54When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!"
The day had been drenched in death--but this was something the centurion, a man of noble birth and high social standing, was accustomed to. He had attained his position by demonstrating skill and courage as he led his soldiers by example in battle, from the front. He had seen more carnage than he wished to dwell upon.
The death of the man on the cross he was guarding was different. The centurion was a man of honour and he had no stomach for the work of this day--the obviously political disposal of a troublesome but innocent man.
Keeping a death watch is an intimate duty and whether he wanted it or not he was bound together with this man in a deeply personal way as the hours ticked by and he witnessed his dying agony.
But there was something more that drew the cry of terror from the man accustomed to horrifying sights in battle.
The mocking jeers from the crowd had died down, replaced by the sobbing of the women who stayed close by, but as the man's torment reached its climax it was as if the very earth convulsed in death throes and the elements roared in protest. The darkness, and the violent trembling of the earth told him an unthinkable truth. This man was the Son of God!
I wonder about him...he would have been forever changed. I hope that he found disciples of Jesus and became a follower himself.
He wasn't the first hardened soldier to quake before Jesus. In John 7:45-46 tells of the temple guards who had been dispatched to bring Jesus in returning empty handed, only able to say, "No one ever spoke the way this man does." And John 18:6, the record of the arrest of Jesus, says that the soldiers and officials drew back and fell to the ground when Jesus spoke.
Jesus was gentle enough to cradle a child, but the power of his Presence, even in human flesh and bone, must have been electrifying.
I try to imagine what it will be like to see him in all of his glory --and I pray for all the ones I love--that here and now--he is recognized for who he is--the Son of God.
Revelation 1:7 (New International Version)
7Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen
Revelation 3:18 (New International Version)
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.