2009-01-01 - Our Impact
Mark 15:39 When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"
As far as we know there was no conversation between Jesus and the Centurion at Jesus' execution. It is very likely that this officer had seen more than one political prisoner put to death on Golgotha. At the beginning of the day it is doubtful that he thought that this day would be much different than any other day where executions were carried out. There was the impending Jewish holiday, which meant large crowd which would be a potential for trouble. If that occurred, it would be handled swiftly.
There was talk around the city about this itinerant Rabbi stirring up the local citizens. He apparently had some reputation in this region. But some of the talk about Him was crazy talk - healing the sick and raising the dead. That was the stuff of fairy tales and drunkards. He apparently pushed someone too far and He is being sent here. How many of these people do we have to kill before they give in and accept that we are really in charge and not going anywhere?
But the day veered suddenly from the typical day as this Rabbi arrived. The crown of thorns that had been driven into his head was painful to see. It was not unusual for the soldiers to mock and beat a political prisoner. But they all laughed and said He just stood there and took the beating. He was beaten so bloody it was a wonder He was still alive. His face could barely be made out. It was no small wonder someone had to finish carrying the cross to complete the trip to the execution site. The person they pressed into service was covered in blood from the cross too. He was from another region probably here for the Passover. That would have just ruined his purpose for coming to Jerusalem.
Once the prisoner was nailed to His cross and it was hoisted and dropped into place He was offered the wine and myrrh to deaden the pain - and it was refused. That was unusual too. The shape He was in, anyone else would have welcome something to ease their pain. The inscription for his crime was a pure mockery - "King of the Jews" was written. Now people passing by would often mock the prisoners as they hung there, but the insults hurled at this One were venomous. What could this man have done to have earned such rage? There was no way of knowing now and the Centurion had a job to do. It was also very odd that this Rabbi never answered them back, but asked His God to forgive them. The sincerity in His voice was striking. How could He do that?
One of the other two prisoners was involved in the mocking, but the other defended the Rabbi and asked the Rabbi's forgiveness and something else - to be with Him in His kingdom. It must be something to do with the inscription. The defender said that the Rabbi had done nothing though he and the other man deserved their punishment. Who is this Rabbi and why is He here?
Then the sky went dark at mid afternoon. That was the tore the last vestige of normality from the day. The darkness was not natural at all. For three hours everyone had to get around by torchlight as if it were late night. Then He shouted something to His God as I stood right in front of Him believing in my heart that He was the cause of the darkness. The Jews said something about this man talking to Elijah - some long dead Prophet. The ones who had been jeering and mocking Him are now running to get Him wine and see what is going to happen. This is crazy. Who is this man!
Next the ground shook and rocks and trees were shaken everywhere with people dodging and stumbling everywhere. It was a pretty strong earthquake shock. This Rabbi Jesus screamed at the top of His voice, "It is finished!", and asked His God to accept His spirit. And with that statement, He died. But it wasn't like death took Him at all. He was somehow in control. Most prisoners lasted for more than a day, some as long as three days or more. But it was the way He died - surrendering to God, and all the crazy, wild things that had happened. Now it was brightening up again.
Jesus never spoke to the Centurion directly, but things that Jesus did and did not do spoke volumes to this leader of 100 Roman soldiers. For this man of responsibility to utter that anyone was "the Son of God", when Caesar was God could have found himself in an enormous amount of trouble. It is clear that a stunning impression was made without a word in a very short period of time.
What will our impact be on those around us who only ever see us? How many people in an office overhear our conversations, hear through the grapevine about what we're like? Do they know why we act this way? It is something to consider as we enter a new year. It is something to consider as we walk through each day like a boat moving through the water leaving a wake where we have been.
Grace & Peace,