Jesus Christ continued to change hearts and minds even from the Cross. And we know of a few incidents where the Saviour touched lives even while He was crucified. Here, we look at the Roman centurion, a man of reputation in the Roman army who draws our focus. He served as the commander of over 60 – 100 soldiers and was famous for his valour, wisdom, and leadership. It is most likely that this particular centurion was present from the time of Jesus’ trial by Pilate. Or he may even have been present since Jesus was arrested on the night of His betrayal.
Having seen so many crucifixions, the centurion knew what to anticipate from the criminals on the cross. He had heard countless men scream in agony while being whipped and plead for their lives before Pilate. From their crosses, they would shout, hurl curses to men and blame God, too.
But what he noticed with Jesus was unparalleled. “And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15: 39.
Hearing Christ’s Precious Words
The Roman centurion was near the Cross. He heard the words of Jesus from the Cross and even His conversation with the thieves. Being a Roman, he would have barely understood what Jesus had said. Yet, he heard the prayer of forgiveness (“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34)
He found himself included in this prayer of forgiveness and witnessed several other incidents, such as the assurance of eternal life to the penitent thief (“Verily I say unto thee, Today you shall be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43); entrusting Mary and John to each other (“Woman, behold your son! and Behold thy mother!” John 19:26, 27).
He also saw Jesus’ crying out to the Father (“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” Matthew 27:46), expressing His weariness (“I thirst.” John 19:28); a triumphant shout (“It is finished.” John 19:30) and committing His Spirit to the Father (“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46). The last one, Jesus shouted, is the shout of victory. While it is common for the crucified to grow weak and speak feebly, in this situation, we can see that Jesus shouted. These never-before-spoken words would have sunk into and reverberated in the Roman centurion’s heart.
Understanding God’s Visible Signs
The centurion had limited opportunity to know Jesus. Probably, he would have listened to the words of Jesus intently. As a result, he made a bold statement which was a personal proclamation from his heart, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” How intentional are we in letting Jesus (the Bible) change us from the inside out?
The centurion witnessed the suffering and pain Jesus went through. He also observed Jesus did not open his mouth in anguish or cry (Isaiah 53:7). This is contrary to what he had seen so far.
He was perplexed by the black sky in mid-afternoon (Mark 15:33). He saw the Temple veil torn into two from top to bottom. Now, the entire humanity had access to God, something that was previously only available to the high priests. What he saw was beyond his understanding.
The centurion witnessed the hand of God through these various incidents. We know that the same God is alive and active in our time, too. What is our mental image of Jesus? Are we alert enough to understand God’s visible signs (Matthew 24:37-39, 2 Timothy 3:1–7) today?
Making a Difference
The centurion saw Jesus and heard His words. Unlike a Jew, his knowledge of God would have been limited. However, the Roman Centurion knew enough to say, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” The deeds and words of Jesus captivated his heart. And so, he did not wait or postpone, nor was he afraid to declare his intention for Jesus Christ.
It doesn’t matter how much one knows the Scripture, but it does matter how one responds to the truth through words of confession and proclamation. Having access to God’s Word through several means, how keen are we to let it work, by way of shaping our faith-life at home, among fellow believers, and in society during this season of Lent?
Knowing God dynamically affects our belief, alters our behaviour, and aligns our directions according to God’s plan. Let the season of Lent encourage us to take the stand to make a difference in our lives and through us in the lives of others by increasing our degree of sensitivity to listen to God and obey His will.
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