Our Pastor preached from this rich passage a few weeks ago. All of the Word is so powerful; so full of things more precious than gold. This particular section of Scripture though seemed more alive than ever. Here’s what I remember (not all of it, I’m sure) and what I took away.
The death of Christ was, is and will always be the centerpiece of human history. Who was present at this world changing event? By Luke’s account –
“Darkness” – Always a sign of judgment. Remember the plague of darkness against the Egyptians? In Amos 8:9 the Lord declared there would be a day He would “…make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.” The “sixth hour” was the Roman way of saying 12noon ET. This was no easily explainable darkness either. No eclipse was happening here. This event happened during the Passover (see Exod 12) which always corresponded to the full moon. But judgment upon who? The people who crucified God’s Son? No. God was “crushing” His Son. The righteous was being punished for the unrighteous. The sinless sacrificial lamb had become sin and was being punished in the place of sinners. God was judging sin in His Son, on the cross.
- God the Son –
“A loud voice” – Don’t forget what’s happening here. Jesus Christ is suffering what is arguably the worst form of capital punishment to ever exist up to this point in human history. How did one die by crucifixion? Not by loss of blood, not from the pain. They were ultimately suffocated. Asphyxiation was the cause of death. Imagine now, if it’s even remotely possible, how long the Savior had been on the cross. How difficult and painful it would be to gather enough of a breath to say all seven things the gospel writers record (Matthew 27:46, Luke 23:34, Luke 23:43, Luke 23:46, John 19:26-27, John 19:28, John 19:30), let alone call out in a loud voice”[!]. What excruciating pain he must have experienced…for his people.
- The Centurion –
Now we’re not sure what exactly this guy meant when he said what he said. Remember, he came from a Roman polytheistic culture, so the concept of one almighty God (Mark 15:39) would have been foreign to him. Whatever he meant, he was definitely impacted by what he was seeing and hearing. He was struck with the obvious innocence of Jesus. Isn’t it amazing that the very people oppressing the Jewish nation, ruling over them with the iron fist produced some of the faithful within their (quite literal!) ranks? See another example of faith from a Roman soldier at Matthew 8:5-13.
- All the people who gathered
Consider the makeup of this crowd. A mob of common folk, perhaps? Maybe the same crowd that the Jewish leaders had stirred to anger and convinced to shout “crucify!” at Pilate in his court? But think about it. Why were they all in town? For the big yearly festival called Passover. What was coming next on the Jewish calendar? 50 short days later would be Pentecost. The likelihood of that same crowd staying in Jerusalem until Pentecost is very high. They walked away from this event “beating their breast.” They knew something was not right. They knew there had been some kind of injustice and they had just witnessed it. Some of them may have participated, at least to some degree, in the crime itself. Check out Acts 2 though. Same crowd. Now gathered for Pentecost and outside hearing the newly Spirit-filled apostle Peter put it all together! “This Jesus…you crucified…but God raised Him from the dead…” No wonder the crowd was “cut to the heart” and cried out “what must we do?!” God had been preparing many of them weeks before when they witnessed the very death of the One whom Peter now spoke.
- All who knew [Jesus] including the women who had followed him –
His closest followers stood at a distance watching. What a humbling thought. Those he loved and that loved Him most were off, watching, waiting. Let each man who thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall (1 Cor 10:12). What grace there is for those who once denied Him but then return. What mercy for those sheep who scattered when they struck the Shepherd. There is patience for those far off, watching from a distance. Come to the cross, come watch the Savior pay for sin.
This sermon was a great reminder of the kindness of God and His sovereign power to work everything gloriously together even in the most awful event in all of human history.
May we pause, think about and remember the death of Christ. Beating our breast in repentance and raising our hands in praise for so great a salvation.