Pulpit Reflections by Pastor Wayne James One of the most remarkable confessions that we find in Scripture was that of a Roman officer, a centurion present at the crucifixion. Although calloused by death, the centurion was sensitive to the difference between Jesus and other men he had seen die. This difference caused him to confess Christ: "Truly this was the Son of God."
How much the centurion knew about Jesus previously we don't know. How much of the trial he attended and the impressions he had from the trial we don't know. What we do know is his confession of Christ.
He could not have reached such a place of leadership without the ability to observe the events taking place around him.
As the centurion in charge of the crucifixion detail, he would have to be aware of at least the things that happened on the way to the cross and at the cross. These events must have made a profound impression on him.
Jesus' behavior at the trial would have impressed him. Jesus stood at the trial with regal bearing. One gets the impression that Pilate was on trial before Jesus rather than Jesus before Pilate.
The acceptance of the sentence and the cross by Jesus was impressive. Whereas, many others had likely protested, cursed and sought to escape the sentence, Jesus "never said a mumbling word."
Jesus' actions on the way to Golgotha were impressive. There was no bitterness, no protestation of innocence, no shrieking or crying out. Instead, he comforted others along the way.
The words from the cross that we have collected and called the "seven last words of Christ" must have had some impact on the observers.
And one cannot overlook the supernatural occurences that happened with the crucifixion. (Matthew 27:45-56)
But as we transport ourselves from the time of the crucifixion to the present, we perceive that any sensitive person becomes aware of these same events. We know something out of the ordinary was happening there as Jesus was crucified.
This is the application of Jesus' statement in John 12:32 when he said, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (NIV). And he was lifted up from the earth in crucifixion, He drew men to him in confession and faith. One of those drawn to him was the centurion in charge of the execution squad that killed him. But among those drawn to him by his death are also sensitive people of all time who look to the Christ.
Earlier (Matthew 16:13), when Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Today, he is still asking that same question. "Who do you say I am?"
Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world who loved us enough to die in our place and take our sins on him that we might live eternally if we believe in him.
(Wayne James is pastor of the Grace Baptist Church in Vermillion.)