Thursday, April 09, 2009

Seeing in the dark of Good Friday.

One service down five to go!

We had a really nice Thursday break this lunch time. Good number, great hymns and good atmosphere. I was reflecting on the fact that virtually everyone found the first Good Friday a bit of puzzle - Pilate, the priests, the disciples. Only Jesus knew what was happening and why - and he wasn't saying much on the day itself.

This lunch time I reflected particularly on the shock of the Centurion. We don't often talk about him except to lament the fact that he was once played by John Wayne in a Hollywood life of Christ (was it The Greatest Story Ever Told?)

This guy was a battle hardened Roman soldier, possibly at the end of his career, posted in the armpit of the empire and given this ghastly job to do in the foul weather of the first Good Friday. Nothing much had happened really. The prisoner on the middle cross had screamed for aid in the midst of the storm but in a language the Roman didn't speak. it's only what you'd expect; everyone breaks eventually and goes whimpering into the dark.

Imagine his shock then, when this same prisoner shouts out and meets death with a cry of triumph. Commenting on this verse in Mark (15:39a), Walter Wangerin says 'then suddenly he dies...That's what rivets the centurion. It is as if this man chose to go fully conscious straight to the wall of death and there to strike it with all his might and, in the striking, die. Aware of absolutely everything...One thing strikes the centurion: how can a crucified criminal act so convincingly like the victor.'

Little wonder that, open mouthed, this hardened servant of Caesar who no doubt often called his commander-in-chief son of god, looked up at the cross and says 'truly this man was the Son of God.' That is to say, this strangely victorious prisoner rather than Caesar rightly claims that title.

If he saw it, can we?

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