Prepare to listen. Pray with Jesus: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? (Psalm 22:1)
Read Luke 23:44-49
44It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. 47When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ 48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Crowds gathered ‘for this spectacle,’ a helpless victim dying the excruciating death of the cross. Did they bring picnic lunches and play games as they waited? People did in the U.S. at the lynching of a black victim; they did in England and Europe when people were burned at the stake. People are fascinated with violent death and, perhaps to avoid responsibility, turn it into a festival.
When Jesus died two surprising things happened. First, the Roman centurion worshipped, perhaps for the first time, the God of the Jews. Praise to God burst from his lips as he publicly pronounced Jesus’ innocence. He experienced the presence of the Living God and was changed. Second, the crowd who came to watch the ‘spectacle,’ perhaps hoping for a good show, were changed. They returned home ‘beating their breasts,’ a sign of repentance, perhaps realizing their mistake in supporting the cries for Jesus’ death. Jesus died and the world was changed; his death defeated the powers of darkness.
Luke ends this account of Jesus’ death and the changes it instantly brought into the world with a quiet statement about Jesus’ acquaintances, and the women from Galilee, standing ‘at a distance, watching these things.’ What were they thinking about at that moment? I wonder. It wasn’t until after the resurrection that they put the pieces together and came to realization that, as N . T. Wright observes, “Jesus’ death made all the difference in the world, all the difference to the world” (The Day the Revolution Began, p. 5).
Read v49 and imagine what the silent women and other acquaintances of Jesus were thinking or feeling. What do you think about this?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord, you died, and the world was forever changed. Help me never forget what your death on the cross made possible and help me live my life reflecting your life today. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world that was forever changed by Jesus’ death.
Note: Because Holy Week is the most significant week in the Church year, bringing us to the climax of God’s redemptive event, I will include a devotion for Saturday. Stay posted.
Reading the Bible has always been essential to followers of Jesus. I've been reading, studying, teaching and writing reflections on biblical texts for as long as I can remember. I invite you to read the Bible with me during the Lent and into Easter Sunday.