Friday, April 3, 2015

The Final Sojourner

In the beginning it seemed like a journey from the Mt. of Transfiguration to Jerusalem.  Along the way the destination changed.  Instead of a journey to Jerusalem, it became a journey to the cross, and then finally, a journey to death.  Early on we may not have thought of the journey ending in death, but Jesus surely did.  So many lives intersected with His on the  journey.  Some stayed for almost all of it.  Some were on that road with Him but for a fleeting moment. 
According to Luke the last one who sojourned with Jesus to death was the centurion.  While it is true he is mentioned only after Jesus has breathed His last breath, his presence afterwards pre-supposes his presence before.  The centurion was a witness to it all.  He heard the mocking.  He saw the suffering.  He heard the last words of Jesus and watched Him die.  What Luke wrote about the response of the centurion to the death of Jesus is a word of witness.  The Word says, "When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, 'Certainly this man was innocent.' "  (Luke 23:47)  Both Matthew and Mark record him saying, "Truly this man was the Son of God."  Regardless of the version, it is surprising that the last word of witness comes not from a disciple, but from one like the centurion.  Something powerful and mysterious took place on the hill that day and it was not missed by the man of Rome.

Too many times we are the ones who really miss what happened that Friday long ago.  The church hardly gives it notice as it moves from Palm Sunday to Easter.  And when something is offered on Good Friday to focus the attention of the world on the cross, it is often downplayed with a public invitation which speaks of a "brief service" or something attached to a meal to entice participation.  There is no argument with the Apostle Paul about the resurrection being the central truth of the gospel, but without crucifixion there is no resurrection.  At the cross we behold the power of God's love, the mystery of redemption, and the source of our hope for a forgiveness that enables us to live without constantly having to look behind us.  Let us pray today that we, like the centurion, have some moment of being so overcome by it all that we join him in praising God.

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