Big Hairy Audacious Prayers
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
Going Deep: There is a high likelihood that you will pass by this curtain-tearing incident too quickly in light of all of the other amazing details of the crucifixion. If you do, you will miss one of the most significant events in the history of God’s dealing with mankind.
A little background information on the curtain may help. Kimberly Southwall writes,
“The temple had two important rooms in it. One was called the Holy Place, and the other was called the Most Holy Place. A curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. (Exodus 26:31-33.) The Most Holy Place represented the presence of God Himself. Because of that, the Most Holy Place was so special that God only allowed a priest to enter into it one time each year. No one else was ever allowed inside that room. The priest entered the Most Holy Place once a year to take the blood from a sacrificed animal to sprinkle inside to atone or try to make up for the peoples’ sins during that past year. For many years, this was the only way God’s people could hope to atone for their sins. But even this way wasn’t really good enough. That’s why God sent His only Son, Jesus, to die and atone for everyone’s sins, once and for all.
Keep in mind that this curtain was not like the ones in your home. To begin with, only the High Priest could get near it; and then only once a year. Not only that, it would have been impossibly tall to rip from the top to the bottom without a ladder. Moreover, it was so thick that, ladder or not, no human hand could ever have torn it in two.
So what is going on here? At the moment Jesus died to atone for our sins, it was as if God reached down from the unseen realm where he dwells, grabbed the curtain with both hands, ripping it with a vengeance, and thus opening up a new way for you and me into his very presence.
How awesome is that! No longer do we need to come to God through an ineffective system of religious laws, procedural sacrifices, or by a high priest. We can now boldly, confidently, and regularly come right into the very presence of God himself to obtain what we need. That’s right, you can confidently bring those big, hairy, audacious prayers before God yourself. You can go right to the top.
The writer of Hebrews describes it this way,
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:19-23)
The writer puts it similarly in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Now, aren’t you glad God ripped the curtain? I sure am. Next time you read Matthew 27, pause at verse 51 for a little while.
And while you’re at it, be a little bold before God in your prayers!
Just Saying… I love how Martin Luther describe the righteousness by which we access the Father’s presence: “This is the mystery of the riches of divine grace for sinners, for by a wonderful exchange our sins are now not ours but Christ’s, and Christ’s righteousness is not Christ’s, but ours.”