At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33–39, NIV 1984).
My Musings – We do not know much about this Roman soldier. He was a centurion, which means he had a command. He was, at least ultimately, accountable to Pilate, who was accountable to the Emperor in Rome. Publicly proclaiming that “surely this man was the Son of God,” could have possibly put his position, perhaps even his life, at risk as he should have had “no god but Caesar.” Certainly no rivaling allegiance. Because of his position he was likely well-disciplined and not given to unguarded displays of sentimentality. So what was it that made such an impression on this soldier?
He obviously had witnessed (actually oversaw) the nailing of Jesus to the cross. He stood at the feet of a condemned man hanging between two criminals convicted of capital offenses. He could hear the insults of the Jewish religious leaders being hurled at a man that they should have welcomed as Messiah, but that they refused to worship as their God. Perhaps he was present at the trial, and saw the crowds turn against Jesus, refusing to follow Him as their King. Preferring instead to have another capital criminal released instead of Jesus. Was he also present at the scourging? This man being flogged bled like a mere mortal. Cried out in agony like beaten animal. Displayed no intrinsic power to resist his torturers that one might expect of a powerful god.
But something profound happened on that hill that softened this hardened career warrior. And not just him. Remember, initially both of the criminals crucified with Jesus also hurled insults at Him (Mark 15:32). Before the end, however, one of those hardened criminals saw in Jesus what the Roman centurion saw (Luke 23:40). Jesus died (“when the centurion…saw how he died”) liked He lived. Displaying unmistakable divinity through His unblemished humanity. His living well (sinless and without defect), would have gone for naught if He had not died well (submissive to His Father’s will). Yes indeed, “surely this man was the Son of God!”
My Advice – Hardened criminal and hardened soldiers are able to recognize and respond to Christ. Perhaps, for whatever reason, your heart has become hardened. It is possible for it to become so hardened that it is no longer capable of responding to Christ. Do not let that happen to you. “For [our Heavenly] Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and [Christ] will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40, NIV 1984). You will need to die to self (die well) and receive new life (live well) in Christ. My “Born Again Experience” musings will show you how.