"Sitting down, they kept their watch over them" Matt. 27:36
How odd. What exactly were the soldiers expecting Jesus to do, come off of the cross? Earlier He'd completely immobilized the arresting party with a few words of truth, "I AM." Then, after this demonstration of power, Jesus willingly submitted and an uneasy calm settled over His captors.
As events progressed, the apprehension subsided. The prisoner offered no resistance to the continuous abuse from His own people, and the soldiers. Crowned with thorns and robed in scarlet, they mocked the King of the Jews. Scourged and struggling to navigate the streets leading to
crowded with spectators, the executioners compelled a total stranger to help
carry the cross. They couldn't afford to let His Majesty expire before the main
event played out.
The condemned man, now securely fastened to his cross, the soldiers sat down and watched. Why? Where was this shredded mess of humanity going to go even it He could get free?
The crowd that gathered posed no threat of taking matters into their hands and trying to free the man hung there. With the exception of a few women and one young man, the crucified's supporters were non-existent. Still this man was different, too compliant even willing. Experience told the soldiers that quiet ones could be the most dangerous. The incident in the garden demonstrated just how quickly things could turn for the worse. No fans of the Jews, and their crazy religious beliefs, these men took no chances. One of them remembered something the King had mentioned in the garden, some remark about legions of angels at His disposal. Not sure what that meant, the contingent of guards remained alert for any sign of trouble.
The day progressed without event. The men relaxed, gambled for the King's robe and listened as the thieves hung beside Him joined with the onlookers and heaped insult upon injury.
Unexpectedly, the weather shifted, a storm began to brew. An unusual, eerie darkness fell. If this was part of an elaborate escape plan, it would be the most unusual and supernatural one the soldiers would have ever experienced first-hand.
Suddenly the ground beneath them rolled and heaved. Cries of the terrified bystanders mixed with the thunderous roar of the rending earth.
broke open and those dead walked around. Eager to wrap things up, the soldiers
broke the legs of the thieves to hasten their deaths. For the one in the
middle, a lance into His side provided the necessary proof that He'd already
escaped and was dead. Reality set in that this man was neither delusional nor
dangerous, but was innocent and someone extraordinary.
"Truly this was the Son of God." Matt. 15:39
There was nothing more to be said.
Even in death, Jesus proved unpredictable. It pays to keep our eyes on Him at all times. He plays by His own rules and even colors outside the lines- unthinkable. Try to nail Him down to a single position and He'll slip through your grasp.
At His birth, shepherds keeping their watch witnessed the dawning of the Age of Immanuel. While they kept watch, the soldiers also saw the dawn of a new era, the Age of Reconciliation. God and man were no longer at enmity. Did either group understand the full import of their experience? Only if they kept watching.
How about you? When have you lost sight of Jesus, even briefly, and discovered He'd moved on? If so, how did this impact your understanding that God never changes? Which of your beliefs have come into question with your fresh insight into Jesus and how have you resolved them? As you've kept your watch what new discoveries have you found?