On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
Three Post-Crucifixion Moments
Oct. 19, 2014
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. (Mark 15:38-41, NIV)
Immediately after Jesus died on the cross, God let His opinion be known.
Rabbinic literature and the first-century Jewish historian Josephus tell us that the curtain or veil that hung in front of the Holy of Holies in the temple was 82.5 feet high and 24 feet wide, measuring a handbreadth in thickness. It was impossible for two human hands to tear; and, even if it were, the human would have had to start at the bottom and tear upward.
God reacts to the crucifixion of His Son by tearing the curtain from top to bottom, opening the Holy of Holies to all. The writer of Hebrews picks up on this when he says that our firm and secure anchor for the soul is because Jesus entered the inner sanctuary behind the curtain on our behalf, not a manmade sanctuary but heaven itself, to once and for all put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 6:19,20; 9:23-28; 10:19-22). God ripped open the earthly curtain to let us know that heaven was now open for all who would come through Jesus.
The centurion, on the other hand, knew how Jesus died even though he did not know what happened in the temple. He saw the whole event unfold. As a military man, he was used to watching criminals die. He never saw a death like that of Jesus.
Jesus had one convert as He died, the thief next to Him. The Roman soldier, a pagan, believes when Jesus expired. The title affixed to the cross in three languages, “King of the Jews,” was not sufficient to describe the One who died. For the centurion, Jesus was more than a king of one ethnic group; He was the Son of God.
The third post-crucifixion moment comes as women at a distance watched Jesus die. Some are named; many are not.
When you compare the Gospel of John to the other three Gospels, you know there were two groups of women at the cross. John tells us about the women close in during the morning hours — Mary, the mother of Jesus; His mother’s sister Mary; and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25).
Mary Magdalene is mentioned again as being among those at a distance, leaving us to assume that sometime during the afternoon she moved further away from the cross to join the other women. Perhaps the crucifixion became so overwhelming for Jesus’ mother and aunt that they left sometime in the afternoon.
What the Gospels do tell us is that women were loyal to Jesus and served Him throughout His ministry and did not run away from Him when He was nailed to the cross. Women were the last to leave the cross and the first to see Him again on Easter morning.
Jesus ennobled women by drawing them into His inner circle both then and now.
A prayer of response
DR. GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark