Mark 15:38-41 (NIV)
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
Jesus’ death was as supernatural as His life was. The darkness that had fallen over the land (Mark 15:33) ended when He died, but at the same time, the earth shook in a violent earthquake that even broke open some of the tombs in the area (Matthew 27:51-53). It was the conjunction of these terrifying signs that caused the centurion to cry out, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” He had seen a lot of crucifixions, a lot of deaths, but he had never seen one accompanied by this kind of cosmic uproar. All of these signs coinciding with the suffering and death of this remarkable man could not be written off as mere chance.
At the moment of Jesus’ death the veil in the temple that separated the holy place from the most holy place was torn in two. There were two significant things about this tearing. First, the veil was about four inches thick – the rabbis describe it as being as thick as the width of a man’s hand. It was woven this thickly by being composed of multiple layers all woven together into a single mass. Thus it would have been impossible for it to have been torn by a person (or even by many people), or even by the shaking caused by the earthquake.
The second significant thing is that the veil was torn from the top to the bottom. The rip began 30 feet off the ground, clearly disqualifying any human intervention, and showing that this event had originated with God Himself.
This tearing of this dense separator between God’s presence and mankind symbolized the fact that, with Jesus’ death, God’s presence would now be powerfully among His people in a new and powerful way. No longer would it just be experienced by the high priests and the prophets; it would be experienced by all of the people, from the greatest to the least, as prophesied by Joel (Joel 2:28-32; cf. Acts 2:17-21). Jesus’ death had made it possible for the sins that had separated people from God to be paid in full, and for full fellowship to be restored.
Verses 40-41 are incidental but important. They point out that there were many of Jesus’ followers, faithful women who had served Him during His ministry, who were eyewitnesses to not only His suffering and death, but to all of the miraculous signs that attended them. This lays the ground work for the resurrection to be discovered first by some of these same women.
Father, even today the death of Jesus is seen by some merely as a tragedy, the undeserved death of a great martyr. Through the ages there have been many deaths of martyrs. But only the death of Jesus had these kinds of miraculous signs, showing that this was something more. Your finger prints were all over this, demonstrating that Jesus really was Your Son, just like He had said, and that His death was not only extraordinary, but that it accomplished extraordinary things. Amen.