The Greatest

Centurion
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Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.

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The arena was a hill called Calvary. In this corner, a Roman soldier. But he was not just any soldier. He was one who had faced many foes and fought many battles. His discipline in training, courage in combat, loyalty to his superiors paved the road for his rise through the ranks. For his greatness he was rewarded with the rank of centurion, captain of 100 soldiers. He wore his fancy helmet and armor like a heavyweight belt and carried the short vinewood staff, a symbol of his rank, like a trophy. These were his tokens of greatness.
In the other corner, well, that sight was not so pretty. There stood a pitiful peasant rebel, claiming fulfillment of a silly Jewish legend about some coming King. This “Messiah” came to deliver the people and destroy the Roman empire, he’d been told.  He was an enemy of the state and any enemy of Rome was an enemy of his. It was not enough that He be defeated. This level of insolence demanded humiliation as well. And so, as if pouring on points in a blowout, the captain stood aside, allowing his soldiers to have their way with no limitation.
But his humiliating tactics produced unusual results. Instead of the usual cries for help or mercy, the centurion heard Jesus give instructions for the care of His mother, and the centurion watched as He recruited a thief. In the bloody face of the Man across the ring the centurion saw resolve. His bloodshot eyes screamed defiance; His countenance flashed determination. This was familiar. He had seen it somewhere before. He was seeing discipline in training, courage in combat. He was witnessing a soldier defiantly determined to obey His Officer’s command. This great man was now a spectator to greatness and he knew it.

Eye of the Tiger
Insert the soundtrack from Rocky
right here? Two great fighters in one public ring, with only one possible victor. Like Apollo Creed, this Roman captain probably wondered why this Man fought with such resolve.
“Why won’t He just give up? Stay down. Take off the gloves. Stop fighting!” he thought. But Jesus would not stop. John tells us He did not stop until He declared “It is finished.” There was a reason for Him coming to this world. There was something He was assigned to do. And until He had finished His task he would not take His last breath.

In the bloody face of the Man across the ring the centurion saw resolve. His bloodshot eyes screamed defiance, His countenance determination.


There is an assignment, a purpose for which you were born and that task is no easy one. Unfortunately for many of us, our assignments lead to difficult situations in an arena called Calvary. And Calvary is a very public place. So not only do we suffer and struggle but, oftentimes we do it while people look on and wonder why we do not just give up. Forget this God thing! Give up on faith! Stop fighting! But if we stop fighting there is a centurion somewhere that will never start believing.

Finished
What an amazing feeling. To be able to declare that you completed the task to which you were assigned. That you did not give up. To be able to say, “Father I did what You asked me to do. It is finished.”
Not only did the centurion hear Jesus say that He finished His task, but both Matthew and Luke record that He also witnessed the response. Soldiers who valiantly perform in battle usually receive a medal, or they are thrown a parade. However, the affirmation that followed Jesus was one that the centurion had
never seen.
All of creation responded to the completed work of Jesus. The earth shook and the sun refused to shine. The veil that hung in the temple ripped from the top down, exposing the inner chamber of the Most Holy Place. God the Father needed this Roman captain—and everyone around—to know that His Son had completed His mission.
There are no pictures of this moment, yet the mind can envision the great Roman Centurion—fancy helmet removed, no trophy in hand—kneel before Jesus whom He now recognizes was so much more than the greatest Soldier that ever lived.
He declares breathlessly, “This must be the Son of God.”
Because Jesus finished the task, the soldier finally saw the Savior. It is tough. You are going through it. You want to quit, but remember there is someone who is watching you and they will only follow your Commander if, even through pain, you finish your task. So fight the good fight, finish your race, and keep the faith. Do not stop fighting!

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STUDY AT THE CROSS

How long does it take to know who Jesus is?
Many talk about sanctification—or becoming holy—as the work of a lifetime, but is it possible to know Jesus in an instant? With a character and work as deep and wide as the ocean, Jesus does not seem to be the most comprehensible person in the history of the world. Join us as we explore what is possible in an initial encounter with the incarnate God.

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Day 1
Do you know Jesus? Do you think you know Jesus? Can you describe Him to someone with the same specificity and endearment as you do a family member? I invite you try. Grab a pen and paper, or open a new note on your phone and tell about the Jesus you know. Share it with us here at Message by posting to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using the #MessageMag. We look forward to reading your responses.

Day 2 - Corinthians 13:4-7

Look back over your description. How long has it taken you to know that about Jesus? I have noticed that a lot of what I know about Jesus has been taught to me through my own personal shortcomings. Max Lucado suggests an exercise in his book, A Love Worth Giving, in which you insert your name wherever it says love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Try it. Share it with us here at Message by posting to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using the #MessageMag. We look forward to reading your responses.

Day 3 - Read Mark 15:39

In this verse we encounter a centurion, a Roman soldier in command of 100 men. The centurion was not Jewish, more than likely not acquainted with Scripture, and definitely not a follower of Christ. Many of us encounter people like him everyday. The question is do we see them as one step away from being believers? I invite you to think of someone who can be your accountability partner in praying that God makes you a kingdom-minded person, a person who sees everyone as a potential resident of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Day 4 - Read Mark 15:39

Awe-inspiring, right? There had to be something awe-inspiring about Jesus’ death. Read the surrounding verses, and make
a list of the details about of how Jesus died that led the centurion to react the way he did.

Day 5

The way we die can stir more conviction than the way we live. What I mean by that is, the way we go through things can have more impact on people than the way we come out. Have you ever gone through something in your life and did not know that you were being observed, and someone was blessed by how you conducted yourself? Share it with us here at Message by posting to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook using the #MessageMag. We look forward to reading your responses.

Have you ever thought about the possibility that the calamities in your life may be the only encounter with Jesus people have? The shaking and storms that you experience can be the testimony someone needs, to know who Jesus is. Pray with the your prayer partner from earlier that all that you experience will help lead someone to Jesus.

Day 7

The Centurion exclaimed after being with Jesus only a few hours something that takes many of us a lifetime to get: “Surely, this is the Son of God.” We must keep in mind that at the cross, anyone, regardless of time in the faith, can come to the same conclusion: Jesus is who He said He is.

 

 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.

 

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