Here’s a quick history lesson and a cool story that was inspired by the picture above.
Ancient Israelite temples would have a “most holy place” that was separated from the outside by a veil (see Exodus 25-26). Only the most holy of the high priests could pass through the veil to be in the presence of God and they could only do this if they had a holy and righteous sacrifice to give.
Veils were used to separate the holy things from the broken things; the radiant light from the darkness outside; the sacred from the sinful. When Moses’s face was radiant after speaking to God, he covered the radiance with a veil before going to speak to the Israelites. When Solomon describes the woman in Song of Solomon, all of her most beautiful features (eyes, temples, mouth, hair, et cetera) are said to be covered by a veil. The veil was their way of keeping what was good and perfect from what was unclean and unworthy. In the same way, our brokenness, our sin, our hard hearts kept a veil between us and our perfect, loving, holy, sacred God. We’ve all messed up somehow in our lives – hurting someone, lying, cheating, stealing, failing as a friend, brother, or sister, et cetera – and due to that, we can no longer be in “the most holy place” with God. We can no longer communicate with him, be in his presence, or hear from him because our sin has put a veil between our brokenness and his holiness.
So where the heck does a picture of a hole in the ceiling of a building play into all of this?
Here’s how: there’s this monstrous slab of drab, gray concrete way above my head that blocks out the light and beauty of the sun and blue sky from the drab, gray sidewalk I’m walking on below. That concrete slab is the veil. But, if I stand, be still, and look up, I realize there’s this hole that is letting light through. This impenetrable and unreachable concrete ceiling, acting as a veil between me and the sky, has been pierced. Not only this, but when I focus my eyes on it, not only can the light reach me, I can see the blue sky and sun pouring through.
This is why that’s so, so cool, friends – Jesus pierced the veil. In fact, Jesus tore the veil right in half and threw it away. Like the hole in the concrete, he allows the light through, he allows the beauty of heaven in to the world.
Matthew, Mark and Luke each write that in the moment that Jesus passed away on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom,” (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Friends, Jesus not only passed through the veil as a high priest, gave the most perfect and holy sacrifice (himself), and stood in the presence of God – he tore the veil for you and me. He tore the veil so that we could be with God again. He promises that he is the way, the truth, and the everlasting life. And what’s even better is all you have to do is accept that. All you have to do to tear that veil and be in the presence of God and in a relationship with God is accept that Christ already tore the veil for you.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says that, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” So let’s stop living in fear, in darkness, in loneliness, in exile, in separation, in pride, in brokenness, in sadness, in hate. Let’s live in freedom, unveil our faces, and be transformed “into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord,” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Let’s stop striving to earn God’s love and forgiveness. Let’s accept the gift of grace, the torn veil, and its promise of abundant “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” (Galatians 5:22).
Jesus was pierced and crucified so that the veil could be pierced and torn down. He’s already put your short-comings, your insecurities, your failures, your fears, your doubts, your brokenness, your suffering, and your baggage on his shoulders – he’s just waiting for you to accept it and stand in “the most holy place” in the presence of God that is now freely open to you. We’re no longer separated from God. There’s no longer a veil to divide us from his freedom and love. There’s no longer a veil, friends.