Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 38 “WITNESS OF THE CENTURION: WITNESS OF THE WORLD”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. Dr. D. Sam Christopher, Presbyter, CSI Kanyakumari Diocese gives a meditation “WITNESS OF THE CENTURION: WITNESS OF THE WORLD”
Lenten Meditations- Day 38 (for 18th April 2019)
“WITNESS OF THE CENTURION: WITNESS OF THE WORLD”
Selected Texts: 15:39-40 | 2 Sam. 7:4-16 | 2 Cor. 6:3-10
My Sweet Lord is the title given to the chocolate sculpture carved by Cosimo Cavallaro in 2007. It is in the form of either a chocolate relief or a sculpture and used as sweets in exhibition and shops. It is produced for reputation and commercial purposes.
In the crucifixion scenario, the centurion who was watching the death of Jesus declared Jesus as, “Truly this man was God’s Son.” (Mk 15:39). This declaration at the foot of the cross is not for reputation or for any commodity. It was the time of tribulation for the followers of Jesus. At the same time, it was the victory of the opponents of Jesus and the Roman government that their menace is ended. In order to comprehend the message of the centurion’s declaration, we need to contemplate, how does a man who labour under the Roman government express his view against the Emperor? And, what was his perception about both Jesus and the Emperor?
It is the witness of the centurion, which he had drawn as a conclusion from his observation of the happenings of the cross: the prayers of the crucified Jesus, his attitudes towards his enemies, his conversation with the criminal, and the manner of his brave death. The centurion had seen many deaths on the cross. But the difference in Jesus’ death against others’ is the sufferings of Jesus among the mockeries, and the kind of life giving words amidst his pain. The crucified Jesus was mocked and titled as the King of the Jews. These observations have caused the centurion to think over in a different way. He could see godliness in the sufferings of the dying Jesus.
The centurion’s words of witness, “God’s Son” was used to refer to the Emperor in those days. It has a political nuance in using the same title of the Emperor to Jesus. It juxtaposes the crucified Jesus and the Roman Emperor. But, it raises an issue; can a servant under the Emperor do like this? However, his perception at the cross by seeing a powerless, mocked King, even at the time of his death proved himself as a King rather than the powerful Emperor who rules by the sword.
Besides, in 2 Sam. 7:14 and Ps. 2:5, “God’s Son” is a title adopted by a Davidic King. At the very outset of the Gospel, Mark uses this title to Jesus as a messianic one (Mk. 1:1). The evangelist, Luke also points out Jesus from the beginning of his Gospel as the Son of God. In Lk. 1: 32-35, Jesus is declared as the Messiah, the Son of God and David’s royal descendent. In line with these, we may be able to think that the centurion witnesses Jesus as the Messiah, God’s Son by watching his violent death on the Cross.
In the parallel text, the evangelist Luke, in 23:47 records the centurion’s declaration as, “Certainly this man was innocent.” It gives more significance to the messianic work of Jesus. The Greek term, dikaios, used here gives not only the meaning of “just” and “righteous”, but also the meaning of “the one who does the will of God.” Centurion’s witness indicates that Jesus as the one who accomplished the salvation work according to the will of God through his suffering and sacrifice. It is the true witness of a man of other faiths and a man under Roman power. In other words, the centurion perceived the risking Jesus on behalf of others and witnessed him as “God’s Son,” the Messiah.
Today, the Church as the embodiment of the Crucified Jesus and as Christians, while we continue the salvific work of Jesus Christ, do we risk ourselves in accomplishing the will of God? As we live among the multi-faith people, how we the Christians and the Church are perceived by others? How exemplary is our life amidst the people of other faiths? As the happenings of the Cross evoked the centurion to witness the crucified Jesus as “God’s Son,” let our sufferings for the sake of others evoke the world to witness Christ and the Church. Mt. 27:54 says that they were terrified and said that truly he is God’s Son. The voice of the Church for the voiceless and the prayer of the Church for the liberation of the bonded people should terrify the rulers as well the officers under them. It must be the witness of the Church in the world. Let the Church as the body of Christ risks for the sake of others. Each and every work of the Church and a Christian should affirm who Jesus is; and follow what He did.
Paul gives his own experience as the paradigm for the witnessing church in 2 Cor. 4:10, “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” And also in chapter 6:4-10, “but as the servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand for the left; in honour and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown and yet are well known; as dying, and see- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
So, the Church must always think that there is a world around us to look upon us like the centurion. The witness of the centurion is a pointer to lead us for a better Christian life in this world.
From the cross uplifted high
Where the Saviour deigns to die
What melodious sounds we hear
Bursting on the ravishe’d ear!
Love’s redeeming work is done
Come and welcome sinner come
Loving God, help us to understand you in your sufferings and show you to the world by our sufferings for others. Amen.
Rev. Dr. D. Sam Christopher
CSI Kanyakumari Diocese