The centurion’s story

He was a changed man.

He believed. He couldn’t not, after what he’d witnessed. Seasoned veteran that he was, he’d never felt so shaken as he did this afternoon watching him die. How could you explain away the unprecedented darkness from exactly 12noon to 3pm, or the mysterious sudden ripping of the great temple curtains in half with no human hands? How could you put into words the heaviness he felt in his heart watching the man’s face as the blood dripped from his limbs and his side? He’d always suspected there was something about that man. The way he looked at you, kindly, yet shrewdly like he could see right through your defences, like he could hear your thoughts and feel what you were feeling.

Even as they’d tortured and teased him that morning, he’d kept silent. The silence was notable as he and the other soldiers mocked him, and hit him with a stick and spat on him. He’d looked right at them but without rancour as they’d placed that dreadful stinging crown made of rose thorns on his head. He’d said nothing when they pressed it down on his scalp so they could see drops of blood mixed with beads of sweat running into his eyes. The soldiers had gone overboard with the cruel jokes, even he knew he should have cautioned his men as they mocked and laughed and placed bets over who would inherit the condemned man’s clothes. Again he’d just looked at them with those far reaching eyes and said nothing. He didn’t grumble when he was made to carry his own execution pole. He said not a word when those spikes were slowly driven into those calloused hands.

The stories he’d heard about this man calling dead people back to life from the grave, miraculously restoring sight to visionless people, making wine from water alone, and multiplying bread with just words of prayer. Surely no mere mortal could do all that? Now all those words he’d heard about the son of man coming to seek and to save the lost made sense. The son of man was the son of God. He, the prestigious leader of a group of soldiers and all his men, and all the civilians were ‘the lost’. Everyone was lost. They had killed the son of God. Or perhaps the son of God had given up his life for them. Surely this man was he.

And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” – Mark 15:39