"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 15:30 (NIV)
Here we are, the week before Easter. These past six weeks, we have traveled the journey with Jesus to the cross, meeting those who came in line with him along the way. Today, we meet the last person who was profoundly impacted by Jesus' death, the Roman Centurion.
The Roman Centurion had been with Jesus during Good Friday. He and his soldiers were the ones to beat and mock Jesus, nearly beating him to death. He and his soldiers led Jesus to the cross. His soldiers divided Jesus clothes. The centurion himself is said to have been the one that pierced Jesus' side to ensure he had died.
Throughout the entire scenario, the centurion never stopped anything from happening. He did his job as he was instructed by Pilate - never once waiving. We don't know his thoughts along the way, but if he believed in Jesus, he certainly didn't share that with anyone - and certainly didn't stop the brutal actions. Yet, the centurion had a special seat throughout the presiding. He observed what was happening to Jesus, and he observed all those around Jesus. During Jesus' final moments, he stood in front of Jesus, and confirmed that Jesus was the Son of God. So what can the centurion teach us?
There have been many writings about the centurion, but when I read the scriptures, I can't help but see how he was brought to faith in a very special way. He saw all the wrong doing and persecution. In fact he was PART of it all! He never tried to stop it - never saying it was wrong. I believe he still had doubt, that he wasn't quite sure if Jesus was innocent. Yet, as with many in the New Testament, when they saw, they believed. When they had proof of Jesus being our Savior, faith ensued. When the earth quaked and the temple curtains were torn, the centurion had his proof.
We may think that we are not be able to see Jesus face to face on earth. We may not get to see him raise people from the dead, or watch him heal others. We do have something the centurion doesn't, though. We have faith. We CAN see the power of Jesus in the miracles around us. We CAN see his greatness in our own journey. We CAN see Jesus face to face, when we look hard enough. He is there. We can learn from the centurion that we don't have to see Jesus face to face in an earthly fashion to know that he is truly the Son of God. We can see Jesus through simple faith and experience his righteousness, his mercy, his grace and his love. For THAT is when we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus is always there for us. Instead of letting wicked acts happen around us, we can be the one who stands up in the name of Jesus!
On this Palm Sunday, as we enter Holy Week, I encourage you to continue your reflection. On Palm Sunday, we rejoice in Jesus, as others rejoiced in Him. On Maundy Thursday, we reflect on the Last Supper, and the upper room with Jesus and the disciples. On Good Friday, we walk the journey that Jesus walked to his crucifixion. This week is an emotional week - a time when we realize many aspects of Jesus and what He did for us. Yet, there is one thing to always keep in mind. Through each step of Jesus' journey - His love for us never diminished. We still feel that love today - in every journey we take. May your Holy Week find you deeply embraced in Jesus' love.
"Dearest Jesus, as we walk into Holy Week with you, may we reflect on each step you took on our behalf - the ride on the donkey into Jerusalem, the last supper in the upper room, the journey to Calvary, and the resurrection of the tomb. Help us to read from scripture the words you have for us and may we simply have faith that you love us so that you died for our sins. In your gracious name we pray, Amen!"