April 7, 2023
The last few days have been crazy! Passover was an unruly time with all the Jews in town, but in all my years as a centurion I have not witnessed anything like this year. A few days ago, my unit was ordered to arrest this Jesus everyone is talking about. I watched as one of Jesus’ friends betrayed him with a kiss. And when one of Jesus’s followers cut off the servant’s ear, Jesus healed it. Some band of followers! They ran away and abandoned Jesus as we led their leader away. What kind of a man chooses followers like that?
Then there was that trial with Pilate. I was pretty sure Pilate didn’t think Jesus should be crucified like the religious leaders demanded. Pilate tried to let Jesus off by offering the crowd a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. I was surprised when the crowd demanded Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ crucifixion. In the midst of all of this Jesus didn’t yell, curse, or even try to defend himself. What kind of man reacts like that? Didn’t he know they were going to flog him? It was one of the worst floggings I had seen, and Jesus didn’t fight back. It just didn’t make sense.
If that wasn’t bad enough, I came into the Praetorium and found Jesus with a crown of thorns on his head and a dirty old purple robe on his wounded, bleeding back. Some of my friends were mocking and hitting Jesus….and Jesus took it! Why didn’t he fight back? I followed the wounded, beaten Jesus through the streets, up to Golgotha. Jesus was weak from the flogging, but he didn’t complain. He kept marching up that hill.
There were three of them that were to be crucified that day. I can still hear the sound of the hammer hitting the nails, the screams of pain as the crosses were raised high, and the curses of the other two men. What came out of Jesus’ mouth confused and astounded me. Jesus asked for water, for his mother’s care, for forgiveness of those who were crucifying him, and assurance to one of the thieves who hung beside him. But what really got to me was when Jesus called out asking why his Father had forsaken him. I will never forget the darkness covering the earth in the middle of the day. You just KNEW something really big was happening…and then it did. Jesus said two last things: “It is finished!” and “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” It was as if he knew he had completed a job he was sent to do, and it appeared as if Jesus chose to die. I was breathless, filled with awe and wonder and finally I understood what kind of a man Jesus was. All I could say was, “Surely, this man was the Son of God!”
Prayer: Father, may this be our testimony as well and may we proclaim it with boldness and conviction. Amen.
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