By Pastor Dan Hickling
“Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, ‘Truly this Man was the Son of God!’ There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.”—Mark 15:38–41 (NKJV)
There’s nothing insignificant about the cross or the events surrounding it. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! Every single detail that ripples outward from the crucifixion of Jesus has spiritual importance. For instance, immediately after Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. What’s the significance here?
Historians tell us this veil was about 40 feet high and was as thick as a man’s hand! It served as a barrier that sectioned off the Holy of Holies, which was that most sacred space within the temple representing God’s presence. It was a continual reminder that God’s holiness was incompatible with man’s sinfulness; and only the High Priest was allowed to pass beyond the veil once a year to offer sacrifice for the people’s sins. Quite simply, access to God was denied because of sin.
But there was a dramatic change when Jesus died as the sacrifice for mankind’s sin. God’s demand for justice against sin was satisfied through the Son’s perfect sacrifice. The divine demand of wrath was satisfied and the way into God’s presence was now open to all who would accept this in faith. And notice how this barrier between man and God was torn “from top to bottom,” indicating God, Himself initiated this newfound freedom!
Something else happens as Jesus dies. A Roman centurion, someone totally outside of the spiritual covenant between God and Israel, witnesses Jesus’ death and confesses Him as God’s Son. We don’t know what this declaration of faith went on to produce in this man’s life, but his declaration significantly signals how Christ’s death would impact more than just the Jewish people. In fact, it would have a global impact on every tongue, tribe, and nation!
There’s one more thing to note here: Mark carefully tells us the death of Jesus was witnessed by the group of women who faithfully followed and supported Him throughout His time of ministry. These were the ones who sacrificially and joyfully served Jesus behind the scenes. They were devoted to Him in ways that others weren’t. Imagine the anguish they must have felt seeing someone they were so close to suffer and die so brutally!
Their presence is significant for us because it reminds us how the cross is a place of pathos. Christ’s crucifixion isn’t exclusive to our intellect. When you see the cross for what it is, you can’t help but be broken by it all. Something is wrong if we aren’t touched and effected in the uttermost part of our soul as we consider what Jesus experienced and endured for us. This doesn’t mean our faith is based on our emotions. It’s based on the facts of what God has done for us. And facts such as these inspire not only faith, but feelings of the deepest degree.
Everything about the cross holds a special significance. May the Lord open our eyes to see!
Pause: What significance do you see in the events surrounding the cross here?
Practice: Spend time reflecting on the proper response to the cross’ significance and how it must impact your life and the way you view the world.
Pray: Lord, give me the eyes to see all that You have done for me at the cross. May I absorb all that there is for me there. Amen.