It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
This short passage tells us so much about what we commemorate on Good Friday.
*Heaven and earth were filled with darkness at the loss of Jesus’ earthly life. Just as Scripture (Luke 19:40; Isaiah 55:12; Psalm 148:1-14) tells us that the very rocks sing out in praise, so must the heaven and earth have cried out in sorrow at Jesus’ death on the cross, filling the world with physical darkness that reflected a time of spiritual darkness.
At Jesus’ death, even the sun stopped shining.
*The curtain of the temple was torn in two. Before Jesus, a physical curtain within the holy temple walls divided the people and the place where God was present. Only one high priest was allowed to enter into that holy place to be in the presence of God and ask for mediation between God and His people. When Jesus died, that curtain was torn in two. It was destroyed because it was no longer needed. Now, Jesus was the mediation between God and His people.
*Although seconds from death, Jesus used every ounce of strength to call out in a loud voice to commit his spirit into his Father’s hands. Jesus calls out to all of us—with all of His strength—in every moment of our lives. Do we listen? Do we respond?
* The centurion—a Roman pagan—praised God. Why would the centurion praise God? He had watched the events transpire, watched the way Jesus died, recognized Jesus as a righteous man and perhaps have felt sorrow or remorse for his part in crucifying a righteous man.
But perhaps more was going on. Perhaps the centurion right then, at the foot of the cross, recognized that Jesus had died to save him also. Could that be the reason why the centurion praised God?
As we contemplate what happened on that Friday centuries ago, do not be discouraged or sad. We know what happened just three days later. We know what it means for humanity and for us personally. As the centurion did back then, praise God! Jesus was a righteous man (God in human form) who died so that we might live.