All those who were looking to Jesus to act like a god were disappointed.
Here were two cultures, both saturated with tales of power and renown from their God and gods and an array of heroes. The Red Sea—the Kraken. Samson, Elijah—Hercules and Perseus. Everyone knew that if Jesus were really God, there would be some display of power, and maybe He was saving it for the very end. Right?
Well, he wasn’t yet at the end. But they thought so.
While the scribes and Pharisees railed, it was a criminal and a Roman centurion who paid enough attention to the signs to realize what was happening.
For all the exploits of heroes, and the strong arm of God flexed for the eyes of men, the world had yet to see the strength of God as He gave Himself to die.
This Man, unrecognizable to anyone who didn’t know it was Him, suffering not just with resignation, as the old paintings show Him, but with determination. With passion.
It’s the only way, I’ve decided, He could have endured it. Without begging for mercy. Without screaming and wailing. Without the ranting fury of the criminals beside him.
This Man, suffering in relative silence. With patience. With an unearthly focus.
It was enough to convince one of the criminals, who dared ask Jesus for favor while they were there on the cross.
It was also enough, in combination with a total eclipse of the sun and a serious earthquake, to convince a hardened Roman centurion that Jesus must truly be the Son of God.
I wonder whether it also had convinced Pilate, who though he gave Jesus up for scourging and crucifixion, was piqued enough at the Jews who insisted on it all to have “King of the Jews” written and posted over Jesus’ head. Not “He claimed to be King of the Jews,” as the Pharisees insisted, but the simple declaration.
You know he had to wonder just who he was dealing with.
Here was the one of whom the prophets spoke. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah. Greater than Hercules, mightier than Apollo and Zeus, displaying His strength by His restraint. In not lashing out, not fighting back.
That truly had to be the most awe-inspiring sight in the universe.
44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last.47 So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”48 And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. (Luke 23)
37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15, both NKJV)
This post first appeared 4/13/14.