Peeking Behind the Curtain (Mark 15:37-38)

rent-veil“And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”     Mark 15:37-38

This is huge.

That said, I don’t think its hugeness is fully in the immediate act of the veil being torn. It’s in the moments after, the silence after the dust has settled and the initial shock has worn off. Because, of course, someone peeked.

I can’t say this for certain, but I can say that, if you put a big red button in a room, and a sign saying “Do Not Push”, someone will eventually push it. Oh, they may wait until they’re alone, they may never admit to pressing it, but the temptation will be too much. It is, after all, a big red button, and the sign says quite clearly “Do Not Push.”

The veil – more of a giant curtain – was a “Do Not Push” sign. The presence of God was said to dwell in the this room, accessible only to one man once a year, a man with a rope tied around his waist in case the sheer holiness of God struck him down on the spot. The veil was a boundary, and frankly it sounds like it was safer to respect that boundary.

And yet the ancient scriptures are full of stories of those who caught a glimpse of God and lived – Abraham, for instance, or Jacob, Moses, Isaiah…

Respect the veil for your own safety?

Or take a risk, take a peek, hope to catch sight of God…?

Someone would have looked. I’m sure of it, sure as I am that someone would eventually press the big red button. Heck, that someone would probably be me.

And if someone had looked, what would they have seen? Would there have been a bolt of lightning, a slain priest? Or would the room have been empty, something somehow more terrifying than a mere smiting. After all, wouldn’t that mean that God was absent?

Entirely absent, though, or just somewhere else? Somewhere down the road, perhaps, hanging on a cross, his power and majesty incarnated not in lightning and in fire, but in the pain and the blood of a suffering servant.

God’s presence moved, no longer contained in a room in a temple in a city, but mobile and verbal and vulnerable and approachable.

If someone had peeked, what would they have seen? What would they have thought? Maybe God’s left the building. Maybe everything’s changed.

They couldn’t have known that, in a few short decades, the only reminder of the Temple would be a wall. The Holy of Holies would be gone. And then where would God be?

Elsewhere, God manifests in other ways – a man executed by an empire, a ‘gardener’ standing outside a tomb, tongues of fire and a rushing wind. He has moved outside the box, never really contained by the box in the first place. God isn’t contained by our preconceptions; he’s not hidden by a veil but incarnated as a carpenter.

Lord, give us the eyes to peek.

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