Luke’s Centurions-Part 3-Luke’s Second Centurion

Luke’s Second Centurion is described in Luke 23: 36-38 and 44-49: 

36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,

37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.

38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.

46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

47 Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.

Let’s look at what the Centurion said: “Certainly this was a righteous Man.”

There are other and important translations of this language:

New American Standard 1977 Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

Douay-Rheims Bible Now the centurion, seeing what was done, glorified God, saying: Indeed this was a just man.
Aramaic Bible in Plain English When the Centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God and he said, “Truly this man was The Righteous One.”

How would a centurion know what righteousness means?

I think first we might first look at what did ‘righteousness’ mean to the average Jew of the time?  The average Jew would think righteousness is as set forth in Micah 6:8:

I will shew thee, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requireth of thee: Namely, to do right, to have pleasure in loving-kindness, a to be lowly, and to walk with thy God.

So to be righteous, one had to love kindness.  Loving kindness is loving mercy.  So a righteous man is one who loves or shows mercy. Loving righteousness is also the same as loving goodness.  Thus to be righteous, one has to love goodness.

What does lowly mean?

In the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world, being lowly or displaying meekness was held to be a virtue, and it placed a high premium on it. Kings, who described themselves as powerful, also described themselves as lowly. Most modern translations often replace the noun “meekness” by “gentleness” or “humility,” largely as a result of the pejorative overtones of weakness and effeminacy now associated with meekness. It was not a word of weakness in the ancient world.

Meekness is an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are wisely seen by the individual as only part of a larger picture. Meekness is not a resignation to fate; it is not a passive and reluctant submission to events. If it were a resignation to fate, there would be little or no virtue in that response. Meekness is the patient and hopeful endurance of undesirable circumstances which therefore identifies the person as externally vulnerable and weak, while inwardly resilient and strong. Meekness does not identify the weak but more precisely the strong who have been placed in a position of weakness where they persevere without giving up. The use of the Greek word when applied to animals makes this clear, for it means “tame” when applied to wild animals. In other words, such animals have not lost their strength but have learned to control the destructive instincts that prevent them from living in harmony with others.

Finally, what does it mean to ‘walk with God’?

In the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world, being lowly or displaying meekness was held to be a virtue, and it placed a high premium on it. Kings, who described themselves as powerful, also described themselves as lowly. Most modern translations often replace the noun “meekness” by “gentleness” or “humility,” largely as a result of the pejorative overtones of weakness and effeminacy now associated with meekness. It was not a word of weakness in the ancient world.

Meekness is an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are wisely seen by the individual as only part of a larger picture. Meekness is not a resignation to fate; it is not a passive and reluctant submission to events. If it were a resignation to fate, there would be little or no virtue in that response. Meekness is the patient and hopeful endurance of undesirable circumstances which therefore identifies the person as externally vulnerable and weak, while inwardly resilient and strong. Meekness does not identify the weak but more precisely the strong who have been placed in a position of weakness where they persevere without giving up. The use of the Greek word when applied to animals makes this clear, for it means “tame” when applied to wild animals. In other words, such animals have not lost their strength but have learned to control the destructive instincts that prevent them from living in harmony with others.

Finally, what does it mean to walk with God?

There are several people described as “walking with God” in the Bible, beginning with Enoch in Genesis 5:24. Noah is also described as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God (Genesis 6:9). I think walking with God is the act of being side by side with God, as one might walk a country with a close and loving friend. As the friends walk, they talk and share their hearts and minds.  They are close together. They are only one with the other. They might laugh. They might look at the beauty around them. But in addition, walking with God I sharing the same values that God displays. Love for all mankind.

In my next blog, I will discuss how this Centurion might  have learned this.

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