“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.’ Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent!’” Luke 23:46-47
“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
Yesterday was the celebrated Good Friday. Many people get off of work to spend time with their families. They go to Good Friday services with their families. They have communion with their families and hear a great message about how Christ Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. All this is true. Yet to the disciples and the people surrounding this event it could be considered an ugly Friday or an unusual Passover day. Except for an unusual bystander.
The events surrounding the event are vividly described by the eye witnesses (the gospel writers). Jesus was speedily gaining animosity from the religious leaders by proving he was the Messiah. Jesus held his last Passover with the disciples. Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Jesus was falsely and illegally tried by the religious leaders. Then he was declared innocent by Pilate 7 times. Then he was crucified anyway because of the mob/crowd. In the meantime, the people were celebrating the Passover, the leaders were mocking Jesus, the criminals were mocking Jesus, the disciples except John were hiding, and the soldiers were having fun with the crucifixion victims and Jesus’ clothing.
Then it went dark. From the 6th (12pm) hour to the 9th hour (3pm) it went dark. That is why it is the original black Friday by contemporary preachers. The judgement of God was coming down on Jesus for bearing our sin. Luke records one criminal continued to mock while the other asked Jesus to forgive Him, and Jesus declared he would be with him in “paradise” that day. Then Jesus gave up His Spirit and died.
When Jesus died several things happened. The earth quaked, the temple curtain was torn in two, and dead people came out of their tombs. It was so violent people were obviously scared. The soldiers could obviously tell He was dead. Perhaps from all of these events the Centurion could tell He was innocent and the Son of God. Luke said,
“Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent!'” (Luke 23:47).
The thing to remember when interpreting historical narrative is that each biography was written to prove a point so each event might not be chronological. The key is remembering each point when interpreting the story. Matthew was writing about Jesus being the King of the Jews. Matthew’s point in showing the soldier’s testimony that Jesus really is the King of the Jews, the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God. Mark was showing that Jesus is the suffering servant of the LORD aka the Son of God. One of his theological themes was the silence of the disciples and the only testimony of Jesus was from demons and this soldier. Luke was writing to give a “full account” of Jesus’ ministry. So the centurion saying that Jesus was innocent was one of the many things that he probably said during the incident. Of course Jesus being innocent of the crime of blasphemy of claiming to be the Son of God would include the idea of him actually being the Son of God. John wrote His gospel so that people might believe and be saved and to prove that Jesus is God. He also wrote his gospel after the three synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). So he decided to point to the soldiers testifying to his death by plunging a spear in his side with blood and water coming out and not breaking his legs. He decided not to write about the Centurion’s testimony.
What can we learn by the testimony of the centurion? The events surrounded Jesus’ death proved he was the Son of God and He was innocent. He was the perfect sacrificial lamb who died in our place. You and I are guilty of breaking the Law of God. We are lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterous, idolaters at heart. We are so evil we deserve to go to Hell. Yet Jesus the perfect sacrifice, paid our fine. If we repent of our sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, we will be saved. We know that we have a newness of life because Jesus Christ rose from the dead and proved he was the Son of God three days later. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we can also testify to Jesus being the Son of God and our innocent, perfect ransom from sin. Let us testify like the centurion of the Black Friday and the Lord’s day of Jesus being the Son of God.
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