Responding to the Death of Jesus Christ

Josh Buice

brown wooden cross under gray sky

Matthew 27:54 – When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (ESV)

The divine hour of Jesus’ death that had been planned out before the foundation of the world was established had arrived. Jesus was prepared for the cross by a brutal scourging process that would have literally torn through his flesh exposing muscle tissue and perhaps bones in his back. It was then, that Jesus was led to the place of death where he would be nailed to a Roman cross as a means of public execution among criminals.

Golgotha was a public place. It was intentionally placed by the roadside for people to see as they passed by into the city. It was intended to intimidate anyone who would dare push back against the power of Rome. It was such a vile place, it had to be placed outside of the city walls (Heb 13:11-12).

The soldiers who were professional executioners and others became firsthand witnesses to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that was spoken 700 years earlier. Isaiah penned these striking words:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.1Isaiah 53:4-5 — ESV

It was a brutal thing to witness. John the Baptist referred to Jesus as “The Lamb of God” in John 1:29 as Jesus’ public ministry began. On this occasion, Jesus was viewed as a blaspheming Jew who had become enemy number one to the Sanhedrin, but in all reality—he was the sacrificial offering that was being slain. The offering up of himself to God was always the plan from the beginning, as Isaiah predicted (Is 53:10).

The Romans perfected the art of crucifixion.  They had crucified over 30k by the day that Jesus was crucified. The Romans referred to the cross as “the infamous stake.” Upon being nailed to a Roman cross, Jesus would experience excruciating pain as the nerve endings would be triggered with every movement of his body. As fatigue increased during the process, it would be necessary for Jesus to push upward with his feet to breathe. Even the process of inhaling and exhaling would be torture. As blood loss increased and fatigued gripped the body, there would be no pain medication to dull the senses as the crucified Christ hung there on the side of a public roadway naked and bloody.

At the point of his dying breath, he cried, “tetelestai” which means, “It is finished.” As Matthew records, what happened next was extraordinary. The sky turned dark and the earth began to quake. As the centurion observed, he was shocked. The centurion was the commander of some 100 soldiers. He would have been a loyal soldier entrusted with command. It’s likely that these soldiers were with him from the time Jesus was arrested all the way through the preparation for the cross and through the crucifixion. They were executioners. Yet today, they became eyewitnesses of the death of God’s Son.

According to Matthew 27:54, as the sky was dark and the ground began to shake as Jesus breathed his last, these professional executioners were shaking in their boots. The soldiers “were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’”

The word “awe” is the Greek term, “φοβέω” which means, “to be afraid, to be frightened.” It’s from this word that we derive our English word, phobia. This is the same word used to describe the disciples as they witnessed Jesus walking upon the top of the water as they were in the boat. They were shocked. It’s the same response of the soldiers as Jesus died. They had never before witnessed anything like it.

The ground shook beneath the feet of the centurion, and it caused his heart to quake too. He turned and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” What about you? What is your response to the death of Jesus?

The ground shook beneath the feet of the centurion, and it caused his heart to quake too. He turned and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” What about you? What is your response to the death of Jesus? What happened on that occasion as Jesus died was one more miraculous sign to validate that Jesus is the Christ—the Savior of sinners—the Son of the living God.

As you meditate upon the significance of the event that took place on that historic Friday, understand that the only way that it was indeed good is because God purposed this brutal death in order for Jesus to save every last one of his people (Matt 1:21). Turn to this glorious Christ and worship him today!

Philip Bliss, the hymn writer, said it this way:

Lifted up was He to die;

“It is finished!” was His cry;

Now in Heav’n exalted high.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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1 Isaiah 53:4-5 — ESV
Author brown wooden cross under gray sky

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.