The taunting of the crowd gave way to reverence at the end.
Too often we don't understand while something is happening;
hindsight gives a better prospective.

 [{Luke 23:46} When Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He 
said, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." Having
this, He breathed His last.]

Then behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top
bottom; the earth quaked, rocks split, and graves opened.
the centurion and those with him, who were
guarding Jesus, saw
the earthquake and the things that
had happened, they feared
greatly, saying, "Truly this was
the Son of God!"

And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee,
to Him, were there looking on from afar, among
whom were Mary
Magdalene, Mary the mother of James
and Joses, and the mother
of Zebedee's sons.                                                                                            

                                                   Matthew 27:51-56 NKJV, condensed

                                     The Final Cry 

First a word about the veil in the temple. It was a huge curtain
covering the entrance to the most sacred part of the temple,
called the holy of holies. The fabric was 60 feet in length and
several inches thick, certainly an amble partition for restricting
access. Only once a year did anyone go behind the curtain, and
that was on the day of atonement when a priest, chosen by lot,
went into the holy space to atone for the sins of the people.

No one else had ever seen that sacred area. Whatever was
behind the veil was mysterious and somewhat terrifying. Lack
of respect for the holy of holies invited death. Therefore people
solemnly kept their distance.

Back out on Skull Hill, the crucified Christ was rapidly nearing
the end. To the great disappointment of all who believed in him,
his organs were giving out and Jesus was dying just like any
other human being. Then moments before he yielded up his
spirit, the "King of the Jews" let out a loud cry. Its sound echoed
through the streets of Jerusalem and crashed right into the very
presence of God at the temple. The gigantic veil ripped apart,
starting at the top and going all the way down to the bottom.
Wow! Imagine the scratch of that grinding tear, and the horror
of the worshippers as they beheld for the first time that which
they thought they were not supposed to witness.

From the cross Jesus committed his spirit to God's keeping.
Then he died. The hands that healed went cold. The voice that
told stories about the kingdom of heaven was forever silenced.
The nimble feet that had walked the dusty paths of Palestine
grew stiff.

Nature responded with an earthquake. Rocks in the graveyard
shifted and broke into pieces, opening the mouth of some
tombs. The Roman centurion in charge of this extraordinary
event acknowledged Jesus was no ordinary man and declared
the fearful truth that he was totally innocent. Those around
the cross heard him say it. The women watching from afar
didn't need to be told.

Mentioned by name is Mary Magdalene, a single woman from
whom Jesus had withdrawn seven demons. Also named are
Mary and Salome, the mothers of several disciples; for them,
discipleship was a family affair. Many other nameless women
had come to Jerusalem with Jesus for the annual Passover
pilgrimage. Now they rehearsed the lines each one remembered,
trying to piece together the specifics of what Jesus had said
beforehand about his death.

For these women of Galilee, that final scream kept ringing in
their ears. It was a cry of homecoming not abandonment; the
roar of life not death; an outburst of faith not fear; a shout of
victory not defeat. Faith may not understand, but faith believes
that God is good and does what is right.

When that great curtain in the temple split, revealing the
holiest spot on those sacred grounds, did people see God?
Not necessarily. Some witnesses might say there was nothing
there!  Just empty space!  Certainly we must keep looking.
An important truth was unveiled.

One time a woman asked Jesus where is the correct place to
worship--on the mountain or in the temple? Jesus told her
worship has nothing to do with place and everything to do
with truth and spirit. In other words, being real.

The purpose of a veil, such as the one in the temple, is to
cover, hide and separate. But our Father in heaven wants to
see us face to face. Forget those dreadful and terrifying
images of God. Jesus calls us friends. We don't need protection
from God, but participation with God in our daily lives. God's
great joy is for us to live in his presence. Maybe that was the
great disclosure. The holiness of God is graced by love.  It 
draws us in and raises us up, it is not meant to keep us out
or put us down.

The parting cry of Jesus was nothing less than a hallelujah
chorus. Jesus brought the curtain down to give us access to
our loving heavenly Father. He took away the "No Trespassing"
sign and spread the "Welcome" mat. No longer do we need a
priest to declare our sins forgiven. No longer do we need an
intermediary to carry our prayers heavenward.

Jesus is our advocate, the eternal mediator, our great high
priest. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who sacrificed his own life
in order to save the flock. He is our living Lord who calls us
by name, provides for our needs, finds us when we stray and
brings us safely home.


Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.


Icebreaker: Consider this--what is the smallest space in which
                      God resides?


Describe your window treatments and what they keep out or allow
to come in.
            Do you feel safer when the drapes are drawn?
            Do you open or close the blinds depending upon your mood?


In what ways do window or wall hangings reflect your spiritual life?
            What are some "curtains" that keep you separated from God?
                        Or restrain God to one small space?
            When do you open the windows?   Or keep them closed?
            What is revealed when you open the blinds?


What part of your house of worship do you consider most sacred?
Are you more likely to experience God in a place of worship or on
            a mountain?
What are the main factors that determine whether your soul is nourished?


As the noonday darkness subsided on crucifixion day, Jesus lifted
his voice in one last effort to communicate.
            What would you expect his last message to be?
Think about your own dying breath and what message you might
leave behind as you depart this life.


"Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." Those words are also
found in Psalms 31:5. Here's the broader context:
            "Deliver me speedily for You are my rock and my fortress.
            Pull me out of the net which they have laid for me.
            You are my strength, into your hand I commit my spirit;
            You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth."
Select a few key words from this Psalm and relate them to
Jesus' situation.


The centurion realized too late that he had made an irreversible
            Use your imagination to create a scenario about how this
                    crucifixion affected the remainder of his life.


Think about the symbolism of the veil at the entrance to the holy
of holies.
            What does it represent?  
            Who or what did it hide or protect?
            What did it add to people's perception of God?
            When the veil split, was it to let God's people in, or to let God out?
            Is God easier to find when you box God in,
                    or when you dismantle the box?
            Where in the world is God, anyway?

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