I wonder if they knew? I wonder if the small band of faithful followers that witnessed such a miscarriage of justice, those who had placed all their hope on the one they had just watched die, I wonder if the knew that the curtain of the temple had just torn into? I wonder if they knew that death had just been dealt such a blow that it lost its grasp on many holy people and they were raised to life? I wonder if they knew as they carried that lifeless battered body of the one they loved to a borrowed tomb that what had just happened changed everything?
The temple curtain was made of “blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with a cherubim worked into it.” It was approximately 30 feet wide, 60 feet tall and several inches thick. It stood as a formidable barrier between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. No one but the priest could enter the Holy Place. Only the High Priest was to enter the Most Holy Place and that was to occur only once a year on the Day of Atonement. He was to enter carrying the blood of a special sacrifice that was to be sprinkled for the atonement of sin. The curtain symbolized the thick barrier of sin that separated us from the presence of a Holy God. Now, at this moment in time, the work of Jesus on the cross had been completed and the barrier that sin had erected was broken and we had access to the very presence of God! Paul said it best in his letter to the Hebrews.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
They had just witnessed man at his worst in stark contrast to God at His best. They had felt the earth quake and heard what the centurion said but the veil of grief was great. I believe their hearts grew heavier as the stone was rolled into position. Even now more than 2000 years later the torn curtain proclaims that we are redeemed, forgiven and restored by the work on the cross.