Friday was not like any other day. Finally the chief priests and Pharisees had got what they wanted. Jesus was arrested and put into a farce of a trial. Jesus didn't fight back but allowed evil to have a mocking laugh. Pilate who knew what was best for his government position and so as not to cause too much concern for his bosses decides to delight the crowd and give them their crucifixion. The crowd who shouted Hosanna on Sunday were now shouting "Crucify! Crucify" on Friday. The place could have easily been a riot and Pilate did what was politically necessary and had Jesus flogged and handed over to be crucified. Jesus is mocked with a crown of thorns and purple robe while being beaten on the head with a staff.
All sanity has been lost in these moments. There is no clarity. The Pharisees have lost sight of "Do Not Murder." The crowd has lost sight of the Messiah. Pilate has lost sight of his own power and choice. The guards have lost sight of decency and discipline. The disciples are just out of sight. Mark only mentions Peter on Friday and it is only to tell how he has lost sight of friendship and followship. It seems that everyone is in need of the lighthouse to see the shore. And as Jesus begins to prepare for his physical death on the cross the entire land will be filled with confusion and darkness.
But beyond dark skies for 3 hours, the shout of the Psalms by Jesus, and the temple curtain ripping loudly from top to bottom there is a keen voice in Mark. There is a clear phrase! There is an unmistakable declaration. A Centurion. A Roman soldier. Maybe seeing Jesus of Nazareth for the first time.
He is witnessing the torture of delicate flesh, nails in hands, and in feet. He is listening to words he may not even understand. He is hearing the insults far and near as the crowd and those crucified with him continue to mock Jesus. He sees the sky grow eerily dark and not relent. He can hear the curtain being torn as if Thunder was breaking in from all sides. And he watches with great focus and an open mind as Jesus breathes his last breath.
Forget the years of being instructed on Caesar being your leader. Forget the training of the hierarchy that existed in Roman government. Forget whatever pagan religion he might have followed. Forget about the job he was in the middle of as he stood at the foot of the cross.
All that can come to mind is one phrase:
"Surely this man was the Son Of God!"
In the midst of an environment of confusion
In the midst of Jewish leaders who lost sight
In the midst of a crowd that had become riotous
In the midst of his boss who had lost control
In the midst of his buddies who forgot their disicpline
In the midst of Jesus' followers abandonment
In ALL of this the Gentile, Roman soldier speaks...and declares...and which has been recorded in scripture for us all to see...and he says...
"SURELY THIS MAN WAS THE SON OF GOD"
And that truth and clarity focuses us still today past darkness, politics, power, indecency, and rejection to see what truly matters. Jesus is the Son of God!!!
And that makes for a Good Friday!