“So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, ‘Truly this Man was the Son of God!’ ” Mark 15:39
I remember many years ago my older brother talking about different preachers and their preaching. Mostly he was talking about what he didn’t like about their preaching styles. His criticism of one preacher stood out from the rest of his comments mostly because most people would have considered his reason for disliking this preachers style a reason to compliment not to criticize. My brother felt that this particular preachers delivery style was too polished, too perfect, too carefully thought out.
It’s funny, sometimes, the things we look for and notice in other people.
Take for instance the centurian, mentioned in our focus text. There he is standing guard, no doubt ensuring that no one attempted to rescue the accused, and because of this assignment becomes a witness to the death of Christ. It’s possible that he had witnessed many executions during his years of service as a soldier and Jesus’ dying stands out as something special.
“Truly this man was the Son of God!” These words are not the response you would expect a person to say after watching a person die. Yet there was something about the way Jesus went to the cross and endured the ordeal so quietly and then at the very last gave a great cry and then died that spoke volumes to the heart and mind of this soldier.
Most of us tend to imagine this last cry of Jesus as a cry of despair. But what if it wasn’t. What if instead it was a cry of triumph, of victory.
All day Satan had been endeavoring, through the abuse heaped on Jesus by the Jewish and Roman officers, to break Jesus so that he would either sin or abandon the plan to save humanity. Either outcome would have proven Satan’s claim correct that God’s standard of love was too great for anyone to live up to and God was unreasonable to require it. But all day Jesus had quietly born the testing. All day he had consistently proven that nothing is so great that it could overwhelm the love filling the heart of God.
I think that as Jesus became aware that he was about to die and he knew that the test was completed, that he had demonstrated that even death was not too much for his love to overcome, that he uttered a cry of joyful, defiant, exultant triumph.
It was the victoriousness in the dying of Jesus that provoked the words from that Roman officer, and if we had been there no doubt we too would have echoed them, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”