“And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how He died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’”
Mark 15:39 (NIV)
It was the middle of the afternoon; but, strangely, the sky was dark. A puzzled Roman centurion looked up into the darkening sky. Above him loomed three crosses. This man, Jesus, hung in the middle. Of all the crucifixions he had witnessed, he had never seen one quite like this. He had heard about Jesus and the miracles He’d performed, the things He’d taught, the crowds who had followed Him. Who hadn’t heard? This news had spread throughout the region. Everyone knew.
Perhaps, the Roman centurion wondered who Jesus really was. After all, that was the whole point of the trials before Pilate and Herod. Jesus claimed to be God, the Jewish Pharisees claimed that was blasphemy, and that forced the trial, which resulted in the sentence of death. Perhaps, the Roman was curious how Jesus could perform miracles in people’s lives if He wasn’t God. Maybe this Roman centurion found himself looking up and thinking about the miracle he needed right there and then. If only …
As he stood guard at the cross, he heard Jesus cry out,
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
He saw Jesus’ mother and some of His followers watching and grieving at this bloody, tragic scene. But, others mocked Jesus, derisively calling out for Elijah to save Him. Someone ran to get a sponge soaked with wine and vinegar to deaden Jesus’ pain. He took it and cried out, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
The Roman centurion then heard the final words of this man Jesus: “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Immediately there was an earthquake. The ground shook, rocks split, and “tombs broke open.” (Matthew 27:52).
In the temple nearby, the veil – the curtain separating man from God – tore right down the middle. (Mark 15:38). Precisely at that moment, the centurion’s veil was lifted from his eyes, and he exclaimed, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)
I believe, in that moment, this Roman centurion received the miracle he needed most – the miracle of a real God reaching out to him and rescuing him from unbelief. I also believe that you and I need this same miracle above all other miracles. This is the miracle of salvation – God rescuing us, pulling us out of our sin, and redeeming us. This is the work of Jesus taking on our sins so the veil can be torn away and God can be present with us, not distant and separate. This is the miracle of eternal life with God, life that starts now and continues beyond time.
The stories of the people who were at Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are our stories as well. The miracle the centurion needed was knowledge of the real God. I wonder if you need this miracle today but, like the centurion, you have a veil over your eyes. I wonder if you are facing storm clouds in your life and don’t know the God who is real. I wonder if, against the backdrop of your day’s darkness, when you looked into the loving, saving eyes of Jesus as did this centurion, you too would exclaim, “Surely this man is the Son of God!”