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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on September 3, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Sunday, September 3, 2017 from Mark 15:33-39

Theme: If we will pay attention to the cross as the centurion did, we will declare the truth about Jesus that he proclaimed.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

This morning, I plan to preach about the sermon of someone else. Their sermon is very short—and it was preached long ago. But I believe that you really couldn’t find a more powerful and relevant sermon in so few words.

It’s found at the end the passage from Mark’s Gospel that we will be looking at this morning—at the end of the events that are described in that passage. It is part of the story of our Lord Jesus’ sacrifice for us. And I’m hoping that we will, by the Holy Spirit’s help, place ourselves in the vantage-point of the ‘preacher’ of the sermon; and have our own hearts moved, as his was, by the things he saw; and will all be able to say a whole-hearted ‘Amen!’ to his short but powerful sermon.

Our passage is found in Mark 15:33-39; and it says,

Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.” And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Mark 15:33-38).

Verse 39 is where—after all these other events—we finally hear from our preacher:

So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (v. 39).

It’s truly one of the greatest sermons every preached!

* * * * * * * * * *

Let me tell you a little about the preacher. We don’t know his name. We only know that he was a centurion—an experienced, well-trained, very tough Roman soldier who was responsible for a troop of 100 soldiers (hence the name ‘centurion’). He isn’t someone we would ordinarily expected to preach such a sermon … and perhaps that’s one reason why it’s so powerful.

There are several centurion’s mentioned in the Bible. And if you consult a concordance and look up their stories, you’ll make an amazing discovery. All of the centurions in the Bible were remarkable, honorable, brave men—outstanding individuals each one—who either ended up believing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, or in some way protected or were instrumental in its proclamation. The centurion in our passage this morning—our preacher—was such a man.

I believe it was in the providence of God that such a remarkable man was present to oversee the crucifixion of our Lord. It may have been that he specifically was ordered by Governor Pilate to be present—rather than one of the lessor ranking soldiers—because the arrest and trial and conviction of our Lord had been a matter of great controversy. The whole city of Jerusalem and its leaders, it seemed, were in an uproar about Him. The religious leaders of the Jewish people and come to Pilate and said, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7); and Pilate—try as he may—was unable to set Him free. I feel sure that that’s why this centurion was present to oversee this crucifixion. The charges against Jesus were so remarkable, and the civil unrest about Him was so great, that things needed to be supervised and kept in order. I believe this centurion was aware of all of these matters concerning Jesus—and even of the unusual charge that had been made against Him.

And let’s consider a bit more closely the message the centurion preached when the crucifixion was over. He looked up at Jesus on the cross after He had yielded His spirit to the Father, and declared, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” You’ll notice first that he said something about the human nature of our Lord—that He was a Man. And Jesus indeed was fully human. He was born into the human family as a full and true member, having been conceived in the womb of Mary through the Holy Spirit. It was for that reason that He was able to die as a human being for the sins of humanity.

But the centurion also said something about our Lord’s divine nature. He declared that this Man was no ‘mere’ man only; but that he was “the Son of God”. And indeed, Jesus was also fully the Son of God. He eternally existed as the second Person of the Trinity—very God of very God. At a point of time in history, He laid aside His heavenly glory in obedience to the Father, and became incarnate—’in-fleshed’; so that He could justly pay the death penalty on the cross for the sins of humanity without bearing any sin of His own. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” as the Bible says. He never ceased being the Son of God; but He also became a true member of the human family. He is now and forever fully God, and fully man, with two natures, unmixed and unmingled in one Person.

And I can’t help but notice that this centurion affirmed the truth of what he preached about Jesus. He said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” He was convinced of it. When you look at the other accounts of his sermon that we find in the other Gospels, it paints quite a picture. In Matthew’s account, we’re told that it wasn’t just the centurion alone who felt the impact of what he saw, but also the other soldiers that were with him. Matthew 27:54 tells us that when he and the other soldiers who were with him saw all that happened, “they feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” In Luke’s account, we’re even told that everything that this centurion had seen had deeply affected his soul. Luke 23:47 tells us that when he saw it all, “he glorified God, saying, ‘Certainly this was a righteous Man!’”

So; the centurion saw all that happened, and feared greatly, and glorified God, and acknowledged that the Man on the cross before him was righteous; and summed it all up by—as it were—pointing Him out to us all and declaring, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” You might say that he had the distinction of declaring the first message ever preached in the world about the Lord Jesus after He had died on the cross for us.

And would you like to know one thing about this centurion that makes him stand out from so many other people in this world when it comes to the cross of Jesus Christ? It was that he paid special attention to all that happened there. He was paying heed to it all in a way that few people do even today. He watched everything that happened very carefully (he had to!); and he made a careful, intelligent evaluation of what he saw. That’s why his short sermon is so powerful and authoritative.

I ask that we go back through this passage together, stand—as it were—at the side of this centurion as he saw all these things, and allow ourselves to be impacted by them as he was. It is my belief that, if we will pay attention to the cross as the centurion did, we will declare the truth about Jesus that he proclaimed.

* * * * * * * * * *

So then; what would happen to us if we put ourselves next to that centurion? First, I believe we would …


Mark tells us—and indeed, Matthew and Luke also affirm to us—“Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour …” (v. 33). That means that for three hours—from noon to 3 pm—there was a strange, foreboding darkness that covered the land.

As you know, we saw a similar darkness fall over some parts of our region just a couple of weeks ago, during the total eclipse. I was not in a place that was part of the path of totality; so I didn’t witness the total eclipse. But those who were—just a few miles away—say that it was a marvelous sight. Everything went dark and cold very quickly, and they saw the eclipse, and the sky began to become quickly bright and warm again. Where I was, it grew just a little darker and just a little cooler; but was still quite bright and sunny. Nevertheless, it was very wonderful to see.

Some have suggested that this ‘darkness’ that fell over the land when Jesus was crucified was simply that—an eclipse; a natural phenomenon. And of course, even if that were true, it’d still be pretty remarkable timing. But you and I now know from experience that this couldn’t have been a natural solar eclipse. Such a darkness would not have fallen on the land for three hours. And those who are in the know about such things tell us that—this being the season of Passover—there was a full moon; and it would be physically impossible for there to be a full moon and a solar eclipse at the same time. And a notable darkness from an eclipse couldn’t have fallen over the whole land—even for a short time, let alone for three hours.

Whether we understand “the whole land” to mean all of the earth where the sun would ordinarily be shining, or over the whole land of Israel, it would have to be that this was not a natural phenomenon. It was something given as a sign to humanity. And what was it a sign of? In the Bible, such darkness is often given as a symbol of judgment and divine wrath. You’ll probably remember that it was one of the plagues with which God had struck Egypt in judgment. And the Book of Revelation tells us it will be a judgment God will pour out on the kingdom of the Antichrist in the end times. You might say that such darkness is ‘the universal language’ of judgment and divine wrath; and even the centurion would have recognized its ominous meaning.

There’s one very interesting passage about the judgment of darkness in Isaiah 8:22. It tells us there of how people sought other things to worship and trust than God; and that God brought judgment upon them for their unfaithfulness:

Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness (Isaiah 8:22).

But let me go on to read to you what it says in the very next verses—in Isaiah 9:1-2. It says;

Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
And afterward more heavily oppressed her,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
In Galilee of the Gentiles.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined (9:1-2).

That promised “light” from Galilee was, right then, dying on a cross for the sins of humanity. And I believe that this terrible darkness was to show us that He was—at that moment—bearing the just wrath of a holy God on His own person, and experiencing righteous judgment for our sins on our behalf. Would this intelligent centurion have understood something of that when he looked up to this ‘righteous Man’ on the cross? Will we?

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; just think of that three hours of darkness. No doubt, there had been a lot of commotion and noise before it started. But I suspect that there would have been a terrible hush and silence as this darkness came and grew and prevailed. I suspect that even the other men being crucified on the other crosses would have grown silent because of it.

And that makes it all the more noteworthy when we would—along with this centurion—


We have it in the Scriptures that Jesus said several things from the cross. But until now, we have no record that he ‘cried’ those things out with ‘a loud voice’. It must have been shocking then when, after such darkness and quiet, the air was suddenly pierced with a loud shout that came from Him: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” Those words, by the way, were in the Aramaic language—which was the language in which Jesus would have commonly spoken. For the benefit of Gentile readers, Mark translates these words for us in verse 34; “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

And I believe those words from our Lord were expressing the deep anguish of His soul as He hung on the cross. Right then, He was bearing the judgment for the sin of humanity upon Himself—your sin and mine. And as He did so, His Father in heaven could not look upon Him; because as a holy God, He cannot look upon sin. This means that, for the first time in all of eternity, there was a separation between the Father and the Son caused by sin. I believe that this was, to our Lord, the most dreadful experience of all the things He experienced on the cross. I believe it was what caused Him to shrink back from the prospect of the cross when He was still in the garden.

And let’s always remember that He did this for you and me, in order to spare us from the terrible judgment of separation from our Creator. Jesus cried out those dreadful words from the cross for a brief moment in time; and all so that you and I would not have to cry them out forever and ever.

But there’s something else about those words. They are the very first words of Psalm 22. Every Jewish person who was there—if they were thinking honestly before God—would have recognized the source of those words, and would have finished off the whole psalm in their minds. They would have recalled how King David wrote;

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent (Psalm 22:1-2);

or where David wrote;

But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” (vv. 6-8);

or where it says;

For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots (vv. 16-18);

and they all would have realized that the words of King David were being fulfilled right before their very eyes—and through the experience of the very One who was the rightful royal Son of King David according to the flesh!

Would this centurion himself have known this and evaluated what was happening? And again I ask; will we?

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; some of the people standing around and watching were not reverent. They didn’t try to understand. In fact, I believe they openly mocked our Savior’s cry. They should have known the true meaning of Jesus words, “Eloi, Eloi …”; but instead, as verse 35 tells us, they said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” They may have been thinking of the last prophecy in the Old Testament—at the end of the Book of Malachi—where it says that Elijah would come again before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. Jesus, in His teaching ministry, explained that this was partially fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist. But these people weren’t seeking truth or handling the promises of God with reverence—in spite of the dreadful darkness that overshadowed them. They were just making fun of our Savior.

And it was then, apparently that someone in their midst ran and got a raw sponge, soaked it in some sour wine that was nearby, wrapped it around a long reed, and held it up to our Savior’s lips. Perhaps he was wanting to offer some refreshment to the Lord; but the others said to him, as we’re told in verse 36, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”

Now; the centurion was beholding all this too; and perhaps if we had been there, we, like that centurion, would …


You see; John in his Gospel tells us more of the story. He tells us in John 19:28;

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” (v. 28).

And did you notice what John said about the context of Jesus’ declaration of thirst? Jesus knew that all things were accomplished—except one thing; and He acted so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. There was a promise in the Old Testament about Him that yet needed to be fulfilled. It was the one in Psalm 69:21 that says, “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” And as if to give the man on the ground the necessary cue, our Lord announced that He was thirsty. John goes on to tell us;

Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit (vv. 29-30).

And would this astute centurion have watched on; and would he have perhaps heard someone mutter the words of Psalm 69; and would have he have thought about how the Jewish Scriptures were being fulfilled before his eyes?—even down to the seemingly-most insignificant detail?

Would he have marveled about this? And will we also?

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; I believe this centurion would have seen a lot of death in his time. He would have supervised a lot of crucifixions; and he would have watched a lot of men slowly expire on a lot of crosses. But I wonder if we would marvel if we were to stand next to him and …


Other men died on crosses slowly and gradually. It was a long and terribly lingering way to die—by design. A man’s life would bleed out of him over, in some cases, a few days. But it seems that after our Lord completed that last act of fulfillment and tasted of the wine, He bowed His head and yielded up His spirit. He literally tasted the wine and breathed His last. In fact, Mark—in verse 37—tells us that Jesus “cried out with a loud voice”; and then breathed His last. This was the second time that He shouted from the cross—and it was the final time.

And do you know what He said? Luke, in his Gospel, tells us that Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). That was another quote from Scripture, by the way; taken from Psalm 31:5; where King David wrote; “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me O LORD God of truth.” And then, after shouting those words loudly—and only after doing so—Jesus gave up His spirit.

Now; as I say, this centurion would have seen many people die. But he would never before have seen a man die like this Man on the cross before him—dying as if He were up to Him when it would happen.

And would this centurion then have marveled—as soon as the Man on the cross before Him expired His final breath—to have suddenly heard, just a short distance away, a great commotion coming from within the Jewish temple? I am speculating that he would have, most certainly, heard the noise; and I am suspecting that, because he was there at nearby Golgotha to—in part—keep the peace, he would have dispatched some soldiers to find out what the commotion was about.

If we were there, perhaps we—like this centurion—would …


Mark tells us in verse 38, “Then”—that is, as soon as Jesus breathed His last and gave up His spirit to the Father—“the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” This veil was the large veil in the Jewish temple that separated the Holy Place in the temple from the Holy of Holies. It was a place that no priest could ever go through except one—and only then at the annual Day of Atonement. Anyone who dared to pass through otherwise was put to be put to death.

And can you imagine the horror that would have fallen upon these priests? Suddenly the veil was torn in two; and the Holy Place was opened up and exposed to all! But do you notice that we are specifically told how it was torn? It wasn’t torn from bottom to top—as if it were done by a man. It was torn from top to bottom—as if it had been torn by God Himself.

Hebrews 10:19-22 explains the significance of this to us when it says;

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Jesus, by His death on the cross, paid the full debt for our sins and removed the barrier that kept us from entering into fellowship with His holy Father. Now, because of what Jesus did—and through faith in His cross—we are forgiven of all sin and are free to draw near to God for everything we need. By His death—in that moment of giving His life for us—Jesus brought an end to the Old Testament priesthood and sacrifices, and secured for us a new and living way.

* * * * * * * * * *

This centurion—watching all of these things, and seeing how Jesus died—came to the conclusion that we find in His short but powerful sermon:“Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

And I wonder if, in those words, there was not only a declaration of fact but also a confession of responsibility. It would have been as if he had said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God! And look what we have done to Him! Look what I have done to Him!” But I have hope that, because he feared greatly and gave glory to God, he believed—and that we will see him in heaven. I too can say, “Look at what I have done to Him!”; because it was my sins that put Him on the cross. But I trust in His sacrifice by faith; and so I’m glad that He died for me.

I say, “Truly this Man was the Son of God.” We will always say that if we will look on carefully with this centurion to the events of the cross that he witnessed. It’s then that we will come to the same conclusion he came to—and will say our own ‘Amen’ to his remarkable sermon.

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