The Heidelberg Catechism features a series of questions and answers, which instruct in specific doctrines of the faith. Question 39 focuses on the significance of the Cross, asking if it is important that Christ was crucified and did not die in another way. The answer: “Yes, for thereby I am assured that He took upon Himself the curse which lay upon me; because the death of the cross was accursed of God.”
The significance of the Cross of Christ for our salvation is clearly understood by any Christian reading of the events of Good Friday. But the significance of the Cross for our suffering may not be as well understood or appreciated. Jesus’ acceptance of unjust treatment, even to the point of His crucifixion, affirmed His identity as the Messianic King.
Jesus did not reply to the charges brought by His accusers (v. 5). As Barabbas was released and mocking took place, He did not speak up in His own defense but accepted His sentence. As the soldiers brutally mistreated Jesus, He did nothing to stop them (vv. 16–20). Jesus did not use His divine power to deter this abuse. He did not act to save Himself. Accepting the greatest injustice ever leveled at a person in history, Jesus showed His disciples, and us as well, how to handle injustice—walking through the most unimaginable, unbearable, unjust, unrelenting, undeserved, and seemingly unendurable of trials. Jesus let His silence speak when He was wrongly accused. His innocence stood trial as leaders played politics with His life.
A centurion, or soldier, watching the events, declared, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (v. 39). His response shows us that our acceptance of unjust treatment for the sake of Christ will speak volumes to those looking on, pointing them to that same Messiah.
The centurion’s testimony is significant! As a soldier, he no doubt witnessed a great number of crucifixions. As a Roman, he most likely was a polytheist. That is why his declaration of Jesus as God, after witnessing Christ’s crucifixion, is especially moving. Rejoice and tell someone else of your certainty that God Himself came to save you.