(The centurion speaks in a matter of fact voice - reciting facts.)
I am a centurion, an officer of the Roman Army in charge of one hundred men. My duty included supervising the punishment of common criminals with our Roman execution method called crucifixion.We nailed these criminals on rough wooden beams, then dropped these crosses with a thud into the ground. I believed my superiors when they said, "Let this serve as warnings to others who choose to disobey our laws."
I had been in charge of many crucifixions but this one was different. . .
( he pauses, deep in thought for a moment)
We hung three men today but the one in the middle. . . this Jesus. . . he was so beaten down by the time he was carrying his cross out to Golgotha, that place that appeared to be shaped like a skull, he fell under its weight. We grabbed a strong young man named Simon from the jeering crowds to finish carrying it for him. He obliged under duress.
We tacked the charge of thief on the crosses on either side. These common criminals had their charges printed for all to read. The charge we tacked above the head of this Jesus - the one in the middle - read King of the Jews. . . .
Was this true? Why would the Jews, the religious leaders want us to crucify one of their own, a leader too, a king?
Why was he here? I heard amazing rumors of him healing the sick and even casting out demons, but a King?
Were we making a mistake? I kept my thoughts to myself for I would never question my orders. But I wondered.
Jesus remained mostly silent throughout his ordeal on that cross. He uttered a few things but not the angry outbursts or the cursing I usually hear from the scoundrels we hang. He cried out for His Father to forgive all of us and said we didn't know what we were doing. How could he say that? How could he choose to forgive us? I hadn't done anything wrong by following my orders had I?
(The centurion's voice takes on a more wavering quality)
Only three hours after we nailed Jesus to the cross the sky went as black as night even though it was the middle of the day. The earth shook beneath my feet. Rocks split open. For three hours these strange, frightening occurrences continued and then. . .
This Jesus said the strangest thing. "It is finished. Father I give you my spirit." and with those words he breathed his last breath. Just like that it was over. He died. We didn't even have to break his legs to hurry his death. No one dies that quickly on the cross. I didn't believe he could either so I plunged my spear into his side to check. Blood and water poured out. There could be no doubt. This Jesus was dead!
I did my job today. I made sure the three men sentenced to die were hung up on crosses. While I waited for them to die, I watched. I listened. I saw this Jesus die like I have seen no others die. I can only conclude that surely this was the Son of God!
Pilate summoned me for a report on the death of Jesus. I must obey.
( He reports to Pilate in the authoritative voice of a commander of men)
All who are listening, all who are skeptical, believe my report for I am a centurion, an officer of the Roman army in charge of the crucifixion of Jesus. I was there watching and listening to every word he uttered.I jabbed my spear into his body to make sure of his death. Believe my account of the strange occurrences I witnessed. This Jesus died today at the ninth hour. According to his final words He chose to give up his spirit.
(voice fades from authoritative to more reverent and quieter at the end.)
Jesus - surely He was the Son of God.
To hear this monologue acted out gave me a new appreciation for the depth of awe the centurion must have felt as he said those words aloud - surely He was the Son of God. We are not told of his reactions to the empty tomb three days later but I wonder if he chose to follow the resurrected Jesus who offered his life as a sacrifice for all. The price has been paid. The gift of salvation is waiting for all who choose to accept it.
May we praise the One who loves us so much he stretched out his arms and died.
Carol Harrison, B.Ed. from Saskatoon, has published one book, Amee’s Story, and has short stories in over a dozen anthologies. She has a passion for sharing stories from real-life experiences and God’s Word to help others find a glimmer of hope and a glimpse of joy.