THIS MAN WAS THE SON OF GOD (Mk.15: 33-45; Mt.27:45-56; Lk.23:44-49)
I am the Roman Centurion, who was in charge from the time Jesus was handed over to our Governor until His body was turned over to Joseph of Arimathea. My account of the proceedings against Jesus is absolutely accurate. I am a soldier and I only report as I see the facts. I had nothing to gain or lose by what was transpiring before my eyes. I was not the only one who came to the conclusion that we had crucified the Son of God. During His last few hours, none of His followers were near Him, nor were they allowed to be near Him. Most of them were in danger of their lives. Only one disciple, who stood with Jesus’ mother, was permitted to be nearby. I, alone, was face to face with Jesus before He died.
It all began, early in the morning, when a delegation from the Jewish High Priest brought a prisoner called “Jesus” to our Governor. They demanded that Pilate, our boss, sentence Jesus immediately to death. They insisted that this harmless Man was a threat to them and to our government, the Roman Emperor. Pilate, our Governor, had some premonition from his wife not to have anything to do with this just Man. The Governor tried his best to set Jesus free. He had us line Him up against one of the worst criminals in the country, by the name of Barabas, hoping they would free Jesus. He washed his hands in front of the Jewish leaders and announced that he found no fault in this Man. He told them firmly that he wanted no part in what they were doing. They would have to kill Jesus themselves. The Governor’s efforts were of no avail. I had never before seen such hatred for a man without a cause. From my point of view, ever since this Jesus began to spread His message, we had fewer arrests, fewer violators and fewer people in our dungeons.
The Governor ordered us to try one more ploy. We were to punish Jesus by bruising, mocking and ridiculing Him as the, “King of the Jews.” I confess, my soldiers did carry their game a bit too far. No human being deserved to be treated as Jesus was by my men. They did not just torture His body, but also His ego. They dressed Him in a purple robe and placed a crown of thorns on His head and hailed Him mockingly as the, “King of the Jews.” Our Governor had us bring Jesus outside and pointed at Him saying, “Look at the man! Does he deserve to die?” Their hatred was intensified and they shouted, “Away with him! Crucify him!” Then Pilate did something he probably regretted the rest of his life. He used the wrong ploy by rubbing their noses when he asked, “Shall I crucify your King?” That was a slap in their faces. This despised and harmless person was their King.
The Governor had cornered himself. By calling Jesus their “King,” he placed himself in an uncompromising position. These evil people, who hated Rome, proclaimed that they needed no King because they had Caesar. These Jewish leaders put the blame for Jesus on our Governor. They made Jesus out to be a danger to Caesar, rather then to themselves. Thus, Pilate had no choice but to hand Jesus over to us to be crucified. That was how we were forced to lead Jesus to the place of the Skull and perform our brutal dirty work. To make our inhuman procession appear more criminal, we took along two felons and hung one on each side of Jesus. Then, we were to kill them by breaking their bones before the Sabbath began.
I was a Roman soldier and I was not allowed to show any sympathy for those whom we had to execute. And I had become callous and senseless toward the many people that we had crucified on this hill. Jesus, however, did not behave like all the others who were put to death. No one had ever prayed to God to forgive us for what we were doing. No one ever cried out to God as His Father and claimed that He had been forsaken. His “Cry” got to me. I did not understand what it was all about? But that was not what stunned me. What this man did next, I had never witnessed before and I stood right in front of Him. By now Jesus’ voice was too weak to be heard from a distance. I was close enough to hear Him say, “It is finished. Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Then, He bowed His head, and was gone.
Yes, I was there when the ground was shaking, the sun stopped shining, and something tragic had happened in the Temple. But that was not the reason why I hit my chest and said publicly as a Roman officer that, “This was truly the Son of God!” I said it because I saw this Man lay down His own life. He did not die at our hands. He died by His own power and will. We tried to kill Him; but, He beat us to it. We could not have taken His life from Him by a thousand crucifixions. In spite of all our efforts to put Him away, we would have failed without His willingness to give up His Spirit. Let me repeat the truth as I saw it take place before my eyes. We could not and did not kill Jesus. He laid down His life by His own choice. He was in control of His life, and not we. We did not have to break His bones. When my men pierced His side, His blood had turned to water. We handed Jesus’ body over to Joseph of Arimathea for burial and went home to reflect on what we had done. Our weekend was interrupted by rumors that Jesus was nowhere to be found and that He was showing up unexpectedly. From the way He died, I was not at all surprised that He would come back from the dead on our Roman Holiday.