Every other year when I was a young boy our colorful, i.e. bombastic, and ambitious choir director would have the chancel choir perform a choral work called “The Seven Last Words of Christ” (Theodore Dubois). One of the lines I remember most was “death he doth merit!” This chorus was delivered with passion and unrestrained volume. One could see all the veins in the throats of the tenors, and the sopranos alone, including my mother, could rend the temple veil in two. Later in the work, the director would himself dramatically and rhythmically utter in Aramaic, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani!” He’d go on slowly and solemnly, “That is to say, ‘My God, My God, why hath Thou forsaken me?’”
Mark’s account of the Passion of Christ (Mark 15) seems to whisk along, falling far short of Gibson’s agonizing plodding portrayal. But it’s appropriate in the sense that the chief priests were hellbent to rid themselves of this man who had so dominated them for three years. That they raged with envy was clearly obvious to Pilate. Then there’s the mob mentality on vivid display. The people who had a week ago chanted “Hosanna, Hosanna” to their king, viciously turned on Jesus. Everyone including the thieves crucified with Christ, at least one of them, “hurled abuse” at him. Then huddled together at the foot of the cross were the Roman soldiers, who capped off their fun and games with the King of the Jews by casting lots for Jesus’ bloodstained garment.
One man in all this madness, though, recognized who these crazed people had wanted crucified, and he was the centurion. As the rest of the world danced for joy, his eyes were riveted on the wrenching heaving body of the Lord until it went limp. He heard and hung on all seven of his last words, and came to this undeniable conclusion, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39
In three short days, he’d have to change “was” to “is.”