Monday, April 2, 2018

Next Steps

Next Steps
April 2, 2018
Mark 15:39  "And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, 'Surely this man was the Son of God.'"

What was so special about the death of Jesus? It was not particularly different from hundreds, probably even thousands, of people who died like that. Being hung on a cross, nailed through the flesh while still alive, was common place in the roman empire. It was meant to be public, as a deterrent for those who would see it, a gruesome death to change public behavior. Don't do whatever it was those people did, if you wanted to avoid torturous death. Oftentimes,  bodies would be left there for days, hanging bloodied, with birds feeding on their flesh and flies buzzing around. If enough people walked by to see the horrendous display, then surely it would deter many from committing the crime. Being nailed to the cross was quite common, and sometimes the crime would be labeled at the head of the cross or a sign hung around the culprit's neck for all to see.  Above Jesus, though, was His crime. It stated, "King of the Jews." No one recognized Him as a king however, it was meant to be mockery. There was no other crime posted around Him declaring His grave offense.

There was a centurion who stood at the cross and watched Jesus die a common criminal's death, and it moved him, changed his life. The centurion had seen many people die, hundreds, thousands. The centurion had probably participated in many crucifixions. It wasn't clear what the centurion's role was that day, maybe he was helping to nail Jesus up. Maybe he was crowd control or guarding Jesus from those who would try to stop it. Maybe he was there to ensure Jesus truly died. Whatever his role, he was posted there as part of his job; he participated and took mental notes should he be called upon to report on his duty. This crucifixion was different, different from all the other deaths he had witnessed. Was it standard operating procedure, this death for Jesus? Were all the protocols followed for Jesus just like all the criminals dead on the cross before this one? Was it typical to torture them before hand like Jesus? Was it typical to have so many soldiers there to guard a condemned prisoner? What was different about it? The Bible says the centurion saw the way Jesus died and determined that He must have truly been the Son of God. Jesus died the same way all the other prisoners died, right?

I don't know what it was about the death of Jesus that seemed different for this centurion. The Bible does have verbiage suggesting Jesus was in control of His own life and breath, giving it up Himself. But did the centurion fully grasp that? My guess is everything surrounding the events of this particular death was not common, from beginning to end. But more so then that, the centurion found his heart drawn to what was going on. It clicked for him; he got it. It resonated in his heart, and he understood it. He may not have fully understood it, but he still got it. The centurion may never had allowed Jesus to be Lord of his life, but he understood who he was. Demons understand who He was and is, but are not saved. This centurion had come to a point, the first point leading to salvation, which is coming to an understanding of who Jesus is.  But it doesn't stop there. It does not just take acknowledging Him as the Son of God to earn salvation. It takes acknowledging Him as your own personal Lord and Savior. Did the centurion ever take this next step? No one knows.

This week was Easter, and millions of people entered churches all around the world, for people to declare who He was and is, the Son of God, the man who died on the cross for our sins and rose again. But it takes the next step. It takes making Him Lord and Savior. You might have taken that step, but how many people sat around you in church this week, not making that commitment? There is a good chance the centurion who stood at the feet of Jesus is in Hell. There is a good chance that those who stood next to you in church this week will be in Hell, too. Do we shrug our shoulders and suggest it was their choice? Did anyone step up to the centurion and help lead him to the next step of salvation? He witnessed salvation, front and center, and yet he still likely needed someone to personally sit down with him and talk about Jesus as Lord, not just Jesus being dead and alive from the cross. The centurion understood the part about Jesus being the Son of God, just like millions of other people this week. They may get that He died and rose again, but do they truly understand the Lord and Savior part? Some disciple who watched the centurion, recorded his words; the centurion was noted in the Bible. But did that same disciple follow up with the centurion and make sure he was able to make the connection with Jesus as Lords? It wasn't enough to invite people to church this week. It takes some follow up. It isn't enough to tell people about Jesus on the cross to die for our sins, yet not help them make that next step of allowing Him to be Lord of their lives.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 27:45-54, Mark 15:33-45, James 2:19

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