Scripture Reading: Mark 15 - 16 …
As I read the words of the centurion who stood at the foot of the cross I was struck by the simplicity of his declaration: "Surely this man was the Son of God" (15:39). He had just witnessed a death, a death by crucifixion. He was quite probably among the soldiers who had mocked Jesus (15:16-20). He had watched as they put a purple robe on Jesus, along with the crown of thorns. Perhaps he joined in the cries of, "Hail, king of the Jews!" He may have even struck Jesus or spit on Him or cast lots for His clothes. But now, having stood guard during three hours of darkness in the middle of the day and hearing Jesus cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" … then hearing Jesus pray for forgiveness for those who crucified Him and committing His spirit to the Father … as he heard Jesus breathe His last breath … NOW he testified, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"
What did he mean by that? Did he believe that Jesus was, in fact, God in the flesh? Probably not. Like some today, he saw Jesus as a man … a special man, perhaps, but a man nonetheless. Why do I say that? Because of the word, "was." If he had believed that Jesus was THE eternal Son of God he would have known that a real GOD cannot die. Jesus not only WAS the Son of God, He IS the Son of God. He gave up His body and committed His human spirit to the Father, but He was and is ALWAYS the Son of God. I wonder … do you suppose this centurion was transferred to Caesarea? And do you think there is a chance that his name was Cornelius (See Acts 10)?
At any rate, the events surrounding Jesus' crucifixion scream "FULFILLMENT!" Several references are taken from Psalm 22:
Psalm 22:1: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (15:34)
Psalm 22:7: "All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue Him. Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him.'" (15:29-30)
Psalm 22:16: "A band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and feet." (15:25)
Psalm 22:18: "They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." (15:24)
I think of Peter's words in Acts 2:23-24: "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. BUT God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." We who believe today can testify, "Surely this IS the Son of God!"
In this 21st century, more and more people want to avoid looking at or talking about the cross. For nearly 2,000 years God has opened the hearts and minds of those whom He chooses to hear the Gospel and to believe in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. His suffering on the cross, His death and resurrection, are the centerpiece of the Gospel, so much so that the Apostle Paul would say, "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). We can only pray today that more men would be raised up by the Spirit of God to declare this message, for it is the power of God unto the salvation of all who believe (Romans 1:16).
It is of significance that Mark and the other Gospel writers specifically note those who condemned Jesus. The "chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin reached a decision" (15:1). This was not one or two men who did this in secret. This was the entire leadership of the Jewish people! And when Pilate attempted to release Jesus, they made sure that the crowd cried out for Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus. While it is wrong to condemn all the Jews as a people for killing Jesus, it was, without a doubt, the religious leaders of the Jews who instigated His crucifixion. Yet, remember the words above in Acts 2:23 … all this was done according to the set purpose and foreknowledge of God. Wicked men were responsible for their own actions, yet God's purpose would be fulfilled only through the suffering and death of the perfect Lamb of God.
Isaiah 53 points out more of the prophecies fulfilled in this brief moment in history:
Isaiah 53:5: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth." (15:5)
Isaiah 53:9: "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death." (15:27, 43)
Mark ends his gospel record as the rest of the Gospel writers do, with an account of the resurrection of Jesus. None of the Gospels end with Jesus in the tomb!! There is some question as to the ending of Mark's gospel, particularly verses 9-20. Though early manuscripts do not include these verses, they probably would not be questioned were it not for verses 17-18. This is the only place where these things are mentioned, and while that in itself would not exclude them from being truth revealed by God, the idea of picking up snakes and drinking poison would appear to contradict Jesus' words when resisting Satan's temptations: "It is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" (Matthew 4:7).
We should not be distracted from the certainty of all that God says in His Word, from beginning to end. God has revealed in His Word all that He wants us to know. Jesus fulfilled prophecy in His birth and His life, and in His death and resurrection. Read and study God's Word. Pray earnestly for the Spirit of God to give you insight and surround yourself with those who accept the authority of the Bible as the very Word of God. Ask questions, learn, grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. And join with those around the earth from every people, tribe, nation and tongue who proclaim with confidence and joy: "Surely, this IS the Son of God!"
"Heavenly Father, I thank You for sending Your Son to suffer and die in my place on the cross as the perfect and only sacrifice for sin. I thank You for Your grace in sending Your Spirit to open my mind and heart to receive Your Word as truth. And I proclaim with confidence and joy that Jesus IS the Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns at Your right hand. Use me, Father, to testify to this truth so that others, too, may come to know Your Son and be saved through faith in Him. In Jesus' name, Amen"