this change? When the curtain in the temple was ripped in half from top to bottom.
In these few weeks after Easter, we are doing to look very carefully at this moment in history when God the Father ripped open the curtain in the temple from top to bottom.
Today and next week we’ll look at the curtain. Then on April 29 we’ll finish this mini-series called RIPPED, as we celebrate communion together, as the culmination of what we learn.
Stay out or you die!
To understand this moment when God ripped the curtain from top to bottom, we have to begin by talking about the glory and holiness of God.
Psalm 19 says, "the heavens declare the glory of God” How do the heavens show God’s glory? One way we see the glory of God is in the sun. Without it we wouldn’t have life. Without God we wouldn’t have life.
If the sun went out, we wouldn’t notice immediately. But 8.5 minutes later, we would be plunged in complete darkness. Because sunlight takes 8.5 minutes to reach the earth. Within a week, the entire surface of the earth would be at or below 0 degrees F. Within a year, the average surface temp of the earth would drop below -100 F. The surface of the oceans would be frozen. And the temperature would continue to fall to until it stabilized at about -400 F, . By then, the atmosphere would have fallen to the earth’s surface, exposing the planet to cosmic radiation. The planet would then be a ball of ice and rock.
Without the sun, we could not exist. Without God we could not exist.
But what happens if you get too close to the sun? The sun is 93 million miles away. It burns at a temperature of 9,940 F. A space suit protects an astronaut up to 248 degrees. Now you could get to within 3 million miles of the sun, before the temperature would reach 248. After that you’d be fried fast. Traveling aside, we can’t even look at the sun without going blind.
How does the sun show us the glory of God? We can’t live without it, but we can’t survive it’s blinding light, heat and power. God is the source of life, and yet God’s glory will kill us if we approach Him.
We need God. But on our own, we die in the presence of God.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the curtain in the temple.
And this will keep you safe
The curtain that was torn was part of the Old Testament Jewish temple. The first “temple” was portable, and it was referred to as the tabernacle. It traveled with the Jewish people as they wandered around before entering the promised land.
After the tabernacle there were essentially two temples. One build by Solomon that lasted for 380 years. The temple that was standing in Jesus’ time was called Herod’s temple. He didn’t build it from scratch, but rebuilt another one that had been damaged.
In the temple are many different sections. The most important is the Holy Place, and in the Holy Place is the Holy of Holies. Separating the Most Holy place from the rest of the temple was a curtain. It was a long, woven curtain that was purple, scarlet red, and blue. Inside the Holiest place was the Ark and a gold lid on the Ark called the Mercy seat. That’s where the priest would sprinkle the blood of the sacrificed animal. The blood sacrifice would atone for, or cover over, the sins of all the Jewish people for that year. Only the high priest could enter, after he had done his proper rituals. And only on this day. Otherwise, he die instantly. And so would anyone else who went behind the curtain.
This space represented the presence of God. He is holy and holiness and sin can’t be mixed together. The curtain was a symbol of our separation from God.
Isaiah 59:2 declares that “your iniquities [or sins] have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear you.”
This curtain was 60 feet long, 30 feet wide and four inches thick! It was so heavy that it took 300 priests to install it. The point is, it was not rip-able by any human being! This was a massive curtain! Because of the explosive power of God’s glory and holiness —and because of the devastating guilt of our sin.
The curtain kept the people safe!
But when Christ came he changed all this!
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
At that point every obstacle to your union with God was removed. The massive barrier to you having fellowship with the holy, consuming fire of God — our disgusting sins, our legal guilt, our inner corruption…all was removed at that horrible and wonderful moment when Jesus willingly died for you and me.
At that moment the perfect Jesus who only every loved his friends and enemies with selfless love, who never did anything wrong, died the shameful death of criminal. And at that moment an abusive husband, a prostitute, a cheating tax collector, a young man planning to murder, a girl lying to her Mom, each one of them and every one of us if we had been there, could look up at the Holiest of Holy places and see the curtain open. See the arms of God the Father open to each sinner saying, “ Come, seek forgiveness. You are welcome to come near. I offer you forgiveness because of Jesus Christ."
When the curtain was ripped, it was ripped wide enough for the entire church to come in. Fellowshipping together, singing, rejoicing. It was passover when Jesus died and the curtain was torn. No coincidence. This was the last and final sacrifice. No more repeating the sacrifice every year. There will not be any rebuilt temple in Jerusalem in the future when Christ returns. All that is finished. No more sacrifices in the temple. Christ is the final lamb. His church is the temple. You are his temple, the dwelling place of God.
The first temple was actually the garden of Eden. It was the dwelling place of God with human beings. Then it was the tabernacle. Then the temple. When the curtain was torn in two, the way was opened for anyone in the world, not just the hight priest, not just the Jews, but ALL people everywhere, to come fellowship with God.
As the church grows and expands, the “temple of God” is expanding. That is God’s plan. One day in the future, the whole earth will, as Habakkuk 2:14 says, “be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters fill the sea.” And in the end, the temple will be all of heaven and earth. The new heaven — God’s dwelling place — will come down. Revelation 21:3 says, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.” And then a little later in Revelation John says, “ saw no temple in the city, for the temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.” There is not temple because the temple is everywhere except hell. It has filled all places. It has expanded to it’s fullest. This is the path we’re on. This is our future! All good things. No bad things. IF you are with Christ.
This is such an exciting time to be alive and to be a Christian. You have full access to God. The all-consuming God of glory is also your loving Father who calls you near to him. Draw near to him today. If you are lonely, come close to God. Are you afraid? Come close to God. Have you sinned? Confess your sin and come close to him. Are you empty and unfulfilled? Confused? Don’t know what’s going on in your life? Are you spinning out of control? Angry? Cold? Bitter? Warm your heart near the fire of his love.