Surely this man was the Son of God

Posted on 20 Mar 2016, Pastor: Rev Hans Vaatstra

Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.

Reading: Mark 15:16-32
Text: Mark 15:33-41
Surely this man was the Son of God
1. Evidenced by Christ’s demeanor
2. The Darkness
3. The Temple Curtain

Mark 15:16-32  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Jesus Is Mocked
16 The soldiers took Him away into the [a]palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they *called together the whole Roman [b]cohort. 17 They *dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; 18 and they began to acclaim Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They kept beating His head with a [c]reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. 20 After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they *led Him out to crucify Him.

21 They *pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.

The Crucifixion
22 Then they *brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. 23 They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it. 24 And they *crucified Him, and *divided up His garments among themselves, casting [d]lots for them to decide [e]what each man should take. 25 It was the [f]third hour [g]when they crucified Him. 26 The inscription of the charge against Him [h]read, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

27 They *crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. 28 [[i]And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with transgressors.”] 29 Those passing by were [j]hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; [k]He cannot save Himself. 32 Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.

Text: Mark 15:33-41  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

33 When the [a]sixth hour came, darkness [b]fell over the whole land until the [c]ninth hour. 34 At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.” 36 Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “[d]Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. 38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 When the centurion, who was standing [e]right in front of Him, saw [f]the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was [g]the Son of God!”

40 There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of [h]James the [i]Less and Joses, and Salome. 41 When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and [j]minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.

 

 

Sermon for reading services.

The gospel of Mark finishes with the theme it began with when Christ first began his ministry on earth from the time of His baptism by John the Baptist at the Jordan River.  A voice from heaven was heard saying, “You are my Son whom I love with you I am well pleased”. Then though-out his ministry of three years Christ’s every word and action testified to that fact that He was the Son of God. His authoritative teachings left his critics speechless. His miraculous healings, his command over the evil spirits and the forces of nature all spoke of his being both God and man.

So did his death.

According to our text there are two things about Jesus death which had a profound effect on the centurion and which no reader of the gospel can overlook. They prove that Jesus was who he said he was. Then there is one other event which the centurion will not have seen but which Mark included and which puts the question beyond doubt. It also tells the world why Jesus had to die. That event was the tearing of the temple curtain.

So three points

First Christs demeanor, secondly the darkness and thirdly the temple curtain.

 

1 His demeanor

There was a Roman Centurion standing in front of the cross when Jesus died. What this man heard and saw when Christ was crucified convinced him that Jesus was who he claimed to be the son of God.

 

The centurion was the Roman officer who had oversight over the crucificixion. It was his responsibility to make sure that each stage of the execution was done exactly according to specification. No doubt this wasn’t the first crucifixion the Centurion presided over. But he had never seen one like this before. As a result there was really on one conclusion that could force itself on the Centurion’ s mind and that was that this Jesus was certainly not what his enemies made him out to be. Rather Jesus was who he professed to be.

 

So what exactly was it about Jesus that made such an impression on the heart and conscience of this Centurion?

 

The first thing we notice is the way Christ exercised complete and perfect self control from the time of his arrest till the point of death.

 

According to one historian crucifixions were often marked by screams of rage and pain, wild curses and shouts of indescribable despair by the unfortunate victims. Not so with Christ!

 

Not a word was said without it being either God honoring or for the salvation of men.

When Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsememe he faced his captors unafraid and went with them willingly.

He bore the Sanhedrin’s false accusations and hatred directed against him with dignity.

He never spoke  angrily or tried to retaliate in any way.

Though He dreaded the cross Jesus  resolutely and deliberately went to it  in perfect obedience to His heavenly Father.

The centurion looked on as his men scourged Jesus, threw a coarse red robe over his wounded body and thrust a crown of thorn down on his head.

Then at the 3rd hour or 9am according to our time, when the soldiers drove the big nails through his hands and feet and into the wooden cross the centurion heard Jesus

ask the Father to forgive them.  Later Jesus spoke kindly to the criminal executed next to Him saying “this day you will be with me in Paradise.” He also refused to drink the wine and the myrrh which might lessen the pain but which might also prolong the dying.

 

A study of the effects of crucifixion by J Binzler reveals that those suffering such a death often experienced long periods of exhaustion and unconsciousness before dying. Not so with Christ, he remained conscious right until his death the ninth hour or three in the afternoon.

 

So,.. Christ’s entire demeanor was such that the centurion concluded that Christ was no ordinary man but the Son of God.

 

  1. In the second place there was the darkness.

Christ had hung on the cross for three hours from 9 in the morning until 12 noon or according to ancient Jewish time the 6th hour. At noon when the sun was at his highest point, its light suddenly failed. Darkness then covered the land for three hours until Christ’s death.

Well, those who because of unbelief attempt explain the miracles of the Bible away speculate that this was a combination of a heavily overcast day plus an eclipse of the sun by the moon.

But what does the Bible say it was? Matthew simply says what Mark says, The Gospel of Luke says that the sun was darkened. The same Greek word for darkened skotidzo is used in Revelation 16:10 where the fifth angel pours out his bowl of wrath on throne of the beast and his kingdom became darkened.

What else does Scripture say?

We know that in the days of Moses darkness covered the land of Egypt for three days because Pharaoh refused to let the people of Israel go. The final plague upon the Egyptians that followed the plague of darkness was the death of the first born.

 

Much later in Salvation History Amos predicted a day in chapter 8:9 of his prophecy which says, “In that day declares the sovereign Lord I will make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight, and then verse 10b which says I will make that time like mourning for an Only Son and the end of it like a bitter day.

 

.

So let’s just  analyze  this for a moment.

 

The first darkness followed by the death of all the Egyptian firstborn was an act of God with the purpose of  liberating God’s people from slavery in Eygpt.

 

That darkness Amos prophesied about was once again, as in Egypt, the curse of God upon an obstinate and rebellious people which is what Israel had become.

Then in Revelation 12 we find that darkness returning one final time  as God’s judgment is poured out on Satan’s kingdom.

 

The 3 hours of darkness the centurion witnessed was also God’s judgment against sin and rebellion, our sin and rebellion ….  only the firstborn to die at that point in time was God the Father’s own Son.  The darkness of judgment rested upon Him because the sin of all God’s elect was carried by Him.

 

And this  was a darkness and a forsakenness that Christ himself felt deep within his soul and which wrenched from his soul the cry “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” That cry expressed the moment that Christ dreaded with the horrible dread he felt as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemene. The dread of bearing the judgment of God and the terrible curse of sin expressed in a statement from the Mosaic law  which Jesus was familiar with, “cursed  is everyone who hangs from a tree”.

 

He was indeed cursed, cut off from the Father. The sinless son of God died the sinner’s death and experienced the terrors of hell, the darkness, the being cursed and forsaken by God.

He suffered all  that for you and me and for  all those who confess Christ as Savior and Lord, that we might never have to suffer the forsakenness of God or the darkness of judgment,… ever.

 

  1. In the third place there was the tearing of the temple curtain. Mark wrote, “And the veil of the temple was torn in two” This curtain was a very heavy veil, roughly 20 meters high, 10 meters wide, consisting of several layers of material and said to have the thickness of the palm of ones hand. It was positioned in such a way that it separated the temple forecourt from the inner sanctuary where only the priest would go.

 

Now the moment Jesus breathed his last was the 9th hour.

That was also the moment the high priest would normally go into the temple to make preparations for the evening sacrifice.  Just at that moment according to Matthew’s account there was a great earthquake, rocks split in two graves opened up and it says many bodies  of saints who had fallen asleep were raised and …… before the high priests very eyes the great curtain  suddenly tore in two, from top to bottom and exposing the inner sanctuary of the temple.

 

Apart from being quite shocked, one can imagine what might have gone on in the priests minds. ‘Had God forsaken them? Was he no longer with them? Was this judgment from on high?’

Well everything about the event itself and the OT predictions and the person and work of Jesus Christ all leave us without any doubt that this was an act of God revealing that the temple service was at an end.

It meant that God’s dwelling place would no longer be the temple in Israel.

The tearing of the curtain meant that all the Old Testament ceremonies and sacrifices were now abolished.

 

It meant that the way to God was now OPEN to all mankind because of Christ’s death. All people, not just the Jews may draw near to God, through Jesus Christ our only mediator. There’s no further need for earthly mediators.

That veil and every other barrier between man and God has been demolished by the cross of Christ.

 

Well there were other miraculous signs that happened in the hours leading up to Christ’s death. Mark doesn’t record all of them. But what he does remember and record for us is the Roman centurion who stood in front of the cross and watched. …

He watched our Lord’s gracious and holy demeanor.

He heard Christ’s purposeful statements from the cross including that cry of abandonment when Jesus  called out “my God my God why have your forsaken me?” He felt the chilling darkness and witnessed all the other supernatural events.

 

The centurion,… standing directly in front of Jesus at the foot of the cross, his eyes fixed on the savior  saw him breath his last and declared Surely this man was the Son of God!

 

It wasn’t the high priest, a leading rabbi, or a loyal disciple who made that statement but a battle hardened soldier familiar with death and executions. He saw the contrast between ordinary men and  Jesus all too clearly.

 

As Jesus hung on the cross he exposed the rulers of the Roman empire and the leaders of the Jews as men who broke their own rules because they executed an innocent man.  And that revealed that they were interested in only one thing, their own power.

On the other hand Jesus the Son of God who possessed all power,  allowed himself to suffer the curse of sin and by doing so broke the back of Satan’s most powerful weapon, the power of accusation against believers. Jesus destroyed Satan’s power of accusation by opening up the way for sinners to be reconciled with God through his blood shed on the cross.

 

And so what the centurion said in response to Christ’s death sent a signal to the whole world that the way is open for all to come to the Father through the Son

By the grace of God the centurion was one of the first Gentiles to lay hold of the kingdom through faith in Christ. Since then many have come by that same confession.

This is why the fact that Christ as the son of God is something which Mark emphasizes in his gospel.  It helps us to understand that true Christian faith depends on three basic truths, the person of Christ, that He is God’s son, His death on the cross and his resurrection. Tamper with any one of these truths and our faith falls over. It becomes worthless.

 

But it is clear from the Gospel and the rest of the New Testament that Jesus Christ is God’s Son.

This is affirmed by God the Father at Christ’s baptism.

Also by the unwilling testimony of Satan and his demons during his temptation and Christ’s later ministry.

John wrote that Jesus is God’s one and only  Son who shares co-existence with the Father from the beginning.

Hebrews 1 says that he is the exact representation of God,

while 1 John 4 tells us that God’s love impelled Him to send his Son into the world to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins and therefore,…. the one who seeks a relationship with God must acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God!

 

Lets finish by thinking about three implications for the church today

 

The first is that the Centurion’s confession presents us with a renewed call to faith. That is a primary purpose of the gospel. Its not just there for information. Christ is revealed in this way that we might believe. This is stated explicitly at the end of John 20 where it says that “these things are written that you may believe. The evidence is irrefutable. Believe it and live!

 

A second implication is that this revelation about Christ as the Son of God is that you may obey. Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory the exact representation of God’s nature. “Further on Jesus is described as being greater than the angels, greater than Moses, greater than the Aaronic priesthood, in the order of Melchisadek, without beginning or end. He is God and king.  But again the writer to the Hebrews didn’t just write that for information. He warned the Hebrews and us “let’s not be like those who disobeyed and did not enter their rest! Rather let us be diligent to enter that rest lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience. “

 

Then a third implication is that there is in this passage a strong assurance of salvation! Because Jesus is the Son of God we need never doubt that his sacrifice for sin is enough! On the contrary we can be sure that the way is open for you and me to come to the Father through faith in the Son.

Amen