The Roman Soldier

by Apr 2, 2021Devotional, Easter, Supporting Cast of Easter

The Roman Soldier

 He’d lost count of how many crucifixions he’d witnessed. Too many. It wasn’t something a person ever got used to – the visceral brutality of the Roman death penalty ensured it left an impression – but after participating in so many over the years, he’d gotten numb. Numbness was preferable to flinching at every stroke of the whip during a scourging, gagging at the feel of the nails piercing flesh or pitying the criminals as they spent hours suffocating to death while hanging on the cross.

But this criminal was different. Not just his circus of a trial amidst the screaming mob, although that was unusual. The centurion had never seen Pontius Pilate looking so eager to flee after a sentencing. No, what was different was the man himself. Most criminals, fully knowing their guilt, still raged at the soldiers or begged for mercy. This man spoke with a calm authority at odds with his humble demeanor. But what really struck the centurion was the compassion in the man’s eyes.

The cohort of Roman soldiers seemed caught up in the contagious mob energy, scourging this criminal with a little more vigor than usual. As they mocked him and spat on him, he simply stood there, looking each of the soldiers in the eye in turn. When the man gazed at the centurion, he felt his insides churn. Why did it seem like this criminal was pitying him, instead of the other way around?

He’d seen enough people die to know that someone’s last hours on earth reveal much about their character. All the way through the city, to the hillside and the cross itself, this man was different. He didn’t moan or curse. He didn’t respond to the taunts of the crowd or the criminals on either side. Even as his body slowly yielded to the pain, he continued to gaze through swollen eyes onto the crowd. It was almost as though the man was trying to silently communicate with each person in turn.

But the centurion had never seen the sun blotted out like that before. One moment they were standing in the brightness of midday and the next moment it was dark as night. If he didn’t already suspect that there was something special about this criminal, he knew it now for certain. The man had spoken so quietly that it was a shock when he cried out in a loud voice. In that moment, as it became clear that the man had finally breathed his last, the earth shook violently and several large rocks on the hillside were split clean in two.

Stunned, the centurion fell to his knees. What have we done? With astonishing clarity, he realized the startling truth – not only was this man innocent – he was actually Who he said he was! He bowed his head as the enormity of this crucifixion shattered his numb soul and etched itself forever in his memory. In awe and wonder, he exclaimed aloud, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!”

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