April 5, 2020
Fr Phil Eberhart
"TRULY THIS MAN WAS THE SON OF GOD! "
What could make a hardened soldier, a centurion... the commander of a garrison of 100 Roman soldiers, make such a statement?
He had seen 100's ... no... probably 1000's of this kind of death in his career as a soldier... but this one was different. What did he see that made him even think in those terms? What did he hear that set these thoughts loose in his mind?
He didn't know the scriptures that we read this morning, from the Jewish scriptures, with their exacting descriptions of what was happening: Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Even those who DID know them totally ignored them, save for one or two!
He hadn't been following Jesus, listening to his every word, to his prophetic statements about suffering and dying on a Roman cross. Those who did hear them didn't understand them- it was unthinkable! Especially for those (all of them) who had great hopes that Jesus was "their guy" -- their hoped for Messiah! Hoped for in the way they wanted a "messiah" to come. To the point that they argued about rank and position constantly. But this sure wasn't that! Not even a little bit. So they all ran away, save one.
What did he see ... what did he hear?
Could it have been the stone cold silence of the Son of God... throughout the whole ordeal? "Like a lamb before the Shearer's is silent, so he opened not his mouth." Silence in the face of great suffering speaks of great dignity, of great self control.
Probably not just that, though. There's got to be more to it.
Maybe, the strange weather at the time got his attention... darkened mid day sun, clouds and wind, thunder...
And that earthquake. That would get your attention, wouldn't it. But there's still more to it.
How does one who goes through all of this, speak words of forgiveness over those who are doing it to him? "Father, forgive them..." That was different. Unheard of ... ever!
How does that same man promise forgiveness of personal, individual sin (for which he was being executed justly) and then nothing less than Paradise to a thief being crucified next to him?
"Who can forgive sins except God?" the Pharisees had asked of Jesus once. They knew the implications and the weight of that action by Jesus. Did the centurion get it too?
What awe struck him from what he saw and heard. Something stuck -- all of it together had an impact on him.
I wonder if he was watching when they pierced Jesus side? Of course he was. He saw what John saw... blood and water. I wonder if he felt the spray of the wounded flow of "water" and blood in his face?
"Let his blood be upon us and upon our children! " They had no idea what they were saying. No idea what they were doing! Jesus said it: "They know not what they do! " But he knew - the centurion knew - it all added up to too much for the mind to take in. Who was this man on the cross before him?
THIS MAN WAS THE SON OF GOD!
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched forth your hands of love on the hard wood of the Cross, that everyone... everyone... disciple, pharisee, thief, centurion,... might come within the reach of your saving embrace!
The evidence was clear and it's clear even today that you, Lord Jesus Christ, are truly the Son of God. So truly, THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE, that there is NO OTHER NAME given among men by which we can and must be saved! There's no other name but yours.
So, clothe us with your Name and in your Spirit, that we may reach forth our hands in that same love and forgiveness, to bring in our day, those who do not yet know You, -- our families, our co-workers, our neighbors, the stranger in Walmart --to the knowledge and love of You.
Just like the Centurion, May we and all who truly see and hear you say, "Surely this IS the Son of God! "
For the honor of Your Name.