On this day almost 2000 years ago, the population of Jews which had gathered in town for the Passover/Sabbath festivities would be unsure what to do. You see, when Jesus died at 3pm the day before, the practice of the Jews changed drastically. The above image depicts what the interior of the temple would have looked like. In the background you’ll notice a large curtain hanging. This was called the veil. It separated the worship area from the Holy of Holies. And it was behind this veil that God dwelled on the earth, his earth home away from home. Each year in the Fall, about 6 months away from the Passover, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies during the festival of Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. This is when all the Jewish people would bring sacrifices to atone or pay for their sins and then the high priest would enter and offer a sacrifice for all the people, in the very presence of God. God had to be accessed and communicated to through an intermediary, the high priest. This created a unique relationship between God and the Jewish people by forcing a bottleneck at the high priest. Everything depended on his work for God’s work to be carried out. And for the people to be able to access God’s grace and forgiveness as well. For centuries the veil acted as a separation between God and man so that He could be close but not in direct presence of our sinfulness. Jesus was the Emmanuel or God with us. He was the incarnate God, or Yahweh born in human flesh and form. And when He died, He righted Adam’s wrong. You see, the sin nature we all carry is brought down through seed of the man and since every human before and after Jesus is born from the union of a sperm and an egg, that being from a man and a woman, then we are all born into that sin nature. When Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit, she bore a child that was fully human, but without the seed of a human man. This meant that Jesus’s humanity could be and was able to be perfect. And He was also fully God. Only God could satisfy the demand of His own wrath. Nothing we can do or say is good enough to get us back into His good graces. Only He could do that, and He did it through His son Jesus. Fully man, fully God. And so Jesus bridged the gap between humans and God. He became the intermediary for all people, not just the Jews it all nations, tribes and tongues. This fundamentally changed the relationship between God and man, making the high priests role, and therefore the veil, obsolete. So, at the moment of Jesus’s death an earthquake shook all the land and the veil ripped from top to bottom.
The presence of God was no longer confined to the Holy of Holies. And man did not access God via the high priest any longer but now through Jesus only. And so as the veil ripped at 3pm on Good Friday, the Jewish people gathering to worship that evening which marked the start of the Sabbath, and who had just sacrificed their Paschal lambs a couple of days before, would have been preparing for this special Passover sabbath and would have been confused, bewildered and unsettled. So Jesus became the catalyst of change even for a faith group who denied His divinity. Furthermore, the practice of animal sacrifices ended a couple decades later when the temple was destroyed by the Romans as they quelled a rebellion, burning the temple and Jerusalem to the ground. They were no longer able to sacrifice anymore, and technically they had not needed to since Jesus’s death and resurrection, since Jesus’s death became the ultimate Paschal Lamb. And 2000 years ago, while Jesus’s body lay entombed this Holy Saturday, the religious elite, and the local government powers, rest with the knowledge that this “mischievous”, “rabble rousing” man had been dealt with. So they thought.