Pastor Chad Harrison
Trinity Baptist Church
“Now when the centurion, and them that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.”
This scripture is one of the most amazing passages found in the bible. The centurion in the roman army was a soldier who had been placed in charge of eighty men. In this text we are told that the Centurion and those with him were so moved by the events of the cross that they came to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. These men were not ordinary men. They were hard and callused soldiers who where not upset at the sight of blood or gore. Even though these men had carried out many executions, this particular execution changed the lives of these soldiers. I would like to show you some reasons I believe these soldiers came to believe on Christ at this time.
- They Saw His Suffering
These soldiers had witnessed Jesus Christ being turned over to the masses by Pilate the cowardly King. Pilate said,” I find no fault in Him,” yet he gave Jesus over to the angry Jews. The soldiers had witnessed Jesus be beaten with the “cat of nine tails,” a wooden rod with nine long pieces of leather fastened to it with sharp stones and glass embedded in the leather. This torture usually left the victim lifeless on the ground, but Jesus survived. The soldiers also saw Jesus wear the crown of thorns on His head. These grizzled men would have held the arms of Jesus down while another raised the hammer to drive the nails through the arms and feet of Christ. They would have also watched the long fight that Christ had on the cross to stay alive. This was a gruesome sight to behold. The roman soldiers would have witnessed each of these events on this faithful day. They saw Jesus endure more suffering than any human should ever have to endure. Why, you may ask? Because He loved you and me.
- They Heard His Sayings
Not only did the Roman Soldiers see Jesus suffer in horrifying events of torture and death but they heard the words he spoke as he suffered. Jesus spoke three times from the cross and each time was a beautiful picture of His love for people. Jesus first words from the cross were “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” In the most painful experience a human could endure, Jesus thought of how much He loved those who were punishing Him. As Jesus hung on the cross there were two thieves crucified as well. One hung on each side of the Savior. The bible tells us that one of the thieves railed on Jesus saying if you are really God then save us. The other asked the Lord to remember him on this day to which the Lord replied, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Jesus while hanging on a cross and dying had a love for the thief and concern for his eternal wellbeing. The Roman soldiers heard all this dialog and were moved by it. Jesus final words on Calvary where “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Can you imagine being at the foot of the cross when Jesus dismissed His Spirit. What a moment. What a Savior. How could any person say no to Christ after hearing Him speak with such love and tenderness while suffering? The centurion and his eighty men heard it all and it changed their lives forever.
- They Saw His Surrender
The Roman soldiers not only saw the suffering of Jesus, heard His sayings on the cross, but also saw the surrender of Jesus to death. As the final breath escaped the body of the Savior the Bible tells us that the earth quaked, and the rocks split. I have been by the bedside of many people as they took their last breath, but I have never saw an earthquake and rocks split as death occurred. The soldiers had never saw that either and when they witnessed these events it shook them to their core.
I believe the same fear and astonishment that gripped the Centurion and his eighty men will grip every one that draws breath. How, you may ask. The bible teaches us that every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Whether we know Christ as our Savior or not we all will face an almighty God someday. These tough Roman Soldiers where changed forever when they realized the Love that Jesus had for them and all mankind. My hope is that all people who know Christ as Savior could live their lives with the cross of Calvary in mind that they not ever become complacent to the price paid for our sins. Those who do not know Christ as Savior should know that falling at Calvary and giving your heart to Jesus is the single most important thing you could ever do. The cross changed the lives of the eight one Soldiers that where there that day and it has changed millions of lives since. Only eternity will tell the difference made at the Cross.