…when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ (Mark 15:39)
What else can we say when we come face to face with our God, Jesus the King, ruling from his throne.
Three Course Meal
Reading: Mark 15:21-41
21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means ‘the place of the skull’). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.
27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!’ 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).
35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he’s calling Elijah.’
36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,’ he said.
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’
40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
Mark’s Gospel introduces Jesus as God’s chosen King. In his pages he describes Jesus teaching about his Kingdom and demonstrating it in mighty acts of compassion and power. As the crowds cried out on Palm Sunday, our King has come!
If Palm Sunday was his coronation procession, then Good Friday is his enthronement. The notice above his head sneers in it’s irony ‘the king of the Jews’, a mocking echoed by the cowardly chief priests and teachers of the law, accompanied by the criminals crucified alongside him. But this is not the worst of it. The horror hinted at yesterday now comes in its fullness. Abandoned and betrayed by the people and his friends, Jesus now experiences isolation from his Father. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!’ Perhaps these are the worst words in Scripture.
And yet, this moment of despair is also a display of defiant faith. They come from Psalm 22 where the Psalmist faces isolation and suffering, but despite this affirms his faith that God is with him and will not abandon him. His faith is in a God who is faithful, even towards those who are unfaithful. At this moment of the most extreme abandonment and pain, Jesus defiantly announces to those who have hung him there that God is bigger and will have his way!
It is this act of defiant faith, faith against the odds, that leads to the curtain in the Temple that divided the Holy of Holies where God ‘dwelt’ and where his people could be. Faith in abandonment leads to reconciliation and relationship. It is this act of defiant faith, that leads the centurion to declare ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ Jesus’ defiant faith, the faith of the King ruling on his throne, proves greater than betrayal, greater than hatred and greater than division. Faith conquers all.
There are no words to express what we have just witnessed…