I ended my last blog with the question of how would a Centurion know what the average Jew might have thought about what was righteousness? I think some of the answer lies in answering another question: “How long would a centurion have been in Judea?” How long was the enlistment of a legionary in the Roman legions during the Principate or during the early Empire? At first, it was 16 years, with, upon retirement, four more years to be served as a veteran at the end of the 16 years. Later, the term was raised to twenty years, and then four years as a retired veteran.
A Centurion had to have served at least 10 years, but probably more. This is more than long enough to have learned a great deal about the culture and the religion of the people with whom they lived on a daily basis.
The statement by the Centurion was the conviction of one who was himself a man of duty. To him, the one governing principle of his life was duty. He lived a large part of his life as a soldier, obeying orders.He marched in rhythm and time. He was part of a team. Men’s lives depended upon him. As he had obeyed, he demanded immediate and reflexive obedience with inflexible regularity.
Doing one’s duty was a value and a virtue in his world. This was the essence of being a soldier. He saw in Jesus upon the Cross a man being submissive to authority, even unto death. This was a value he could understand, emphasize with, and was important to him.
What did the Cross do for the centurion? His statement is one We have no record of his life afterward, but this much at least is certain, that it commanded the respect and the confession of that which was highest in human gent overnment. And if we may follow the story along imaginative lines, it is more than probable that the King upon Whose brow the centurion placed the diadem of his loyalty, crowned him with the realization of his own highest ideals of life
Why did the Centurion react? His men did not. They seemed to have absolutely no pity for Jesus and his agony. They went about their task with cold precision. Here was a man giving his life without complaint, without pleading for mercy, and the Roman soldiers were casting lots for his meager possessions. Luke 23:36- “The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine”
But the Centurion was different.
- He would be a centurion, normally in charge of a hundred troops, he would be delegated to make sure that the crucifixion was carried out properly without any complications.
- He would be a career soldier who had worked his way up through the ranks by virtue of courage and intelligence.
- He would be expected to be cold and efficient. His first task would be to carry out the orders of his superiors.
Somewhere along the way, he became impressed with Jesus.
It could have been the way he held up under the anguish of the cross. It could have been the way he lovingly made allowance for his mother’s care. It could have been how Jesus prayed for their, and specifically his, forgiveness. He had almost certainly never heard such a prayer from a cross.
It was also, no doubt, because of the signs that took place during the crucifixion.
He went on to express a belief in Jesus’ innocence.
Luke 23:47- “So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!””
It could well be possible that this centurion was like the centurion earlier, and Cornelius in Acts chapter 10, in that he was a believer in the one true God. Notice that he “glorified God.”
One can’t but wonder about how coming in contact with Jesus affected the soldier’s lives.
We can be sure that their lives would never be the same after seeing the Son of God hang on the cross.
The cross of Jesus has the power to change the individual. The centurion began as a Roman officer overseeing a crucifixion, but ended the day acknowledging that Jesus was the Son of God.