On the Road to the Cross – The Centurion

9781501822643Creativity exists within chaos. Something must break down for something new to break through.

The final message in the Lenten series, On the Road to the Cross, ends with the death of Jesus and the profound proclamation of the Centurion (and the others with him).

The death of Jesus is the climatic moment of Jesus’ road to the cross (and the life and ministry of Jesus, as well). The road to the cross is full of suspense and horror. Each of the events along the road to the cross builds upon the drama of his passion.

There is a feeling I have as a watch suspenseful movies or read dramatic stories: my chests tightens and my breathing becomes compromised as I await the climax!

The road Jesus walks to the cross has this same effect on me. As I read the narrative from the anointing of Jesus in Bethany to the death of Jesus upon the cross, my chest tightens and my breathing is restricted as I progress along this dramatic road…

Matthew describes the death of Jesus in the following way: Jesus looked up to the heavens and called out to God. The bystanders awaited the coming of Elijah; perhaps, the great servant of God would come to rescue Jesus. Exhausted of life, Jesus cried out one final time before breathing his last and surrendering his spirit.

Reading these verses, which describe the great exhalation of Jesus, one would be poised to release the suspenseful tension built upon within their chest with an exhausted breath: It is finished…(exhale)!

But, the death of Jesus is not followed by a moment of peace, calmness, or tranquility. The death of Jesus does not give us the opportunity to exhale or the opportunity to reflect and digest all that we have just learned.

Rather, all Hell breaks loose!

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.” – Matthew 27:50b-53

Leaving the resurrection of the saints to the side; because, what’s that all about, anyways?

Everything is far from calm and tranquil following the death of Jesus. There is no peace on earth at this moment!

The temple curtain is torn.

The earth begins to shake.

The rocks begin to split.

The tombs begin to open.

Chaos breaks loose — ripping, shaking, splitting, cracking, and crumbling.

Chaos is destructive.

There is no time to rest, no time to exhale, no time to reflect and digest. The death of Jesus is followed by a moment of chaos defined by destruction.

Undoubtedly, chaos is destructive and the chaos that follows the death of Jesus is marked by destruction, but there is more to chaos.

Chaos is creative.

If you are a creative, or if you know a creative, than you likely understand what I mean when I say there is a lot of chaos in creativity. There is even a lot of destruction within creativity.

I come from a family of artists. My grandmother and my cousin are painters. Another cousin is fashion designer. I’ve always been amazed by their work and their gift to create beautiful art.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I were visiting my cousin in New York. She invited us to her office so we could see where she worked. We arrived at the the unmarked building not too far from Bryant Park later that afternoon. My cousin met us outside the building and led us up to her workspace.

We entered into a large open room filled with several desks. The room was dedicated to the designers. I was amazed by the “busyness” of the room and the disheveled appearance. The designers’ desks were covered in drawings and fabric samples. There was a little bit of chaos going on, as these creatives were busy trying to bring their beauty into the world.

We left the designers area and moved into another room of similar size. Once more, there was nothing ornate about the room. There were a few women sitting behind large sewing machines. Some of the ladies were measuring and cutting fabric. Others were sewing and stretching material. My cousin explained we were in the room of the master seamstresses. The designs created by her co-workers and herself were sent to these individuals, who brought the sketches to life. Just like the designers area, the seamstresses area was a little chaotic, as these creatives were trying to bring their beauty into the world.

Finally, my cousin took us into a third room, which was much different. The room was decorated. There was a plush carpet on the floor. The room was well lit and the walls were painted with a rich-toned color. Everything was just so…perfectly positioned. Beautiful dresses were intentionally fitted upon mannequins equally spaced throughout the room. We were in the viewing room, where buyers view and select the dresses they wish to purchase for their stores.

Creativity is chaotic. Creativity requires a little bit of destruction. But, creativity gives way to beauty.

The moment of Jesus’ expiration is chaotic.  As the world crumbled and collapsed around the scene of Jesus’ death, God was moving, working, creating something new and beautiful…

54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” – Matthew 27:54

A great revelation would emerge out of the death of Jesus with the most unlikely pf proclaimers – the centurion.

A centurion was an officer in the Roman army, who was entrusted with the leadership of 100 (or fewer) soldiers. Among their many attributes, centurions were efficient in their work and knowingly loyal to the Republic and the emperor.

Everything in the life and ministry of Jesus led to the cross. Everything along the road to the cross led to this moment of exhalation. While the death of Jesus could be seen as revealing the weakness of Jesus, the centurion identifies the glory of God in the death of Jesus – truly, this man was God’s Son! 

Do you see the irony in this proclamation?

The Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, because they believed the Messiah would be a great political/warrior-king, who would rescue Israel from their oppressor (the Roman Empire), secure their national freedom, and restore Israel to a place of prosperity similar to the time of David.

As the defeated and exhausted Jesus slumped from his cross, a Roman officer (the one who oversaw his crucifixion) gives praise to Jesus as God’s true Son!

What!!!…

Here we discover the creativity within chaos.

Something new did break through, after something else broke down.

God’s revelation of love in Jesus the Christ, the only Son of God, is made known to all people, even to those who existed outside of the old covenantal relationship. 

Creativity is a little chaotic, but with destruction comes beauty.

Be encouraged by the ripping, shaking, splitting, and breaking of the death of Jesus, for it serves as a testament that God has and continues to work a new and beautiful thing for all people – God’s love revealed through God’s only Son.

But also be encouraged by the ripping, shaking, splitting, and breaking in your own lives. There are certainly times in all of our lives when we feel we are existing in pure chaos. Everything (or, maybe, something specific) is breaking down.

Forget the feeling of loosing control.

I am talking about when we know control has already been lost!!!

Be encouraged, because maybe this is the exact time in your life when you do not need to have control. Maybe this is the very moment in your life when you need someone else, someone greater, someone more powerful than you to assume control!

Ride the wave of destruction realizing God does the best work amid chaos.

Cling to the hope and the promise that something must break down for something new to break through.

Trust the process, and prepare yourself to take delight in the beauty of God’s creative chaos!

I apologize, but the original message was not recorded. We had some technical issues with our recording device. The rest of the messages in this series and other messages can be found at our site.

Note – This sermon series is influenced by Rob Burkhart’s recent publication, On the Road to the Cross: Experience Easter with Those who were There. The book is a great read during the Season of Lent. I fully recommend you add this book to your library!!