Luke’s Centurions-Part 5-Luke’s Third Centurion

Luke’s Third Centurion appears in the Book of Acts 10: 1-8, 22-35, and 42-48:

1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,

2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.

3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.

4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.

5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:

6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.

7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;

8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.

22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.

23 Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.

25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.

26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.

27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.

28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?

30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,

31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.

32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.

33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.

34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

 

42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.

43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.

46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,

47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

A Centurion, a Roman Centurion, is Converted to Christianity-This is the headline from these readings.

As we have seen, the backbone of the Roman army was the centurions. So for a Centurion to be converted to Christianity was a very big deal. He is a key Roman official. He is, perhaps, the very symbol of the government.

Further, and extremely important, is the fact that during the time of Jesus, the headquarters of the Roman army in Judea was located at Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast. Why was the army headquartered here? Caesarea  Maritima was the capital of the province of Judea. Jerusalem was not the capital. Caesarea was the administrative hub of the province of Judea. Being posted here meant that the centurion was crucial to the proper functioning of the government, whether his force was providing security, as the head of a 80 man century, or whether he was higher up than a century commander.

So the events related by Luke in Acts are happening at the provincial capital-the very seat of Roman power and government in Judea. Let that sink in: The first Roman official converted to Christianity happens right at the seat of Roman power.

The third Centurion is both the first Gentile and the first Roman converted to Christianity. And he is a Roman official.

The story starts with the centurion being told by an angel to send for Peter. He does not question it. He immediately does what he is told to do.   This is faith.  His faith has been shown in other ways. He is devout.  He fears the Lord.  He prays to the Lord. He has given alms to the poor.  He seeks baptism.

Conclusions:

Centurions led from the front. They led and inspired their men by example. They also sought to display the skill and courage that may have brought them to their rank in the first place. It is for these reasons that they often suffered a disproportionate number of casualties.

Remember that Centurions led by example. Again, remember that the most important and prestigious position an ordinary Roman citizen could hope to achieve was that of a centurion I think these facts are the clues which show why Luke is using these three stories of centurions, who are faithful, as a guide, as a map for other Gentiles to follow Jesus. Luke is saying follow the example of Centurions! If a Roman, if a Roman official, if a Gentile can believe in God, so too can you.

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