In this passage we see 3 different reactions to the death of Jesus. How would you react to Jesus’ death if you were there?
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
I’ve read this passage so many times, but each time I read it I notice something different. It is such a powerful image of darkness coming over the land; right at the time of day the sun is at its highest point in the sky, the sun just stops shining. I don’t think I could imagine it; it must have turned into chaos. They wouldn’t have been prepared for it, and they didn’t have street lights that would have come on or lights they could have switched on. Then, the unthinkable happens as the temple curtain—the barrier that only the priesthood could pass to enter God’s presence—is torn in two, the temple is wide open for anyone to enter. What a shock all of this must have been for the people there. Jesus then breathes his last breath, and it looks like it is the end of the story.
It is interesting to see the different reactions of the people there. The centurion sees all of this and his first reaction is to praise God and say, “Surely this was a righteous man.” What a reaction to come from the unlikeliest of people. The centurions were mocking Jesus earlier in this chapter mocking Jesus and now one of them is praising God for who Jesus was. The people who had gathered to witness the crucifixion, who had desired for this to happen, are now beating their chests in a sign of mourning. Finally, there are all of the people who knew him and had followed him; they are standing at a distance just watching it all unfold. It seems like they are trying to keep their distance to protect themselves. It is interesting that the people you would expect to be praising God, because they were told this day would come, are not the ones praising God.
I wonder how I would have reacted to Jesus’ death if I had been there. I would hope I would have been like the Centurion and praised God. Thankfully, I know the full story. I know this wasn’t the end of the story but only the beginning. Jesus didn’t remain dead; he rose again as he had told his disciples he would.
Head: What stands out to you the most when you read this passage?
Heart: Which reaction to Jesus’ death do you think you would have had? What is your reaction knowing the full story?
Hands: How can you share the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection with others today? How will it affect you knowing that through Jesus’ death we have full access to God again?
Prayer: Thank you Heavenly Father for sending your son, Jesus, to die a painful death, taking on my sins and the sins of our world. Thank you that his death and resurrection bought me back into right relationship with you. Please help me to always praise you for Jesus’ death and resurrection and share this message with those around me. In Jesus name, Amen.
A song to listen to: Only a Holy God
Emily Andrews- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- South Bank