The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54
This moment in the Bible is actually incredibly moving and holds some powerful challenges for us today, on Good Friday. Picture the scene for a minute.
On his journey to the cross Jesus was lied about, false testimony given and through it all he only gave a few comments, no fierce denial of the charges, or declaring his innocence, no hurling curses at his accusers. Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter, that’s a brutal metaphor and I think for each of us, like this Roman officer, we have to own it.
Jesus, having lost the company of his brothers who had been with him faithfully for years, stood alone. These brothers who had been fed by his hand, who’s feet he had washed and who he had journeyed with in complete transparency had gone. They had laughed, fought and pioneered together, under the charge and confidence of Jesus’ words and example. They had warmed themselves by fires telling stories and hearing parables unfold under Jesus’ mastery of human life.
But in this moment Jesus stood alone, no one in his corner, no one holding his towel or defending his name against the mockers. The Roman officer would have seen this cruel drama unfold, the crown of thorns, the flogging and exposing of Jesus’ back under the weight of lead tipped lashes.
As the weight of the cross beam buckled Jesus knees, he didn’t curse or protest. His innocence and heart must have been tangible to the men standing by.
As the nails are driven home, only in death would they be removed, the Roman officer stood looking into the face of Jesus. With his soldiers by his side he watched the unmistakable, all too familiar, moments of life leaving the crucified.
But this time it wasn’t just the whimpers from the crowd or the curses from the legalistic religious zealots, the earth shook. As Jesus gave up his spirit the land fell silent as darkness covered that place. The ground beneath the officers feet trembled as the author of life left the earth in shame and disgrace. The graves on hills nearby spewed out their dead, walking around, alive again to the horror and amazement of those around. The curtain in the temple was violently ripped in two from the top to the bottom.
In that moment of chaos as the earth recoiled from humanity’s brutal treatment of none other than Gods son, the officer is heard calling out. Not in jubilation but from a heart crippled by fear.
This man, truly was the son of God.
He had no agenda, he had no ulterior motivation, at his core he had seen Jesus and had to make a choice, so do we.
This timeless moment at the cross is as real today as it was 2,000 years ago. Jesus asks you and me the question – who do you say I am?
Let’s explore this again on Sunday!
Image Credit: Aaron Burden