When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land. . . . And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Mark 15:33; 37–38 NASB)
Some people describe it as a tearing; a physical tearing. Some say they can’t breathe, and some say it feels like the bleeding won’t stop. You know what they mean, because your loved one is gone too. The bed that sometimes seemed too small for the both of you on a bad day, but never snug enough on a good one, now feels as vast as the sea and bottomless as its deepest chasm.
Your spouse is not here, and your heart is an arid wasteland. You never understood before, when others tried to explain it, but now . . . now you do. There is a “darkness” over the land for you too.
The last breath Jesus took was his purposeful, willing surrender to the mutinous experience of death. But—though you feel it mocking your best attempts to breathe at this moment—death did not win. The love spilled out that dark day is the same love that sealed the New Covenant of salvation for you and me, even though the covenant bond between you and your spouse has been torn in two. Their death numbs your senses and inflames them all at the same time.
But the covenant love that cost everything truly regained what now seems forever lost, and grief’s barren fields will bear sacred fruit, though all you may see now is a lifeless horizon. Here’s why: marriage is temporal; the reality it symbolizes is eternal.
When you look into the mirror of your memory, what gazes back is the weight and glory of that which your marriage reflected. Your pain now is the temporal portion of “until death do us part,” but the eternal reality is one of victory over death. The truth of it begins to shed light on the depth of your pain: death violates God’s unalterable covenant. But God violated death’s ignorance in return: “Unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24 NLT).
Look back into the reflective mirror of your marriage. There, springing forth from what you thought was a lifeless horizon, is a plentiful harvest of new life, violating death’s ignorance as well.
Marriage is a mutual submission to the invasive love of another. Invasive because it is bound by covenant, meaning an “exchange” must take place. And though it is a mystery, a sacrifice must be made too and blood is involved. No wonder it’s called the marriage “altar.”
The covenant of marriage is the sealing of a relationship—a co-mingling of blood and hearts producing a supernatural oneness between the covenant partners. The two united into one depicts the very essence of this covenant (Genesis 2:24). This is so because God is the One who seals the covenant, meaning it cannot be breached without the most devastating ramifications and pain. You see, God is the glue that joins two separate beings and mysteriously merges the sinews of their love into one. Earthly marriage is the image-bearer of the covenant between Christ and His Bride, and death’s narcissistic disregard has plundered that reflection.
The depth of this covenant bond is one of the reasons your loss hurts so much now; what was unassailably and immutably one has now been torn into two.
Your grief represents an ineffable pain and requires an extreme and sacred response, though the word grief cannot fully describe or contain it. In the same manner, Jesus’ sacrifice for us represents an ineffable pain, requiring an extreme and sacred response as well, though words cannot describe or contain that either.
But death doesn’t make the rules—God does.
The torn temple veil that evoked terror and was thought to be a sign of destruction, now speaks comfort to the grieving believer, because just like the torn veil of the temple, grief’s gaping hole of poverty will be filled by His plenty.
His heart was torn so that your torn heart could be healed, and the same power that tore the veil, opened the tomb, and raised Jesus will also open the tomb that is your heart right now and resurrect what seems so final.(1)
Our King faced off with death, and there was no competition. The Lamb’s slain body was resurrected in death’s face and shut its mouth forever.
Jesus knows what it is to have love torn away. He shared the communion cup of His own blood and made an exchange, so that whatever you and I suffer, He has suffered too—and come out victorious. He asked His Father to make us one with Him (John 17:21), and just like that day at your marriage altar, the bond was forged. But Jesus also rose from death’s shadow so you could rise too.
Even now, there is a song somewhere in the distance. It’s your song. You can’t hear the melody yet, but you know the words: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54–55). That changes everything.
(1) “Life After Breath” by Susan VandePol, Chapter 23. Morgan James Publishing 2015