Lent - Day 34
Posted on: April 3, 2020
by: Gerrit Dawson, Senior Pastor
by: Gerrit Dawson, Senior Pastor
Day 34 Friday
THE CENTURION AT THE CROSS
That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1: 3).
FOLLOWING THE SCRIPT
Luke 23: 47-49
Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
Mark 15: 37-39
And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Centurions were officers in the Roman army that occupied first century Israel. The name comes from the Latin for one hundred (e.g., a century), indicating they might have 100 men under their charge. Centurions fare well in the New Testament. Jesus praised the faith of a centurion who trusted that Christ could heal his servant with but a word (Luke 7: 1-10). In Acts, we read of Cornelius, a centurion known to be “a devout man who feared God with all his household” (Acts 10: 2). He received a vision from God that Peter would come to him. And so he readily accepted the gospel, being baptized as one of the first Gentile believers.
The centurion at the cross, despite his grim job of guarding people being crucified, seems to have been sensitive to the uniqueness of Jesus. Perhaps because he had seen a lot of guilty people die, he knew how strikingly different Jesus was. Confidently entrusting himself to his heavenly Father meant that Jesus did not internalize guilt for crimes. His equanimity revealed his innocence. The way he called upon God as his Father in his agony convicted this centurion that Jesus was indeed the unique Son of God.
Rome and Jerusalem may have condemned Jesus, but the centurion read the signs and saw the deeper reality.
So, too, the way we suffer reveals the most about our character. Agony tests our faith. When it proves real, it is pain that authenticates the connection we truly have with our God.
We think of the inspiration we get from those who fight cancer with trust that, win or lose, they remain “in his grip.”
Believers grieve at graveside, but they do not despair. The peace that passes understanding rises through those joined to Jesus in a way that can’t be faked.
People get fired, left, swindled, robbed, flooded. The mature Christian in those moments, has a heart that trusts revealed for the unbelieving world to see and marvel over.
So now, while we can, for the sake of the watching world, we are called to cultivate a deep relationship with Christ through prayer, the Word and sacraments to that what is exposed in us is the real deal.
PRAYING IN CHARACTER
Surely this man was innocent!
I saw you Lord.
Speak forgiveness to your enemies.
Give John and Mary to each other.
Pass hope to the thief.
I heard you Lord, cry out to a God you thought had forsaken you,
And trust him anyway.
I saw you in agony not curse your God nor your fate
As do so many.
You entrusted yourself to a faithful Creator.
You died as you lived, following a plan
You knew had been written for you.
I heard the ripping of the Temple curtain
All the way out on Golgotha.
Barriers coming down.
God and man meeting as one again.
Because you, Jesus of Nazareth,
Are the Holy One.
Surely this man is the Son of God!
These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20: 31).
Follow the story of Cornelius the centurion who became one of the first Gentile believers. As you read, consider what is it that makes a person of a different religion and ethnicity open to hearing the story of Jesus:
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
The next day Peter rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.
Cornelius opened himself to the strange possibility that a Jewish man could bring him news of the world’s savior, and even before Peter had finished speaking, the Holy Spirit filled Cornelius and he believed.
Posted in: Lent 2020: The People of Passion Week