Luke’s gospel contains subtle pictures into the souls of mankind. I find this especially true in his description of the cross of Christ. He is the one who records the details about the two thieves who hung on crosses at either side of Christ. What clearer picture can you have of who we are as inhabitants of the universe? We are not defined by skin color, economic status, or even gender. Rather we are defined by which thief we agree with. Are we like the thief that mocked Jesus or the thief who believed His message? Jesus is in the middle inviting us all to make a decision for Him. The fate of our decision rests solely in our hearts. We each have a decision to make.
Luke goes on to describe the events after Jesus has died and when he does, he paints a portrait of how we respond to Jesus. Luke 23:47-48 says,
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, Surely this was a righteous man. When all the people who had gathered to witness this sign saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.
Here we see how the events of Easter expose the souls of men. Think about this centurion. Here was a man who had witnessed death quite a bit in his life. He was a Roman citizen and presumably not well acquainted with the teachings of the Old Testament. The Hebrew people were most likely considered a nuisance to him. He didn't go there that day to learn a spiritual lesson. He went to do his job and get his paycheck. He had no idea that the events of that day would forever change him and change his eternal destination! But they did.
Luke records that after seeing what had happened, this centurion knew this must have been a righteous man because all the signs that God was present and unhappy about his death were evident in the universe. The centurion’s natural response was to praise the God Who was making His presence so evident on that day. Jesus was dead, but the presence and the power of God was still very much alive. It was clear to this man who had been present at many other deaths that this death was unique. This death had meaning greater than he had ever known. This death changed the heart of a hardhearted warrior into a humble worshipper.
I wish I could say the same for the majority of the people who saw the same things the centurion did. All the others saw the darkness the earthquakes. They witnessed firsthand the statements of Christ from the cross. They saw it, took it in and experienced it, but how did they respond? They beat their breasts and went away. Feelings were running deep within them. Did they know that they would feel such anger and wrath as they watched? Watching Jesus’ death and being present as the presence of God was revealed left them angrier and full of grief. They went away neither satisfied that justice was done nor believing that this was a righteous man and praising God. It is the sad fact that many in this universe walk away from God in this same way.
How do you respond to Easter? How have you gone away from this season? Do you go away praising God having witnessed His presence or do you beat your breast and walk away in grief and frustration?