The Tabernacle 8
The Tabernacle was divided into two rooms. The front room, containing the Table of Shewbread, the Menorah, and the Altar of Incense, was called the Holy Place. The second room is referred to in Scripture as the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, or the Holiest. It contained one item of furniture, the Ark of the Covenant on top of which was placed the Mercy Seat over which the outstretched wings of the cherubims hovered.
In between those two rooms hung a veil. Moses does not give us any dimensions of the veil, though he does describe it.
Exodus 26.31 And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made:
32 And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver.
33 And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.
In Herod the Great’s reconstruction of Ezra’s Temple, the Temple Jesus knew, Josephus gives us more detail on this particular Veil. It was forty cubits long, twenty cubits high, and composed of seventy two panels sewn together. Four inches thick, it was tremendously heavy, and when it was replaced every year it required 300 priests to muscle it into place.
This veil was designed to section off the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place. The latter was accessed at least twice a day by numbers of different priests on rotation, but the former was only entered once a year on the Day of Atonement and then only by the High Priest.
Like everything else in the Tabernacle the Veil shows us something about Jesus. In this case, the Bible is clear that it represented the human body that the Messiah would inhabit.
Hebrews 10.19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
21 And having an high priest over the house of God;
22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
This understanding is only strengthened when we see what took place at the Crucifixion. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. (Matthew 27.50) The moment Jesus breathed His last breath that enormous, four inch thick, heavy veil described by Josephus was supernaturally torn in two, beginning at the top, was ripped right through to the bottom.
I have spent over a thousand hours studying the life of Jesus Christ. One of the things that such study has deeply impressed upon me is His sheer humanity. I do not mean to take away from His divinity, but He was not just God. He was the God Man, the man Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 2.5) We forget that. His muscles were sore at the end of the day. When He grew weary His eyes closed in a necessary sleep. He experienced hunger pangs and the cotton mouthed feeling that comes when it has been too long since you drank. His eyes stung with sweat as He worked. He was human.
Implicit in this is the necessity that He be born as a baby, grow up as a child, and embrace all that such growing up means, short of yielding to temptation. Knowing this humanizes Him, so to speak. It helps us to enter into what it must have been like to be Him, and helps us realize that He well knew what He was asking when He required of us various things. He walked where we walk, felt what we feel, saw what we see, and tasted what we taste. He knows what it is like to be human with all the frailty that goes with it, and that comforts me sometimes.
But the fact that He clothed Himself in human flesh, what is referred to doctrinally as the incarnation, is more than that. He endured more than just what it means to live human; He endured what it means to die human. It means He walked through the same valley of the shadow of death that I will. Not just walked, hurled Himself. It means He knows what it is like to suffer, to writhe in agony as His nerves shot messages of pain up His spine and into His brain, to refuse a mind-numbing medicine so that His thinking would be clear, so that He could taste every bitter moment of Calvary, so He could drink it to the dregs. The Veil did not unravel one trailing thread at a time; it was viciously shredded.
|Rending of the Veil|
by William Bell Scott, c 1869
And when it was thus torn, ripped, disfigured so much it was hard to see the human visage under the hanging strips of flesh and blood, that torn Veil allows me access to God and to the atonement available on the Mercy Seat.
Wounded for me, wounded for me,
There on the cross He was wounded for me;
Gone my transgressions, and now I am free,
All because Jesus was wounded for me.
-W. G. Ovens