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Compelled to Confession


On August 21, 2017, much of America witnessed a solar eclipse. In the path of totality, the area in which the sun was entirely obscured by the moon, the remarkable spectacle led many people to experience exceptionally intense emotional reactions: laughing, crying, or simply being dumbstruck in amazement.

Readers of Matthew have long speculated that the “darkness” that “came over all the land” during Jesus’ crucifixion was a total solar eclipse (v. 45). If it was, it still would not have been the most amazing event of that day. From the perspective of a Roman soldier on guard duty at Golgotha, the day might have started out routinely with the execution of three accused criminals. The mocking and humiliation meted out to Jesus might not have been particularly exceptional. But as Jesus hung on the cross, incredible things began to happen. There was the eclipse. Then, as this seemingly ordinary man breathed His last, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (v. 51). The earth shook. Tombs opened. Holy people arose from them and walked about the city (vv. 52–53).

Such events led the soldiers standing guard at Golgotha finally to confess the truth about Jesus: “Surely he was the Son of God!” (v. 54). This was an astounding confession to hear from a Roman soldier. After all, Roman religion regarded the emperor as the Son of God; to assign that title to another would have amounted to treason. Despite that, they could not stop themselves. The amazing events of that day compelled them to confession.

In many ways, Jesus looked very different from what so many people expected from the Son of God. But even while He hung dying on a cross, His true identity was undeniable.

Apply the Word

God reveals Himself in amazing events, but He also uses more mundane ways to reveal Himself and His character, such as through acts of love and care, the blessings of fellowship, and the beauties of nature. Pray that God would give you eyes to see His work around you so that you can testify rightly about who He is.

BY Brad Burton

Brad Burton has taught theology and ethics at several theological schools across the country. His writing and teaching focus on the role of the church in helping Christians to proclaim and live the faith. He serves the church in lay ministry and supply preaching, and he enjoys hiking and cycling with his wife and two children.

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