[12pm], and there was darkness over the whole land until [3pm], while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit!” And having said this He breathed His last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle
, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things (Luke 23:44-49).”
The death of Jesus on the cross was a true spectacle. People saw something so awesome and awful that gripped their heart’s attention. And the result of viewing this spectacle had impact. Consider the centurion. Luke says that “when [he] saw what had taken place, he praised God,” and even affirmed Jesus’ innocence! And look at the crowds — “when they saw what had taken place, [they] returned home beating their breasts,” which means they were filled with grief and repentance. Viewing the great spectacle of Jesus on the cross influenced not only their emotions, but their actions and beliefs.
The death of Jesus on the cross was a true spectacle. People saw something so awesome and awful that gripped their heart’s attention. And the result of viewing this spectacle had impact.
Now, it would be easy to say, “Sure, I get that seeing the event of Jesus on the cross in real time would be quite the spectacle if you were there, but I live two thousand years later. I wasn’t there.” That’s a solid point. But take a look at what one prominent Christian leader wrote in a letter to the church in ancient Galatia:
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified (Galatians 3:1).”
The author of this letter, named Paul, was astounded at the fact that the church in Galatia had been captivated by a false gospel — leading them away from the true one. You can see Paul’s frustration at them! But notice how Paul writes that “before [their] eyes” Jesus was “crucified.” Now, it’s true that some of these Galatians could have been at the physical event of the crucifixion about 15 years earlier, but this is probably not what Paul was talking about. Rather, he was talking about his preaching. Paul had previously preached to them about Jesus dying on the cross, and he believed he had preached it so vividly in their presence that it would have made them feel like they were actually at the event.
What we can gather from this is the simple and profound truth that the preaching and sharing of the message of the gospel — Jesus Christ on the cross — has the ability to affect people in the same way as if they were actually there at the cross. We can truly see Jesus on the cross in our hearing and understanding of the true gospel.
If we’re not captivated by the cross like we’d want to be, have we really heard and understood the message of the cross?
So, here’s my challenge for all of us. It begins with a question: if we’re not captivated by the cross like we’d want to be, have we really heard and understood the message of the cross? Have we really seen the great spectacle of Jesus and what he’s done? My challenge for us, even those of us who have read and heard the gospel time and again, is to daily come back to the true gospel and see the spectacle for what it is. Everything in our heart might pull us away — and other spectacles will certainly be demanding our attention — but we must dedicate intentional time to hear, see, and understand the cross of Jesus. So, may we ask the Spirit for help as we devote ourselves to experience the gospel daily, so that we might be people who are captivated by the cross and therefore experience the incredible impact and influence it has on us.
 A centurion was a Roman official who had 100 soldiers under him.