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Centurion


    He had never seen it this dark so early in the day. Something different was happeningÐsome momentous event. Whatever it was, he was sure it had nothing to do with him. He was just doing his job. A shiver of anticipation ran through him.

    His occupation was to execute outlaws in Palestine. The breastplate that covered his heart bore the seal of his masterÐCaesar, the Emperor of Rome. He gladly would have slashed the heart of anyone who stood against Caesar, for Caesar was like a god to him. There was honor in being a Centurion, a mighty warrior in charge of 100 brave soldiers trained to defend the Roman Empire. He knew how to wield a sword and shoot an arrow. He knew how to make his heart like a stone as He watched foreign soldiers die by his hand. It was his profession.

    He looked at the crosses standing as monuments to an ever-raging war. Innumerable sentences had been carried out there for the purpose of protecting the peace. He stood vigil as death wrestled the spirits of men for days and reduced them to a mass of lifeless flesh. Many uttered their last words in languages unknown to him. Some pleaded for mercy. Some screamed angrily. Some could not speak at all. How he wrestled with the memory of them . . .

    Today it seemed as if everyone was screaming. The prisoners, the temple officials. Even the CenturionÕs own men were jeering at one of the criminals unmercifully. An immense crowd had turned out to witness the execution of a Man whose crime was written on the notice above His head. He was not a thief or murderer but King of the Jews.

    The prisoner was Galilean, and He had made the mistake of angering the religious leaders. The accusations had no real basis, but who cared? Keep the peace of CaesarÕs empire. It was not his choice; those were his orders.

    But this Galilean was like none the Centurion had ever seen. Stripped naked, whipped, bleeding, with a crown of thorns gouging His skull. The Galilean didnÕt fight as the others. Nor did He beg or curse. Soldiers tried to steal His dignity but couldnÕt. Even after they had cast lots for His cloak and had coated His dry tongue with vinegar, the Galilean wasnÕt condemning and He never pleaded for mercy.

    In fact, this Galilean called Christ did something that tore at the CenturionÕs stone-cold heart. He forgave. In all the CenturionÕs years of watching people die on crosses, Jesus was the only One who ever offered mercy to him. Jesus forgave him. Even though he stood for everything that put Christ on that splintered Roman crossÐJesus forgave him.

    Now the Centurion watched as the Galilean labored painfully for breath. How he wanted to call out to accept the forgiveness! But to call out would mean challenging Caesar. To speak in favor of the King of the Jews would mark him a traitor. To ask this prisoner for life would mean his own death.

    Then the Galilean cried out, "Father, into your hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46). And it was over. He no longer labored. His SpiritÕs moment of release led to chaos as the earth began to quake and tombs burst open.

    It was true. Everything the Centurion had heard about JesusÕ preaching, healing, and miraclesÐit was all true. Regardless of Caesar, regardless of the CenturionÕs own fate, Jesus was the Messiah. In that moment he could utter only one confession, "Surely this was the Son of God" (Mark 15:39)

    To be mighty in spirit is to recognize who Jesus is. The Centurion did. The Centurion viewed the criminals on crosses as you might look upon a convict on death row. Yet when he saw Jesus, he knew something was different. When he looked upon the Savior, neither his past nor his situation mattered. He simply couldnÕt deny the truth. The word of the warrior was that he had seen the Savior. He confessed that he had witnessed the Christ. Two thousand years later it is still possible to look upon Jesus, the resurrected Son of God.

    What will be your confession?