Were You There is the name of a spiritual hymn with a message that predates the Civil War era.
That old spiritual asks: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed Him to the Cross? Were you there when they pierced Him in the side?” The apparent answer is no, but then the song says, “Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.”
Recently, many have trembled for the wrong reasons. We’ve become fear-driven instead of faith-focused. So let’s take a focused look at Christ’s Cross, from which the blood came streaming down that causes us to be His blood-bought, blood-covered, overcoming Church.
What about those who were there when He died? Theirs was not a sentimental deathbed watch. They witnessed the cruel execution of a righteous man. Sure, we can sing Hallelujah to the Cross, on this side of the New Covenant of Grace. But those who were there had this scene engraved upon their souls. Read Luke’s record (23:44–49).
Those who were there left deeply distressed after watching these things. But let’s stand in the sandals of the Roman Centurion, who said, “Certainly this was a righteous man!” His view of the Cross and Christ’s righteousness is spiritually moving.
The Centurion’s view saw how the average Jew and most of their religious leaders despised this righteous Man. They were supposed to be waiting for the consolation of Israel. The prophets foretold them about their long-anticipated, promised Messiah. But when they beheld His holiness, they despised it. How sad that so many Jews of that day were unable to accept the Christ they needed more than anything! “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11, KJV).
The Centurion’s view saw Christ’s righteousness displayed in His suffering and death. Jesus was not kicking and screaming along Via Dolorosa trying to escape. Yes, there was a Garden of Gethsemane experience where He prayed through. But Jesus endured His suffering, and He wasn’t afraid to die. Listen to His final words: “Father, into your hands I commit My Spirit.” From this view, we see our Savior dying the death of the righteous.
From the Centurion’s view, we see Christ’s righteousness declared by Pilate, not once, but three times according to John’s Gospel (18:38, 19:4, & 19:6). Indeed, this Centurion heard and knew Pilate’s no-fault sayings. He attempted to wash his hands from guilt. But he knew Jesus was a righteous man.
Christ’s righteousness was finally declared by this Centurion, whose sandals we are standing in today. Some might think he’s only following Pilate’s lead. But I tell you he received Heaven’s righteous witness in the depths of his soul! He was powerfully touched and could not help but declare, “Certainly, this was a righteous Man!”
You need to know this scene was not the end. Jesus’ Cross-work accomplished so much, but 3 days later, the ultimate sign of His righteousness was seen! “Up from the grave He arose With a mighty triumph o’er His foes, He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.” And His righteousness knows no end!
Only after Christ’s resurrection did the meaning of the Cross become apparent to His followers. They soon realized God wanted to cover them with the righteousness of Christ. God made Christ “who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). This is the Gospel, and “it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes… For in it, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:16-17).
Friend, you need the righteousness of our risen Savior to cover you and be placed on your account. Believe in His Gospel today and be saved.
Click here if you’d like to hear the spoken ministry version of this message.