In Luke 7, we get several stories that all point to Christ’s divine identity, revealing his power over sin, disease and even death. Response to him will be divided. Some see their need for him while others do not.
Last week we looked at Gethsemane. Today we see Jesus die on the cross. This is when he felt the weight of our sin upon him. And it felt like being completely forsaken by God. Let’s read about that hopeless, helpless moment.
33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Crucifixion was cruel, but it wasn’t unusual. People died this way all the time. The day Jesus died, there were two robbers executed with him, one on each side. What made Christ’s death any different from theirs?
The weight of our sin.
We really cannot say what that felt like. I have compared it with the feeling of guilt. Guilt is worse than pain because it has a psychological and/or spiritual component that physical pain makes worse, but cannot compare to. When physical pain is gone, guilt can continue. It can sap a person’t energy and deplete a person’t life. Guilt, even without physical suffering can push a person to end his own life.
And Jesus publicly and shamefully bore the sin, the guilt, of the world.
If there was ever a place that was truly God-forsaken, it was Christ’s cross that day on Golgotha. “The Father turned his face away,” says the hymn. Jesus was alone as he died, even though there were bystanders all around him. None of them could understand what he was enduring. Numbing the pain would never alleviate the suffering of substitutionary atonement.
As Christ died, the curtain in the temple tore from top to bottom and the way was opened for us to come into the very presence of God. Christ was separated from the Father so that we might be joined with them both inseparably and forever. No one saw it or said it better than the centurion.
39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
5 When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I often pray “in Jesus’ name,” but I am not sure I recognize his authority or my own unworthiness to ever have you answer my prayers. Neither is my heart sufficiently moved by the needs of others. Give me the faith of this centurion.
Let it start by being willing to ask. So often I simply fail to pray when I know full well that I am in need of answers from you.
Further, I sometimes retain a hint of my own self-righteousness. I expect you to do things for me because of who I am or what I have done, or the justness of my cause. In reality I deserve nothing. All that I have or ever will have from you is purely of grace. I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.
I also see that this centurion was praying for his servant. He was clearly not an arrogant man in his dealings with others. Considering his rank and position I wonder if it might have been completely acceptable for him to to care very little about this servant’s well-being. His concern was personal as he transformed his servant’s need into his own. Move me to that kind of intercession.
Finally, there is the matter of Christ’s authority. I am not certain that I see him as Lord of the universe and Lord of my life as I pray in his name. Maybe I know these things as facts, but there are too many times when I treat Christ as more of my servant than my Master. Help me to make this a thing of the past and never treat Christ as anything but the King of kings that he is.
Again, give me the faith of this centurion as I lift up my requests to you.
In Christ my Lord,