Daily D – Mark 15:39
Mark 15:39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
“And tell me, Seargent, what led you to the conclusion that this man was the Messiah, the Son of God? What did he do? What convincing proofs did you see? What about his death stands out from all of the other men you have seen die on a battlefield or at an execution?”
“Well, it’s like this. Every other man I have ever put to death fought for his life. Even when he knew he was weaker than me, less well-trained than me, overwhelmed by my superior resources, he fought to the death. It’s amazing how valiantly unarmed men will struggle even when they know they have no chance at coming out alive.
“They curse. They beg. They weep like little girls. In their last moments, when they witness their own blood pouring from wounds that cannot be healed, when they hear their last breath leave their lungs, they look away. They know they are getting what they deserve.
“This man? This man was different.”
“How was he different?”
“He had already lost a lot of blood from the beating he took from our company lictor. His is a brutal job, and he’s good at it. Sometimes too good, if you know what I mean.”
“Let’s pretend I don’t know what you mean.”
“What I mean is sometimes he goes one lash too far. More than a few prisoners have given up the ghost from the beating they received.”
“And this man you claim was the Son of God was scourged before he was crucified?”
“Indeed. Somehow, and I do not know how, he carried his cross beam a good way toward the place of crucifixion. He could not make it all the way due to his broken bones and loss of blood, but he made it farther than I would have imagined possible.”
“Well, I impressed a man to take up where he left off. He carried the beam the rest of the way. The convict followed along behind him. His posture made it appear as if he still carried the beam. It was as if the weight of the whole world was on his shoulders.”
“Seargent? Please go on.”
“Sorry. Lost my train of thought there for a minute. There was quite a commotion when we made it to the top of the hill. My soldiers had to wrestle the other two men to the ground to lay them down on their beams. It’s amazing how many splinters a man will gather trying to get away from nails. It takes several seasoned soldiers to hold down a man determined not to die.
“My man, the man in the middle, the man who had been beaten and who had chunks of his beard pulled out, and who was wearing a crown of thorns sunken into his head, he laid down just so, just right, and stretched out his hands. He did not scream. He did not plead. He did not beg. He did not look away.”
“Seargent? Go on.”
“He watched. He watched the nails. He watched the hammer. He looked me in the eye.”
“He forgave me.”
“He did what?”
“He said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
“Has this ever happened before?”
“People being people did what people do. They mocked him. They cursed him. They dared him to come down, as if that was possible. No, my men and I are much better than average at securing a man in place. He wasn’t going anywhere. And he didn’t fight it. It was as if he was there on purpose. It was as if he had nowhere else he would rather be.
“The day wore on. This is a gruesome mess and takes too long most of the time. My men and I keep the crowds at bay. We entertain ourselves the best we can. The new guys gambled for the nice garment the man in the middle was leaving behind.
“This day was a day like no other. When the initial burst of shouts and screams and sobs finally grew quiet, one of the other men saw something in the man in the middle that gave him hope. He argued with the man on the other side for a moment. Then with the voice of a little boy he spoke to the one he called Jesus. He said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
“The boys and I turned toward each other with a smirk and a chuckle. Those men weren’t going anywhere but to the cemetery. That’s when the one called Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’
“I guess death is most welcome when you find yourself dying on a cross. I guess death would feel like paradise in comparison. But the way his words felt, you could tell it wasn’t death he was talking about. It was like, I don’t know, life, a better life than any of us have ever known was on his mind.
“The man in the middle, Jesus, agonized with the others, but it was an exquisite agony.
“Then it got dark. Very dark. Too dark to see dark. I don’t know how or why, but, again, it was as if it was on purpose.”
“Let’s wrap this up. How did it all end?”
“I’m not sure it did.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean, it was if death was not the end. I know, it sounds crazy. It’s just that, this was different. Different from every other man I have ever watched die.”
“He said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
“And then he died?”
“There was one final statement. He practically shouted it, at least as best as he could in his extreme dehydration. He declared, ‘It is finished!’ If there is such a thing as famous last words, those were them.
“He gave up the ghost. He was gone. He was dead. It was as if his work was done. He laid down everything.”
“This man’s death has really moved you, Seargent. Are you becoming too soft for this job?”
“I am not soft. I am a soldier of Rome. I am loyal to Caesar. But this man? This man died like a god. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to say it. Surely this man was the Son of God!”
I will remember the old rugged cross.
Our Father, you loved us so supremely that you gave your one and only son to die on that cross to pay the penalty for our sins and to remove the barriers preventing us from coming into your presence. Your love took the initiative. Your love completed the task. Your love led to the scourge, the cross, and the grave. Your love went the distance. Your love never fails. Your love saves all who see it and receive it. Hallelujah! Amen.
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Deuteronomy 8:12-18 When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, a thirsty land where there was no water. He brought water out of the flint rock for you. He fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your ancestors had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end he might cause you to prosper. You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm his covenant he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.“
Deuteronomy 1:2, 3 It is an eleven-day journey from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea by way of Mount Seir. In the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first of the month, Moses told the Israelites everything the Lord had commanded him to say to them.