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.
There are several groups of people here watching Jesus die on the cross.
The first group, are the ones who were caught up in the frenzy and zeal of the religious leaders who wanted to put Jesus to death. When they got what they wanted, they probably realised that the death of Jesus was not what they wanted. This group was overcome with deep sorrow and they grieved, believing that this was the end.
The second group are Jesus friends who had followed him from Galilee, hoping that this was not the end, but struggling because of what they could see. They didn’t want to get to close, possibly in case the Pharisees or the crowd turned on them next.
But Luke records a third group, an individual. It is the Roman centurion. His response is worth reflecting on. On this day, he is simply carrying out his duties, and organising the execution of 3 Jewish men. He has probably done this many times, but this time, seeing Jesus death caused him to pause and recognise that this Jew, Jesus, was innocent and not worthy of this horrible death. And significantly, this Roman centurion worshipped God.
In the face of a terrible situation, or “the end”, what is my response? To grieve and walk away? To stand of in the distance? Or to recognise Jesus, in the midst of the situation, and worship him.
My responses haven’t always been to worship God in what appears to be “the end”. It has sometimes been to distance myself from him, to focus on the end. We know how “this situation” turned out. So, without the benefit of hindsight, Jesus has proven himself worthy of worship over and over again, and I choose, in the middle of it all, to worship Him.
Written by Andrew Martin