Truly, He was the Son of God. MARK 14:1–15:47
By Matthew Hall
Throughout Mark’s gospel, the evangelist challenges the reader to ponder on the opening declaration, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk 1:1).
Jesus was aware of His impending death and embraced it in obedience to the Father. There are many references to Jesus’ fulfilment of the scriptures. He predicts the denial of Peter, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, He knew when the preordained time had come.
In Mark’s account of the Passion, we begin to grasp the deeper theological claim being made about Jesus. After He was condemned to death, Jesus did not speak again until His final cry from the cross. Those who were within earshot mistook it and thought He was calling for Elijah. However, it was the Roman centurion who affirmed what Mark presented throughout this gospel: Jesus is the Son of God.
The Roman centurion is a very interesting character in Jesus’ Passion – he was a soldier whose heart perhaps had grown cold from all the responsibility he held for overseeing executions such as Jesus’.
So, who was Jesus Christ to this centurion? Certainly, he would have heard of Him because Jesus was an ‘influencer’ of His time – the subject of countless conversations with His counter-culture teachings and astounding miracles.
As an officer appointed with keeping order in the town, the centurion must have known about Jesus, but perhaps, just thought of Him as a Jewish zealot. Upon hearing Jesus’ final cry, the centurion stopped in front of the cross and undoubtedly fixed his gaze upon Jesus, taking note of His countenance, life leaving His body and Jesus’ head sinking.
It is likely that the centurion would have witnessed other crucifixions, but somehow, this one seemed different – the loud cry after enduring such suffering, the quick death of Jesus and the earthquake that ensued. He would have paused and reflected on this mysterious experience before involuntarily confessing, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
This character in the recounting of Jesus’ Passion and death (the centurion) is not one that you would typically expect to be amazed or moved by what was happening. He served deities whose primary characteristic was power. Humility and lowliness were considered faults or shortcomings and not virtues.
Yet standing before the cross of Christ, he encountered true power – the converting power of being in the presence of Jesus. In the presence of Jesus, our hearts are convicted, we are liberated and our perspectives of life shift towards the Divine. This power is deeply rooted in obedience to God’s will.
The centurion’s exclamation perhaps may not have had the same depth of meaning as St Paul’s, however, he was able to identify that Jesus was more than a mere man; there was something divine about Him, His claims of being the Son of God can reverently be substantiated. This converting power occurs in the mere presence of God.
As we begin this Holy Week, reflecting on the Roman centurion presents us with an opportune movement into a deeper encounter with Christ. Amidst the tragedy, unfairness and suffering that is taking place around us, amidst the agonising cries and the tremors that shake and disrupt our lives, we have to stop and fix our honest gaze upon Jesus on the cross, then we will begin to believe in Him and become like Him.
We will begin to experience the converting power of Christ and allow ourselves to be catapulted to being obedient to God’s will for our lives – embracing difficulties and suffering but also trusting and knowing that we are accompanied by a Saviour who understands and has lived it.
During this Holy Week, let us prayerfully recall the events of Jesus’ life, Passion, and death. Let us carve out some time from our busy schedules to stop and meditate on the cross, so like the Roman centurion, we can encounter Christ’s converting power and allow His sacrifice, obedience, and humility to renew our faith so we can proclaim the words, “Truly, He is the Son of God.”
The gospel reflections for March were by members of the Leadership Team of the National Catholic Men’s Ministry. Matthew Hall is a member of the Companions of the Transfigured Christ Community.
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash