The Face of Faith: The Centurion Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The third evidence for faith is the natural phenomena that occurred when Christ was crucified.
It was a strange day. After Jesus had hung on the cross about three hours, darkness came over the land. Even though it was high noon, there was no sun to be seen. Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour, there was darkness over all the land. Our Lord was put on the cross at the third hour which was about nine in the morning. By twelve noon, man had done all he could to the Son of God. At twelve noon it became dark, and the cross became an altar on which the Lamb who taketh away the sin of the world was offered. Nature hid her face in shame at the unspeakable wickedness of men. God may have meant the darkness to be creation’s symbolic mourning for Jesus while he was suffering for the sins of mankind.
As the centurion stood near the cross during the darkness, he heard Jesus exclaim, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And Jesus… yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
About three o’clock Jesus died. At that time the whole countryside began to shake with an earthquake. Rocks were torn to pieces, and the tombs were opened as God saluted the conquering Savior. The veil in the temple, the curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple, was torn in two from top to bottom. This was God’s own proclamation that in the death of Christ the barrier between God and man disappeared.
The risen saints were God’s evidence and guarantee that the power of death had been broken. When His body was torn upon the cross—when He had paid the penalty for your sin and my sin in His own body—then the way was opened into the presence of God. Therefore, you and I don’t need to have a priest or preacher go into the presence of God for us; we can go directly to the throne of God through Christ.
The centurion saw it all and he sensed that there was a connection between Christ’s death and all of these miraculous events. Surely He was not a criminal!
The final evidence for faith is the manner of Christ’s death.
The centurion had seen many deaths in the course of his duty. He knew that death by crucifixion followed a certain pattern. But Christ’s death was different. In His last moments, Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” It was like a shout of triumph. Then quietly He prayed again, “Father, into thy hands I commit My Spirit.”
He died as though He was the one in charge. He died with a quiet trust in God. The evidence was just too much for the Roman. He knew in his heart that this Man was more than a man. So he exclaimed, “Truly, this was the Son of God.” The centurion, I believe, became a saved man. At the foot of the cross he looked up and saw that something unusual was taking place, and he could glorify God. He saw that Christ was a righteous man.
I realize that the centurion’s confession of faith was not enough to join the average Bible church, but let’s go back in time to that day. He is at the crucifixion. He knew nothing about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He had never read any books on theology. This poor fellow was in the dark, but he couldn’t have said anything that revealed his faith more than this: “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
We have more evidence than the centurion, because we know of the glorious resurrection and continued work of Jesus. Look at the evidence carefully and it will lead you to have faith.
Now we are ready to look at the evidence of faith that can be seen in the centurion.
We have two separate accounts of the centurion’s confession. According to Luke, the centurion declared, “Certainly this man was a righteous man.” And Matthew reports that he confessed Jesus to be the Son of God. No doubt both accounts are accurate.
The evidence of this man’s faith becomes apparent in two ways.
First, there is his act of confession and then there is the substance of the confession. Let’s look first at the act of confession.
The centurion’s confession itself reveals faith. His voice is the only voice we hear at the cross commending Jesus. It is one thing to have some impressions in your heart but another thing to verbalize those impressions.
True faith leads to confession. Any born again child of God will want to tell others about the Savior. It’s important that we tell others about Jesus. Jesus said that if we don’t confess Him before men, he will not confess us before His Father. If you have never confessed your faith in Jesus Christ, your faith is in question.
The next thing to see is the substance of the confession. What the centurion confessed is the real evidence. He confessed the righteous character of Jesus, contradicting the judgment of the world. The Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy against God, and Pilate sentenced Him to death by crucifixion, but the centurion saw the truth, and he confessed, “Certainly this man was a righteous man.”
The centurion also confessed the uniqueness of Christ: “Truly this was the Son of God.” Scholars will debate how much the centurion actually understood, and whether or not he meant to acknowledge the deity of Christ.
Surely Matthew included this account because he saw it as being the logical end of Christ’s life and death. Both Matthew and Luke put it at the climax of the Gospel story.
Without trying to make a theologian out of the centurion, let’s accept this confession for what it says. He had come to believe in the uniqueness of Christ. He had come to believe that Christ was the Son of God.
There is the story about an old English farmer who went to London and visited one of the great art galleries in the city. There he was attracted by a painting of the crucifixion. He sat before it, studying each detail with intense interest. At last, forgetful of his surroundings, he cried out, “Bless Him! I love Him!” Others nearby, startled by his words, came to see what was wrong with the old man. From different parts of the gallery, they gathered around him. They saw the tears flowing down his bronzed cheeks. They too looked at the painting of the crucifixion. After a while, one man in the group with tearful eyes reached for the farmer's hand and said, “And I love Him too!” Then another and another and still another took the old man’s hand until there was a sizable group of sobbing believers rejoicing in front of the painting of Christ’s crucifixion and declaring, “We love Him too!”
Will you join the centurion in his confession, “Truly this Man is the Son of God?” The Bible says that we are saved when we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is God’s Son. If we believe that, we must also believe that He came to earth where He died on a cross for our sins. That He rose from the dead three days later. That He is in heaven today for us and that He is going to return someday. That is the Gospel!
If you believe the gospel, then perhaps you can say as the old man did, “Bless Him! I love Him!” May Jesus bless all of you for Christ’s sake.