Mark 15:39 “And when the centurion, which stood over against Him, saw that He so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this Man was the Son of God.”
Which one of us here remembers the day we were born? Of course no one is able. The reason is simple: we are born into this world weak, very weak, so that even our ability to remember something for more than a few seconds, hasn’t yet developed. We are born into this world weak. Yet, in time we grow. Our capacity for memory grows, which means we can eventually remember what words mean. Have we ever thought about this, that we couldn’t speak, or read, or write, at all, without memory. We must be able to remember what words mean, to speak, to read, to write.
And so without ever having to open a book, in time, we learned what the words mom and dad meant, what the word food meant. What the word, “Mine” meant. “That’s my toy.” Funny how soon we learn that one, and how important it is to us.
Yet as we grow in strength and learning, and memory - is it the will of God that we fill our minds and our memories with whatever the world has to offer, whatever garbage the television wants to spew out in our home? – things that we confess here to be immoral? Yet somehow it seems ok to watch it on TV?
The Lord gave us a very special command, the night in which He was betrayed, the day before going the cross, Jesus said, “Remember Me.” Remember what I will do for you.
His promise is to keep us the saving faith until our very last day. From the very beginning of our life in Him, until the time we are confirmed, until the time that we grow old – His promise is to keep us. Yet, not without His Word. Not without the remembrance of your Baptism, in which He washed all your sin away. Not without His true body and blood, given and shed for you for the remission of all our sins. Not without the remembrance of what He did.
Tonight is for your assurance, for your comfort, as you remember the details of what Christ endured for you, for your salvation.
We may not understand everything perfectly. As a child, we grew in understanding and knowledge and memory. As believers in Christ, we grow too, in Christ, in His Word, as we remain in His Word. “If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed.”“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…but exhorting one another.” “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
There will always be another verse to read, and more growing in understanding in Christ, in His forgiveness.
Just imagine how the Centurion struggled to understand. Nothing would have made sense at first – not from an earthly perspective. The first words from the man on the cross (whom Pilate declared to be innocent almost 10 times) - His first words from the cross, “Father, forgive them.”
We know how painful it is even to get a little sliver in our hand, and then pulling it out, or having someone else pull it out for us. It is extreme pain. And yet Christ basically goes up against the whole tree, so to speak. Having nails driven through the hands and the feet, wearing the crown of thorns, and earlier, being stricken, and smitten. And His first words, from the cross: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Forgive the people who are murdering Him? Really? From an earthly perspective, that would not make sense.
But that was only the beginning. At first, both thieves mocked Christ – both made fun of Him. “If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Both despised Him.
Yet, somewhere along the line, one of them changed…. and drastically. All of a sudden, he was a completely different man. All of a sudden he had tremendous respect for, and faith in, a dying man. What sense does that make?
The malefactor even admits he’s guilty. How often does a convicted criminal do that? But then he also admits he deserves to die – and deserves to be crucified. “We receive the due reward of our deeds.” How often does that happen?
And then He makes an astonishing claim: “but this Man hath done nothing amiss.” This man has done nothing wrong. How would a thief know that about Jesus? How could he know, and why would he care to defend the man He had mocked earlier, at a time like this? “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” How could this man Jesus promise a thief a home in paradise? From an earthly viewpoint, with earthly reasoning, that doesn’t make sense.
And in the midst of all His suffering, somehow Christ manages to take time out to make sure that His mother and one of His disciples will be taken care of after He’s gone.
Then for three hours, there was an unexplainable darkness - from 12noon until 3pm. It wasn’t a storm, and it wasn’t an eclipse, because Scripture says “there was a darkness over all the earth.” - the entire globe! Again, what earthly sense did that make?
After Christ receives a drink of vinegar, He says, “It is finished!” But what is finished? Why would a dying man say that? Why?
“And He cried again with a loud voice, and said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit: and having said thus, He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.” Who exactly was He talking to? And how could this Father of His take care of His Spirit?
To top it all off, then there was an earthquake, and the rocks literally split in half.
How could all this be in one day? What sense did it make?
Yet the Centurion remembered all these words. He learned. His understanding grew. And He came to a very specific conclusion.
“W hen the centurion, which stood over against Him, saw that He so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this Man was the Son of God.”
“Truly this Man was the Son of God.” The evidence was simply overwhelming. All these things couldn’t have just been coincidences – there was just too much: Christ’s superhuman tolerance for pain - His forgiveness toward those who crucified Him. The darkness, and then the earthquake, and the rocks split in two. And especially Christ’s own Words – “Father, forgive them. Woman behold thy son. It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit.”
There was no other explanation – This had to be the Son of God.
I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel. The centurion received a big dose of it all in one day. “Father, forgive them. It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit.” And the Spirit gave him no other explanation: Truly this Man was the Son of God.
We hear the same words, and we too believe, and are saved. All by God’s grace – by His Spirit working in us through the Word.
Jesus came to be my Savior, to do everything needful to save me and all sinners. Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Only believe, and thou shalt be saved. “Truly this Man was the Son of God.”
His promise is to keep us in the saving faith, as we remain in His Word, and as we remember what He did for us. As we remember our Baptism, and are strengthened by His true body and blood, given and shed for you for the remission of all your sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.