51 Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “This man really was God’s Son!” 55 Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and ministered to Him were there, looking on from a distance. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
38 Then the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom. 39 When the centurion , who was standing opposite Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “This man really was God’s Son!” 40 There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When He was in Galilee, they would follow Him and help Him. Many other women had come up with Him to Jerusalem.
Luke 23:45, 47-49
45 because the sun’s light failed. The curtain of the sanctuary was split down the middle...47 When the centurion saw what happened, he began to glorify God, saying, “This man really was righteous!” 48 All the crowds that had gathered for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, went home, striking their chests. 49 But all who knew Him, including the women who had followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
When the centurion, who was standing opposite Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “This man really was God’s Son!”
Sometimes words just aren’t enough. Like when someone is trying to describe the Grand Canyon as a “big hole” or the Pacific Ocean as “a lot of water” to someone who hasn’t seen either.
Imagine you’re this Roman officer. You’ve just stood by as this Man was nailed to His cross. You assisted as they slipped the cross into the hole, raising it up to where it stands in stark contrast to a bright blue Middle Eastern sky.
You’ve heard stories about this Man. But every man you’ve crucified has a story, so you shrug this one off just like all the others before Him.
Then the strange events begin. That bright blue sky turns gray and then black. The sun that was beating down on your back just moments before has been completely blocked from the sky.
Freak storm? Maybe. If it weren’t followed by what happened next—an earthquake.
This is no ordinary earthquake. It’s as if all of creation is crying out. Rocks tumble. The hills seem to be rolling in anguish. People are crying out in fear all around you. The earth throws you on your backside as your eyes strain to focus on the Man who hangs there silently.
Minutes pass. The earth quiets its tumbling and your mind goes back to something Jesus said only moments before: “Father, why have you forsaken me?”
Those words hold a completely different meaning for you now. You’ve just been a witness to one of the most significant—no, make that the most significant—death you’ve ever seen. This was no ordinary crucifixion because this was no ordinary Man.
Here’s where words fail our Roman officer.
“This really was God’s Son”? How about “Oh my gosh! What have we done?” or “I cannot believe how stupid we were!”
That phrase about being forsaken has to be the saddest statement in all of Scripture. Jesus. Alone. Bearing our sins. Dying in our place.
But here’s the most amazing part of all. From the manger to the grave and beyond, Jesus fulfilled every bit of His purpose. He gave His Father the glory and pointed others to God.
Even as He was dying, Jesus was pointing others towards life. A crook, a Roman officer, witnesses at the cross—they all saw the same thing. They saw the Son of God, Creator of the world, dying an innocent man’s death.
And, in doing so, He brought His Father glory. At the darkest possible moment of his existence—separated from His Father—Jesus shined brightly.
What about you? Had a hard day? Hard week? Hard life? Bet you’ve never been isolated from God or asked to die for something you never did.
So how are you and I at pointing others toward God? Even in our darkest moments, we have a chance to shine. Words may fail us, but we can still point others towards life found in Christ.
- What do you imagine others felt on that hillside that day as they watched events unfold?
- What would it have felt like to be one of the followers of Christ to watch as Jesus die? To watch the strange and miraculous events?
- How did that soldier feel in those moments: one minute he was carrying out his duty with confidence, and the next he was questioning the identity of this Man?
- How can you rearrange the priorities of your life to shine more brightly in the darkness of your days?