At the beginning (1:10) and the end (15:38) of his Gospel Mark describes the splitting of the skies and the ripping of the temple curtain by the same word. Within the story this verb schizein only occurs in these two contexts. It is not accidental. As Jesus emerges from the baptismal waters of the Jordan river (1:9-10), God acts dramatically to affirm Jesus as His ‘beloved son’. For this moment of time God removes the barrier separating heaven and earth. Mark tells us “Jesus saw the heavens split apart”. By this extraordinary act God declares His direct involvement in and with everything about Jesus. Visibly God affirms that His kingly reign now enters our world in a new, powerful way. The language is apocalyptic. God’s will in heaven finds new expression in the earth. A similar blending of these two realms happens when Jesus is transfigured (9:1-8). God foreshadows His ultimate intention to unite Himself with His people in the new heaven and earth He creates (Rev. 21:1-4).
At the climax of his story, precisely at the moment Jesus dies on the cross, Mark tells us that the “curtain in the temple was ripped in two from top to bottom” (15:38). Two things at least are affirmed by this extraordinary event. First, the Jerusalem temple and all it represents no longer has any function. God replaces the symbol with the reality. Jesus himself now becomes the direct way to God. The old ‘house of prayer’ is replaced by Jesus who intercedes directly for us. Second, access to God becomes available to anyone, at anytime, in any place. God invites us to see ourselves as part of His heavenly city right now. He places His Spirit within us, joining us eternally to His family. We become the stones comprising His living temple. God removes the barriers separating us from Him as He makes us holy in and through Jesus. These two events summarize so wonderfully the essential message of Mark – God’s invitation to us through Jesus to enter His Kingdom and join His campaign for holiness, goodness, and love and against all forms of evil.
When the pressures of life become unbearable, remember that you are with God already in His Kingdom. He has removed the barrier of sin which separates us, provided us with His Spirit Who enables us to participate powerfully in His Kingdom work, and promised us resurrected bodies by which to enjoy His Kingdom forever. As we struggle today for Jesus, let us remember that “the Spirit of Glory and of God rests upon us” (1 Peter 4:14)