After celebrating the birth of our Saviour and the events surrounding this glorious day, this Sunday, Brian Johnston reflected on the last few moments of Jesus’ life as He fulfilled the Lord’s promise to us. Brian focused on this key verse:
Naturally, we would question what exactly it was that made the centurion declare Jesus to be the Son of God. Both Mark and Luke’s accounts of Jesus allow us to view the final moments of Jesus’ life through the centurion’s eyes and understand how he came to this life-changing conclusion about Jesus’ true identity.
Starting from Mark 15:16, we hear of the physical and emotional abuse that Jesus faced from all the soldiers. They struck Jesus so many times that flesh tore from his skin. However, this was not enough for the soldiers. They mocked Jesus by dressing him in fake royal robes and a crown made of thorns. They spat in his face, bowed down in mock homage and taunted him by chanting, “Hail, king of the Jews!”
Following this was the crucifixion of Jesus, one of the cruellest punishments to be given. Brian highlighted that Mark 15:21-27 shows how normal the Roman soldiers found the process, with the crucifixion representing the power and authority of the Roman Empire.
As we read on, we discover it was not only the soldiers who mocked Jesus, but passers-by also taunted him by repeating his words:
Even the chief priests and elders joined in the mockery, declaring that Jesus “saved others, but he cannot save himself”.
Jesus was tortured, verbally abused, hung up onto a cross and left to die. He was alone, despised and rejected by the very people he came to save. Not only was it people on earth that had abandoned him. Moments before his death, Jesus cried:
Jesus became separated from his Father, not because of his sin but due to the sin of the world. All the pain and suffering that Jesus went through was necessary to do the very thing that people mocked him for. Jesus gave his life so that we could be saved. His sacrifice allows us to have a relationship with God.
From this, we come back to the key verse Brian mentioned at the beginning of the sermon and can now answer the question: what convinced the centurion that Jesus was the Son of God? Brian pointed out two events from Luke which may have led to this conclusion. One was the fact that whilst the soldiers were dividing his clothes between themselves, Jesus prayed:
The second event was the conversation between Jesus and the criminal on the cross beside him. When the criminal asked Jesus to remember him when he enters the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus responded by saying:
These two events that the centurion witnessed demonstrate Jesus’ love, offering forgiveness and eternal life to those who do not deserve such. Luke’s account tells us that the centurion praised God upon realising the true identity of Jesus and publicly declared him to be the Son of the Lord.
Today as we read these accounts, we face two choices. We can choose to be like the rest of the world and dismiss Jesus and the love He offers us or we can see what the centurion saw – the Son of God sacrificing himself for our sins, allowing us to experience the forgiveness, salvation and love of God. If we open our hearts and confess that Jesus is Lord of all, we can experience the glory of God’s eternal love.