“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!’” Mark 15:39
Lent is the time in the church year when we focus our hearts and our Scripture readings on the events that took place leading up to the very moment of Jesus’ death. This verse in Mark, and the handful preceding it, make up the climax of the whole Gospel, and ultimately the theme of all the Scriptures: confessing that Jesus is the Son of God.
There was a crowd of people at the scene where Jesus was crucified, and a lot of them saw Him as just a man, a criminal being punished for His crimes. In their eyes the world would be better off without Him. This centurion however, and so many others, had seen Him teach with authority, and had seen Him heal diseases with power not of this world. Jesus was fully man, yes. He felt compassion and joy, He felt anger and He felt the pain of the torture He had to endure before and on the cross. In ultimate love, He took on the filth of all our sins and the punishment we all deserved. He is so much more than fully man; He is fully God. All scriptures point to it, and we know that the story and His love do not end here, when He breathes His last breath on earth. We know that in the course of a few hours Jesus defeated Satan in hell, and on Easter morning we celebrate His return.
His life was perfect, His ministry was powerful, and His works are what save us. And this final work that He did is the most important and life-changing one. On that Easter morning Christ rose in bodily form to show Satan, and the world, that we don’t have to live in separation from God. We no longer have to be slaves to our sinful nature because He took them on Himself! It is Christ’s works, not ours, which allow us to live in the joy and freedom of this blessed news: that we, too, share in the gifts of heaven, and will also be resurrected to live with Christ in heaven.
The centurion did not only believe it in his heart, but he spoke the words confessing Christ as the Son of God. And that’s what we do as well, when we receive the ultimate gift from God, salvation. It’s hard to keep it inside, isn’t it? When we stand before God and make the same confession with our own lips, Christ will stand in our place, the sinless one, and clothe us in His purity and righteousness. The day of Jesus’ death is a sobering day, to be sure. But the day He came back, the day He rose again and promised us a life with Him, is a day of celebration and joy that we can hold to in our lives every day.
Heavenly Father, You give us so many good gifts to be thankful for. Above all things, Father, thank You for Your Son and for His life, death, and resurrection, and for the faith through your Holy Spirit to believe on Him. Continue to show me how I can share Your great love with others for the furthering of Your kingdom. I pray this in Your powerful and ever-loving name. Amen.