The Centurion’s Response
This is not, then, the end of a life that was ending with a whimper, but it's ending with a cry of victory.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Yes, that little greeting establishes the fact that this is indeed your friend, Dr. Cook, and I’m glad to be back with you. My goal, every one of these broadcasts is to put a handle on the Word of God so that you can get hold of it for yourself. What you apply to your own life from God’s inerrant, infallible Word, the Bible, what you apply to your own life is what gives value to you. So, let’s see what God will do for us today.
We’ve been hitting the high spots, summarizing some of the truths in the Book of Mark before we leave it. And now, I’m thinking in terms of what the centurion had to say as he observed the death of the Lord Jesus. Mark 15:39, “When the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that He so cried out and gave up the ghost, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God.'” Luke says, “When the centurion saw what happened, there was a darkness and the veil of the temple was torn.” Matthew says, “When the centurion saw what happened,” and that included the earthquake, Matthew 27:54, “And the torn veil from top to bottom.” So here you have the cry, the way He died, the things that happened. Darkness, earthquake, and many of the saints rising from the dead, and the veil of the temple which symbolized the separation between a sinful human race and a Holy God, the veil of the temple torn from top to bottom. God was saying He tore it. Nobody did it. They would have had to start at the bottom. But He did it, saying, “The way is open and we could come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The centurion saw this. He said, “Surely, truly, this man was the Son of God.” What is there about the death of the Lord Jesus that ought to convince people of His deity? Now, I’m not gonna argue the point that the Lord Jesus is just as much God as God the Father and God the Son. We are, you and I, trinitarians and we believe that there’s one God eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s what the Bible teaches us. So, I’m not going to go into that, but simply to say if you want proof of the deity of the Lord Jesus, you find it everywhere you look but particularly here as you think about what the centurion had to say. Now, our Lord Jesus cried out and said, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And then He cried, verse 37 in Mark 15. He cried with a loud voice and gave up the ghost. That means He died.
Now, the cry, when he saw that He so cried out and that He died that way, what’s the point? Ordinarily, those who were crucified were the victims of increasing debilitation. They would grow weaker and weaker and weaker until they could not any longer lift their body to fill their lungs with air. Crucifixion hanged the body upon that crossbar in such a way that the knees were bent. The knees were bent slightly so that all of the weight of the body hung upon the arms and shoulders of the victim. And the only way then that he or she could breathe even, because of the pressure upon the diaphragm, the only way that they could breathe was to lift the body by exerting pressure upon the feet and lifting the body enough to breathe, and then it would sag down again. Do you follow that?
Now, here’s our Lord Jesus, He was crucified and the darkness came over the Earth from noon until 3:00. And now, the other criminals were simply hanging there, awaiting the fact that they would get weaker and weaker, and finally, they would die. Ultimately, of course, the soldiers came with huge clubs and broke their legs so that they would no longer be able to lift their bodies to breathe, and this would then hasten their death. Cruel business, unspeakably cruel. But here’s our Lord Jesus, and He’s not supposed to be all this vigorous. But now He cries out, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He also says, “It is finished,” and then He cries with a loud voice and dismisses His spirit. And the centurion never saw a person die that way. When he saw that he so cried out and so died or gave up the ghost, that means that he died in that manner, he said, “This man was the Son of God.”
What’s the point here? Our Lord Jesus is the only one who approached death voluntarily, giving up His life. He said to His disciples, as John recorded, “No man taketh my life from me. I lay it down of myself.” “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost and not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life, a ransom for many.” The Lord Jesus came down the stairways of the stars with the intent of dying for us. And now, He’s come to that point where He is going to do that very thing. God the Father has momentarily turned His holy face away from His Son because He has made Him to be sin for us, He who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. God’s face is turned away from His Son, and in that hour of heartbreak, Jesus cries, “Why did you forsake me?”, humanly lamenting the fact that His father’s face was turned away from Him when He was made a sacrifice for our sins. But now the work is done, now the price is paid, now the sacrifice has been offered, and the Lord Jesus cries it says with a loud voice, and dismisses His spirit.
This is not, then, the end of a life that was ending with a whimper, but it’s ending with a cry of victory. Jesus is our victor. “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” Jesus, our Blessed Lord, is the victor. He wasn’t a victim. He is the victor. He gave His life. He dismissed His spirit voluntarily when the job was done. And the centurion knew that. He knew that this was a different kind of a scene from that which he had witnessed so often. Progressive debilitation until finally, the victim of crucifixion could no longer lift his body to breathe, and thus was suffocated, actually. He couldn’t breathe any longer.
Jesus, our Lord, died triumphantly. Hallelujah! Then it says, “He saw the things that happened. There was darkness, there was earthquake, and the veil was torn from the top to the bottom.” The things that happened, to realize that God had turned His face away while His son suffered for our sins, to realize that the Earth itself was shaking and was registering the profound eternal shock of the Creator, giving His life for sinners. And then, the tearing of the veil, which symbolized the separation between a Holy God and a sinful human race. From top to bottom. Nobody did it humanly. That veil was so thick, that it would have been humanly impossible to tear it, and it was torn from top to the bottom. So God did it, opening the way so that the writer to the Hebrews could say later on, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” You can walk, beloved, right into the throne room of heaven today because Jesus died.
The centurion saw what was done. He said, “This is the Son of God.” The sun darkened, the earthquake, the torn veil, the open way into the holy place. God speaking in love and mercy to a fallen human race by giving His Son. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The centurion saw that, he said, “This was the Son of God.” And what does that mean to you? Well, it simply means this: Day after day, would you dwell, dear friend, upon the fact that Jesus loved you enough to go to the cross for you? That His death for you involved this quintessential suffering of body and soul and spirit. But not only that, that He died not as a victim but as a victor. He finished the work. Salvation has been purchased. The atonement has been made. The righteousness of God and the holiness of God has been vindicated. The law has been satisfied, and you and I may walk freely now as forgiven sinners. We can walk freely into the very presence of God and say, “Abba, Father. Papa, God.”
Oh, how precious and how wonderful that is. Let me talk to you for a minute about this. Do you ever stop to think about Jesus and the cross, and what He did for you? I think it gets to be kind of a stereotype, kind of a cliche with many of us. “Jesus died on the cross.” We say it easily. Well, if you would transpose that concept over into our concept of execution, the parallel would be the electric chair, or the lethal gas chamber, or the firing squad. It’s something we don’t even like to think about, but it’s there as a reality. And when that person who has now exhausted every legal means of appeal has been brought into the execution room, and his hands and legs are strapped tightly to the chair, and the electrode is placed upon his shaved head, and then someone pulls the switch and those hundreds of volts course through his body, sending his spirit out into eternity.
You don’t like to think about that, nor do I. But I want you to realize the Lord Jesus Christ, when He died for you and for me, He died upon what was an official instrument of execution. And we dare not then become blase about that. You think of the Lord Jesus on the cross. You think of the fact that every muscle, every sinew, every nerve was screaming with agony. You think of the fact that He had to lift that lacerated body. His back was in bloody ribbons. His face, ditto. His head had been marred by the two-inch spikes of those Holy Land thorns, which they had plaited into a crown and jammed it on His head. There He was, and He had to lift that suffering body every time He took a breath. But He died not as a victim. He died as a strong man, victorious in the job that He came to do. “I came to do thy will, O my God. Yea, thy law is within my heart,” He said.
And so He was able to cry, “It is finished.” And He dismissed His spirit, He didn’t die involuntarily, He dismissed His spirit and went into the presence of the Father. Well, you think about that, think of what it means that Jesus, your savior, died for you and that He’s victorious over death. He said, “I am He that liveth and was dead. And behold, I am alive forever more and I have… ” It means, “I possess this minute, I have the keys of hell and of death.” Jesus is the victor, you can trust Him. You can live for Him every moment of every day, secure in the knowledge that He finished the job there on Calvary. Hallelujah.
Dear Father today, may we be appreciative of the work that the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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