Mark 15:32-47: Jesus Died and the Temple Curtain Was Torn. Why it Happened

Something very significant happened the moment Jesus died. Unfortunately, many people skim over it not realizing how important this epic occurrence was. Today we unveil the tearing of the veil! Let’s dig in…

Mark 15:33-47 – The Death of Jesus

33 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22:1, read yesterday’s post)

35 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!” (Still mocking Him.)

37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

39 When the Roman centurion who stood facing him, heard his cry, saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

40 Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. 41 They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.

The Burial of Jesus

42 This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) 44 Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. 45 The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. 46 Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.

Mark 15:33-47 NLT (bold emphasis mine)

The Significance of the Tearing of the Temple Curtain

The mobile tabernacle where the Jews worshiped God while they were in the desert,in Israel until Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem. Image by Rev. Yves Langevin from FreeBibleImages.org (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
The mobile tabernacle where the Jews worshiped God while they were in the desert, in Israel until Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem. Image by Rev. Yves Langevin from FreeBibleImages.org (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

To understand this, we need to go back to the Book of Exodus and God telling Moses how He wanted the people to worship Him. God included specific instructions for the building of the tabernacle. It’s was the mobile sanctuary as the people wandered in the desert between Egypt and the Promised Land. They used it once in Israel until Solomon built his temple.

Artist rendering of the tabernacle and the curtain or veil that separated the people from the Holy of Holies. Image by Rev. Yves Langevin from FreeBibleImages.org (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
Artist rendering of the tabernacle and the curtain or veil that separated the people from the Holy of Holies. Image by Rev. Yves Langevin from FreeBibleImages.org (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Once the Israelites were settled in the Promised Land, it wasn’t until King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem that the Ark of the Covenant finally had a permanent (sort of) home.

Solomon's temple was extremely elaborate. Besides the huge gold door, there was a veil separating the Holy of Holies. Image by Jeremy Park of Bible Scenes from FreeBibleImages.org (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
Solomon’s temple was extremely elaborate. Besides the huge gold door, there was a veil separating the Holy of Holies. Image by Jeremy Park of Bible Scenes from FreeBibleImages.org (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Solomon’s temple was completely destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians and all the treasures stolen.

Then after 70 years of Babylonian exile, King Cyrus allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city. We are going to study those Old Testament books right after Easter. We’ll meet Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel. So, subscribe so you don’t miss out! As we shall see, King Cyrus allowed them to take what was left of the temple treasures, but the rebuilt temple was no where near as extravagant as Solomon’s.

Enter King Herod the Great. He was not really a Jew. He was appointed by the Romans as “king” to appease the Jews. Wanting to be in Jews’ good graces, Herod enhanced the rebuilt temple. This is the temple that Jesus visited as a boy and preached in during His ministry. In this artist rendering of what the inside of Herod’s temple may have looked like, you can see the curtain/veil behind the angel.

Zechariah, was a temple priest. This scene is from Luke 1 where an angel appears to him in the temple and tells him he's going to have a son, John the Baptist. Image by Good News Productions International from FreeBibleImages.org. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
Zechariah, was a temple priest. This scene is from Luke 1 where an angel appears to him in the temple and tells him he’s going to have a son, John the Baptist. Image by Good News Productions International from FreeBibleImages.org. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
The moment Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom! Image by Good News Productions International from FreeBibleImages.org. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
The moment Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom! Image by Good News Productions International from FreeBibleImages.org. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Why is this Significant?

Pastor Dan Hickling explains…

[The curtain/veil] 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!

Pastor Dan Hickling, The Gospel of Mark (Part Seven):
https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/27070/

Pastor Sandy Adams explains further…

The Temple veil… was heavy and impenetrable since it represented mankind’s sin… Access to God was blocked because of our sin.

But on the cross our debt of sin was paid in full – and as a result, the huge veil was torn from top to bottom. It was as if a knife from heaven had cut the veil in two. And verse 38 says specifically “from top to bottom.” For salvation is a top down proposition – not bottom up. It’s initiated by God’s grace, not our human efforts.

When the veil was torn God was declaring an open house! From then until now – nothing separates us from the presence of God, but the person of Jesus. Today the door is wide open – you can come boldly to God.

Sandy Adams (bold emphasis mine)

In the Book of Hebrews we read…

19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:19-22 NLT

What this means…

See, because of what Jesus did for us, we can pray to Jesus directly! We can directly — 1:1 go to Jesus to…

Because of What HE Did, We DON’T Need to…

Additional Points to Ponder in this Passage

Naming Names

  • Name-dropping. In that era, courts needed at least 2 witnesses for something to be believed. That’s why the Sanhedrin had such a hard time finding anything against Jesus. All the “witnesses” were making stuff up and not one of their stories matched. Mark mentions the names of several people, including the women that followed Jesus.
  • Lady disciples. In that era, women didn’t count. They didn’t serve as witnesses unless, there were no men around. All the male disciples fled. Only the women stayed at the cross, saw where they buried Jesus, then, as we’ll see in tomorrow’s post, were the first at the empty tomb. Subscribe so you don’t miss out!
  • Historical accuracy. These were real people who lived in real places. Anyone reading this Gospel in the 1st century would have recognized some of the names.

Risking it all for Jesus – Joseph of Arimathea

Pastor Dan Hickling comments…

Joseph was a high-ranking member of the Jewish council, which would have put him at the top of the social pecking order in that day. He was someone who had “arrived” in the worldly sense of the term. He was a “somebody” that would have been highly esteemed. He was also patiently awaiting God to establish His kingdom. He wasn’t really caught up in the world he’d risen in, but was looking ahead to the better one to come. He also heard enough of Jesus to know He truly represented God, because at this point Joseph does something incredibly bold and sacrificial. 

Despite his social status, and despite every appearance that the life of Jesus had come to an end, Joseph publicly asks for Jesus’ body so he could give it a proper burial. Keep in mind, the very council he belonged to had just gone to great extremes to have Jesus executed. What do you think that did to Joseph’s popularity and prestige?

Pastor Dan Hickling, The Gospel of Mark (Part Seven):
https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/27070/

Jesus didn’t suffer agony, shaming, torture and death so we could have religion! He died so He could have a Personal Relationship with YOU!

Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart -- let Him in!
Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart — let Him in!

What are you waiting for! Get right with God before it’s too late!

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Top image by Good News Productions International from FreeBibleImages.org. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

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Sweetly Broken



Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

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