Centurions were the backbone of the Roman army. To reach the rank of Centurion was the ambition of every rank and file Roman soldier. Only the upper classes could be tribunes or legates, and most of them had much less experience than the centurions.
To reach that rank, the centurion in the Easter story must have served for many years in the Roman legions, possibly in Germania or Parthia or even further afield. Now he had been posted to Judea, a very unpopular posting because of the rebellious nature of the Jews.
He had fought in many campaigns and no doubt supervised many executions by crucifixion. A battle scarred veteran hardened to death.
Then something different happened – something very different – which changed him forever.
Three more crucifixions on this particular day - fairly routine. However one of the men to be executed was different from anyone else before. A man who did not resist; did not curse; did not scream with pain and abuse – even when they were nailing Him to the wood. He refused to drink the liquid specially prepared to help dull the pain.
He actually prayed to heaven “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. He prayed for him and his soldiers!
He heard Him speaking with one of the criminals, promising him paradise after death.
He went through the three hours of impenetrable darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour.
Then he heard Him saying: “Father into Your hand I commit my spirit”, and dying hours before He was expected to. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that moments before He had shouted “Finished”
Two sayings of the centurion are recorded: “Certainly this was a righteous man” (Luke 23v47) and “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15 v 39).
The centurion recognised that here was a totally sinless man – the son of God – dying out of love and compassion for others.
It changed him. What about you?