Death is the most serious part of life. It never becomes so real as when we lose someone near to us, particularly, if we are there at the bedside. I will never forget when a dear friend of mine called me from the death bed of his father. During his father’s last days, my friend tried once again to share the Gospel with him, but was still met with rejection. On one particular day his father took him aside and said, “I have thought it over and decided not to believe in Jesus Christ.” His reason was simply because the majority of people did not believe in him.
On the night my friend lost his dad, he was at his bedside and watching him breathe very slowly; he new that death was near. He stepped out for just a moment but his mother and sister remained. At the time of his death he was reported to have said, “Who are you? Where are we going? No, no, no!”
In the 15th chapter of Marks Gospel, we are privileged to read the account of God’s triumphant victory over death through the death of His Son. The death of Jesus Christ was unlike the death of every other man. Many people commit suicide but none of them have power over death. They simply start the process whereby they die. Jesus allowed men to kill Him, but even then He chose to die. Of His death we read, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.” This is not the way a man that has been crucified dies. No man loses extensive blood, becomes exhausted beyond reason through severe beatings, suffers immense emotional trauma, and then breathes his last in a robust manner. It just doesn’t happen! But Jesus did! Nevertheless, from the verse before us we read the word “loud”, which in the Greek is Megas from which we get the word mega, which could be rendered powerful, strong or mighty. Jesus was surely the Master over His death, even as He is the Master over all of His creation. He is the Lord over all who will receive the just recompense of His justice, and those who receive the benefit of His incomprehensible saving grace.
Of all the people that are said to have witnessed the death of Christ, there are only two that are singled out from the rest of the crowd because they alone spoke up for Jesus. They alone gave evidence of his salvation. One was a soldier, a centurion, and one that was in charge of a hundred men. He was a man accustomed to battle because he always led the charge, which is how he rose to the rank of Centurion. He was hard, cold, and undoubtedly given the detail to crucify men. Of him we are first told, “When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last…” In the Greek these statements might be rendered, the Centurion was brought into fellowship with Him, who previously stood contrary to Him, and was an antagonist and hostile to Him. When he saw how He breathed His last, he said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.”
The Romans were polytheists or believed in many gods, but the word used for God was the word used for “the Supreme Deity.” Something happened to the Centurion during the closing moments of Jesus’ death. Like one of the two thieves upon the cross, he crossed over from mocking to lamenting Jesus’ death. In Luke’s account we are told that he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” Like the rest of the crowd, he heard Jesus say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” “This day you will be with me in paradise,” “It is finished,” which is to say the price has been paid, and “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” In the case of this man, his heart was changed, he entered into a new kingdom, he experienced saving faith and repentance. The words of Paul, which were to yet be spoken came true for him on that day, “If you shall confess with your lips Jesus Christ as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9, 10).
The crucifixion of Jesus did not affect everyone the same way. Some wept with broken heart, while others sneered and mocked, still others were indifferent. At Jesus’ death we are told by Luke, which is written with more historical order, that following the Centurion’s remarks all the crowd returned home beating their breasts. I have no way of knowing what was in each of their hearts, but their actions depict some kind of remorse.
Many years ago we owned a hamster, he was extra large and dark brown, which is why we called him Smokey, as in the bear. He was extra friendly and calm, and so even though it was only an animal, I became attached. Then came the day of his death; I held him on my lap. He shook for a while, and then I felt the life go out of him. It was just a hamster; it had no self awareness, no power to conceptualize or to communicate, and it was not made in the image of God. However, I felt loss in its death. I cannot imagine how those who were privileged to know the Son of God during His earthly pilgrimage felt at His death.
However, whether its a tiny hamster or the most powerful man on earth, all stand powerless before the power of death – all except one, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. The soldiers could not take Him into custody, but fell back twice at His command. Moreover, there were perhaps a thousand people there to arrest Jesus that night. All stood powerless before the Lord of glory.
When Peter drew his sword and struck at a soldier in a desperate attempt to protect Jesus, he heard his Master say, “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus was capable to prevent evil men from doing Him harm. Certainly He who sits in the heavens and laughs at the arrogance of man (Psalm 2) could protect Him. Angles could have been sent to protect Him but that was not in the plan. Therefore, Jesus said to Peter, “How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?"
The death of Jesus appears on the surface to be tragic, and that which always occurs when tyrants use their power, unjustly, and with violence. However, much like death itself, it is not in the control of men, we have no such power over our lives. We don’t decide to be born and we can’t decide when to die. The providence of God overrules everything and everyone, even though it goes unseen. The only thing that matters, the most important thing of all is whether or not we believe that Jesus died for our sins, and upon our belief we share that good news with others.