Mark 15:33-39 CEB: From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At three, Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”
After hearing him, some standing there said, “Look! He’s calling Elijah!” Someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down.” But Jesus let out a loud cry and died.
The curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who stood facing Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “This man was certainly God’s Son.”
“How do you know?” I asked him.
“How do you know he was God’s child?”
“There was something about him; the way he reacted; the way he died.”
“What do you mean,” I pressed.
“I mean, I’ve seen hundreds of people crucified. But he was different. That same day, we crucified two other men on each side of Jesus and they both acted like I’ve seen before. One cursed and reviled against us and the other was remorseful and repentant. But Jesus...” He trailed off.
“What about Jesus?”
“He just hung there. Sure, he struggled like everyone else. But there was something else. He was comforting the repentant thug that was with him. He didn’t scream and cuss at us. He didn’t cry out for vengeance. Even the whole time we were torturing him, he didn’t say anything. I mean, he cried out in pain, but, he didn’t yell at us or cuss at us or anything like everyone else I’ve seen. And then, it was weird...
“I swear at one point, as I was standing over him to unchain him from the whipping block, he forgave me. And then, when we crucified him, at one point, he did the same thing. He asked God to forgive us.”
I’ve said it before, there must have been something about Jesus that caused people to react differently. For example, when he called his disciples, the accounts say they immediately left what they were doing and joined him (see: Matthew 4.18-20; 9.9; etc.). And now, in this passage, a Roman guard understood what the Jewish opposition didn’t - that he really was God’s Child. He actually was the Messiah. However, I don’t think he came to this realization on his own. No. Like Peter, I think, God showed him this (Matthew 16.15-17).
Furthermore, from the history and tradition that I have read, this non-violent reaction and even intersession from so many followers of Jesus is unheard of. Starting with the death of Stephen (Acts 6-7), we see this displayed over and over again.
Was that it? Is that what made the guard say that Jesus was God’s Child? Or was it more? Was it a combination of both the revelation of God and his life and death? Mark specifically points out that it was Jesus’ death that caused the guard to see him as God’s Child. But, again, it can’t be that alone. As we know, there were two other people who were crucified with Jesus and it wasn’t either of them that caused the guard to respond the way he did. I think his death was the capstone of the whole thing. It was the last thing that pointed to his revelation. He hadn’t seen anyone die with the same type of demeanor as Jesus; with the same compassion; the same love.
What if we looked closely at Jesus’ life and death? If we examined it closely would we begin to see that he was more than just a first century Jew? Could we possible see that he was more than a prophet? If God wills, might we, too, recognize that he truly was God’s Child? There’s only one way to find out. We must examine his life and death. We must read the stories about him and listen deeply to them. And, perhaps, we might see something that we have missed before.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC