Summary: A centurion, converted at the foot of the cross, tells the story in his own words

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Eight words.

That’s what I am remembered for 2000 years later. You don’t remember my name. But I guess of the 230 million people alive in 33AD - I guess there are not many people you remember anything of - and at least for me you remember 8 words

“Truly this man was the Son of God” - not in John’s acount that you have just heard, but in Mark’s and in Matthew’s.

“Truly this man was the Son of God”

Of course, the story didn’t begin with the 8 words.

It begins with a posting no solidier wants.

Your Empire needs you. Join the legions. Bring civilisation to the barbarians. Defend the pax Romana.

Not that that’s why any of us really joined up. Citizen of the mighty Roman Empire with privileges that conquered people people could only dream of. But it means bog all if you are a plebian struggling to buy bread to feed yourself.

Join the legions. Get fed bread.

His imperial majesty Tiberius Caesar son of the divine Augustus, Emperor and ruler of the known world - is not [hush I didn’t say this] going to stay emperor long if he doesn’t pay his legionaries.

It’s a tough life being a legionary - heavy packs to carry. Long marches. Long days. Brutal punishments for the slightest infraction.

It’s a tough life being a legionary. But when you have been starving you’ll sign up for 25 years of being fed bread. And the perks are good to. Join at 15 - retire at 40 and they’ll settle you in a colony full of ex military folks like you with a pension for life and a native wife.

Join the legions. Get fed bread.

Join the legions. Restore your pride.

We are the mighty Roman Empire. Other nations are pathetic compared to us. Barbarian Gauls - you think of Asterix and Obelix. We think of terrorists - threatening our safety until the mighty Julius caesar grandfather of our beloved Emperor Tiberius crushed them and brought them into the Empire. Greeks - you think of playwrites and philosophers. We think of ponces and nonces - great at maths but can’t hold a country together. We the mighty Romans have taken their learning and turned it into something useful - roads and aqueducts, and accountancy to enable massive trade in grain and so many other wonders. A million people live in the city of Rome. Have you ever heard of that. A million people living in one city? Without Greek inventions like the maths to make the trade possible, or the aqueducts to bring in enough water - none of that would be possible. But did the Greeks actually build a city of a million people? No- useless ponces and nonces. It was we who did the Mighty Roman Empire.

Which makes it tough when you are a plebian on the streets of Rome, struggling to get enough to eat - and you see some Syrian merchant wearing robes and jewels you could never dream of, with a pot belly showing the pheasant and wild boar he gorges himself on. Surrounded by slaves.

We are citizens! And these foreigners come in, taking our jobs, taking our wealth.

Join the legions. Restore your pride.

In the legions you are a big man.

If a legionary says to you “give me your coat!” - you’ve got to do so. Because you ain’t no Roman. And I’m not just a Roman. I’m a legionary.

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