By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow. But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching. – Luke 23:44-49
Perhaps you’ve heard people of deep conviction express their opinions but you’ve remained unconvinced. Not everyone who holds strong opinions is convincing. Not everyone who believes wholeheartedly is able to bring others to see things they way they do.
Sometimes that is because the conviction – though strongly held – is too fantastic. Have you ever spoken at length to one who believes in a conspiracy? They are strong in their convictions to be sure. But their house of cards won’t stand the scrutiny of careful investigation. Perhaps you’ve experienced someone who is absolutely certain he knows what you feel, or what you need, or how his offering will change your life. But you stay clear of his clutches; you recognize a trap when you hear one.
The conviction of the Roman officer at Jesus’ crucifixion is altogether different. I am deeply convinced with him of the truth he proclaims: “Surely this man was innocent.” It is possible that he had seen guilty ones die. He had seen those who know they had it coming. He had seen those who protested their innocence. Somehow, though, this one was different. He was innocent.
Jesus’ death is unlike any other in so many ways. He was innocent, yet he bore the sins of the world. He was silent, but his few words from the cross speak volumes about faith, love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, hope, and truth. He was rejected by man and by God, but he was truly righteous, and would ultimately be exalted by his Heavenly Father. He was condemned. But his condemnation brought us peace.
Darkness falls over the land. The curtain in the temple was torn in two. Jesus shouts to his Father. The crowd leaves in silence. But some stood at a distance watching. They realized something was happening here – even though their understanding was anything but complete.
The innocent One has died for the guilty. We watch wait.