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The Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker The Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker

The Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker is pastor/head of staff of United Presbyterian Church in Peoria, IL

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Looks Can Be Deceiving

April 03, 2015

It's Friday of Holy Week, Good Friday, and Jesus is crucified. Mark's account of the event is stark, painful, and lonely. Even after Jesus breathes his last, a Roman centurion gets in one last barb. "Truly," he says, with a smirk and roll of his eyes, "this was God's son."

To the jaded centurion it looks like Jesus of Nazareth died like countless other Jews. The charge against him reading "King of the Jews" must be a joke. Kings aren't crucified next to common criminals.

Not a single mourner is there, no friends or family, no comforting words. Passersby laugh,  "Ha, you who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!" 

Even the priests mock Jesus. "He saved others but he can't save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross so that we may see and believe."

But he hangs there and cries out like everyone else, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  The crowd shows no sympathy. "He's calling for Elijah.  Let's see if Elijah actually comes to take him down."

No one there believes in this guy. What else can the centurion think? All he sees is another Jewish messiah dying a pitiful death on a cross.

Ha, truly, yeah right... this guy was God's son.

The way Jesus breathed looks like every other condemned Jew's defeat by death, but looks can be deceiving. The stone that sealed his tomb looked like it could not be rolled away, but looks can be deceiving. It looked like the end of the story for Jesus and for the disciples and for the good news of the Kingdom of God, but looks can be deceiving.

We know what the centurion didn't. We know the real story. We know that even the demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God.  We know the temple curtain was ripped from top to bottom when he died. We know the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, Jesus was raised from the dead and is the Living Word, the Messiah, the Son of God.

We know Jesus defeated death for us. Though it looked like Christ's defeat, death lost that Friday. Sin lost that Friday. Pain and sorrow and despair and evil lost that Friday, and that's why we call it GOOD.

We call it Good because God won a great victory, rendering death stingless and sin powerless. It didn't' appear that a cosmic victory was won on a cross on a Friday afternoon. It didn't look like the Son of God was dying to raise us to new life, but looks can be deceiving. The war is over, the victory won. Nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God.

The centurion may not have realized the truth, but we can say with faithful certainty, "Truly, this man IS God's Son."

 


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