With Easter approaching, I am posting a few excerpts from my book, Miracles in Mark. This the last excerpt from the chapter, “God’s Greatest Sign,” dealing with the crucifixion. Thank God that was not the end of the story! My next posts will be from the chapter on the Resurrection.
God’s Greatest Sign
This brings us back to the foot of the cross where the centurion is standing. He does not know, nor would he care about the tearing of the curtain. He has seen how Jesus died, though. He has seen the darkness covering the land during the middle of the day. The centurion also knows that Jesus is not being tried as a common criminal. He is not being accused of murder or theft; He is accused of being “The King of the Jews.” The centurion has heard the taunts of the religious leaders, as well as passersby and the other condemned criminals. Through it all, Jesus did not answer them a word.
After enduring the agony for six hours, Jesus uttered a loud cry and “breathed his last.” Mark does not tell us what Jesus uttered but he clearly portrays it as a “victor’s cry of triumph.” While most people who were crucified grew weaker and weaker until they quietly died, Jesus shows that He was in control until the very end. With His last breath He gave a shout of triumph and then voluntarily gave up His spirit. His manner of death fulfilled His own words when He said He came “to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus’ life was not taken from Him. He gave it voluntarily fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy that, “he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many . . .” Only in the resurrection would the ultimate meaning of Jesus’s death be seen. Jesus knew clearly, though, that there could be no resurrection without enduring the agony of the crucifixion.
As the centurion watched Jesus die, he said, “Surely, this man was the Son of God!” It is unclear exactly what he meant by his exclamation. Johnson believes that a better translation of this verse would be, “Truly, this man was God’s son.” As to what he meant, Lane says that, he “presumably meant that Jesus was a divine man or deified hero who accepted humiliation and death as an act of obedience to a higher mandate.” At the same time, however, Mark clearly intended his readers to see this as a genuine Christian confession. In any event, the reader knows that the centurion’s confession is valid. His confession is a statement of faith, whether conscious or unconcious. As we have seen over and over again throughout Mark’s Gospel, as people encounter Jesus, and reach out to Him in faith, their lives are touched and healed. We do not know what happens to the centurion. Perhaps, as some early traditions assume, he did become a Christian. Mark does have him speak for all of us, however, who see the cross as God’s greatest sign and most significant miracle. If we are willing to see it through the eyes of faith, our lives will be transformed, also.
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