In our Easter-week series, we look at a rather unusual and often overlooked Good Friday event: three “flash-forwards” that point to what would happen on Easter Sunday. It’s best to begin from part one, on Monday.
Our third flash-forward at the death of Jesus is the reaction of those who witness the first two signs. Have a listen to their response:27:54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, & exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
‘How is this a flash-forward?’ you might ask. Is this a case of a preacher getting third-point-itis. Where the last point is always a bit of stretch to fit in with the pattern of the first two. (The first two started with the same letter, lets get the thesaurus out…)
But the answer lies in the identity of the people making this confession. A centurion & his soldiers. Romans. Non-Jews. Gentiles. Those who weren’t a part of God’s old covenant people. They are the ones who witness all this, and in fear realise who Jesus was.
This is a flash-forward, because it points to the gospel going not just to the nation of Israel, but to people from every nation. In fact, we only have to read a little further on in Mt’s gospel to find this explicitly. The ‘great commission’ where Jesus’ followers are told to go and make disciples of all nations. And then throughout the rest of the NT where we can trace the story of this command becoming a reality. Right up until our present day. Because you and I – we’re not Jewish. We’re Gentiles. We’re the people from ‘all nations’ Jesus was talking about.
So at the point of Jesus’ death, then, we have a handful of Gentiles confessing Jesus as the son of God. A flash-forward to the fact that after Jesus’ resurrection, the good news of the kingdom is for everyone. The fact that Jesus’ resurrection has enabled each of you here tonight to come to God. Without having to become Jewish. Without having to go through a priest, like we talked about earlier. Without rituals & rules & restrictions.
It’s a reminder that God’s mercy and forgiveness doesn’t simply stay and wait for people to find it. It goes out hunting to the ends of the earth. To gather for God worshippers from every nation, from every people group. To build a multiracial church across the world, where colour and language and background do not matter. All united in praise to God the creator; to God the saviour.
And again, this is just a sneak-peek of what still lies in our future. The book of Revelation gives us a similar flash-forward in ch 7, a very famous one:Rev 7:9-12 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
So as you contemplate the Easter message this weekend, remember these little flash-forwards. Be thankful for what Jesus’ resurrection has brought you already – direct access to God, life where you were spiritually dead, for everyone who believes no matter who or where they are. And keep ever in your mind those sneak-peeks of our future: where one day we will be a part of that great multitude from all over this planet, who will live forever. With God. Face-to-face.
Don’t change that channel.