Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:46-48
Strange Goings-On That Even Convince a Pagan
Also at the foot of the cross was a Roman centurion, a commander of one-hundred soldiers. Perhaps he was in charge of the other Roman soldiers who were there keeping watch over Jesus and the unruly crowd. At any rate, this centurion was an attentive man; but then again, who could miss the signs that nature was screaming to wayward man. It was our sin in the Garden that subjected nature to its present broken state, and, were it rational, it might duly bear a grudge against us. As the Apostle said, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21). Here, we learn that in the age to come, in the new heaven and earth, the earth too shall experience redemption such that its newness will not be a replacement but a transformation, just as we will experience with the resurrection of our bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). Still, our God uses nature to express His indignation over His Son’s death, as nature expresses her own resentment over the treatment of her Creator. Thus does darkness cover the land from noon to three, and the earth quakes and rocks are split in horror of the trespass committed on its turf.
But back to our centurion. He has witnessed much in the past few hours. No doubt, this centurion had seen many men die; perhaps he had been the one to crucify them. But Jesus dies in a different manner. He saw no fear in his eyes or hate in his countenance. When the man did speak, he forgave his persecutors, he gave hope to a dying convict, and he saw to the welfare of his mother. He died calmly and with dignity, as if he understood everything happening around him in a deeper sense, with some purpose that no one else could grasp. And then there was the darkness and the earthquake. All of this made an impression on this pagan; he couldn’t pass it off as mere coincidence. Matthew says that when the centurion and his underlings saw the earthquake they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Mark says that when the centurion saw the way Jesus died, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Luke simply says that when the centurion saw all that had taken place, he said, “Certainly this man was innocent,” a lesser statement than the former but he obviously said both. The Roman world was littered with gods, and Caesar was considered their son. But this Roman centurion was introduced to a different God, the only God. This wouldn’t be the only pagan to confess Christ, and we’ve not witnessed the last. Christ came to save sinners, and he’s still doing it.