Summary: If you were to ask those present on Friday the question Who is this Man? You might receive some of these answers.
Who is this Man?: Easter Sunday
(This message was written to pick up where the Good Friday Message left off. I started the service with the section and then after worship came back to the point Who Do You Say I am?)
It’s a brand new day. The darkness of Friday has given away to the bright light of Sunday. On Friday they had watched him die. On the Sabbath they had mourned his death. And now the darkness gave way to light and the tears gave way to laughter. Because on Friday Jesus had died, on Saturday Jesus was dead in the tomb. But today is not Friday and today is not Saturday. today is Sunday and Today Jesus has risen from the dead.
If you had of asked any number of people in the darkness of Friday afternoon: Who is this man? The answers would have been completely different than the answers that you would have heard with the sun brightly shining on Sunday. Same man, same point in time, completely different answers.
But on Friday, those who would describe Jesus would say that he was a heretic, that he was deluded, some would even say that he was innocent but they would all agree that he was dead. Dead and buried. They had watched him die and they had seen him taken down from the cross and then they had looked on as he had been laid in the tomb and the rock had been rolled into place. But that was Friday and this is Sunday.
Perhaps the first open acknowledgment of who Jesus was came from a most unlikely source and it happened not on Sunday but late on Friday. When Jesus had died on the cross and the afternoon sky became like night and the earthquake shook Jerusalem we hear this testimony from the man who oversaw Jesus death. The man who only hours before would have denied the very personhood of Jesus, he was just another in a long line of people who Rome had decided shouldn’t live and the Centurion had made it his business to make sure that Jesus’ death would be painful and humiliating.
But something had happened and as he stood before the body of the man he had killed a sudden realization came over him and we read in Matthew 27:54 The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”
It is interesting that in the Gospels we read that the first to acknowledge Jesus at his birth as the Son of God were gentiles, the Magi. And here we read that at the end of his life, that those who acknowledge him as the Son of God were gentiles, the Roman Soldiers. The sad thing about this story though is that this is all we read about these soldiers.
There are commentators who would say that this was a point of salvation for these men, but there is nothing to suggest that is the case. We don’t see them in the upper room, there is no record of them on the day of Pentecost, and they never appear in the narrative of the church. But at that point in time if you had of asked the soldiers at the base of the cross: Who is this man? They would have replied: He is the Son of God.