He Is Risen!?!?! The Perspective Of A Roman Soldier Series
Contributed by Jeff Strite on Apr 22, 2022 (message contributor)
Summary: How might it have impacted you to witness the events of Jesus' arrest, trial, death, and resurrection? Consider the warning of the Roman soldier as Scott Jewell presents our Easter message.
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As many of you know, Jeff has been under the weather all week and trying to feel better so he could be here with you today. I know it’s killing him that he isn’t the one up here presenting today’s message, so let’s keep him in our prayers. I was at the breakfast table with our men yesterday when he sent me a message to let me know that I would need to preach this morning.
My first thought was that I’ve preached a number of Easter messages at other churches over the years, I can pull one out, dust it off, and be ready to go. As I was driving home, I began to ponder which sermon I’d go with. My mind turned to some of the recent conversations we’d had with our group of ministers that meet for lunch. One of them had shared how he was leading up to Resurrection Sunday by looking at the perspective of various people who had been there.
That got me to thinking- what would it have been like to be there, to witness all the events of that week? If I had seen with my own eyes the arrest, trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, surely that would have been enough to become a believer, right?
And yet, one of those perspectives was that of the Roman soldier. He may have seen all these things with his own eyes, yet we’re never told he became a follower of Christ. Why not? What stopped him from turning his life over to Christ? Let’s examine the events he would have witnessed.
We start on Thursday night. Jesus and disciples have participated in the Passover meal where Jesus institutes what we now call the Lord’s supper. Just like how Jeff showed us how the various symbols of the Passover point to Christ, Jesus take the bread and cup and tell us they represent his body and blood that are about to be sacrificed. After the meal, they head to the garden, where Jesus prays.
John 18:3-8 tells us that Judas brought a band of Roman soldiers along with an angry mob complete with lanterns and torches and various weapons to arrest Jesus. Jesus asked them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus responded, “I am he,” and the force of his words knocked the whole crowd back and they fell to the ground.
Luke 22:49-54 shares that a disciple, Peter, pulled out his sword and cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant. And do you know what the soldier saw Jesus do? He bent over, picked up the ear, and He healed the man! Here He is, about to be arrested, and Jesus takes the time to heal one of the men who had come to arrest Him before turning Himself in. How crazy is that? The soldiers delivered Jesus to the home of the high priest and the illegal nighttime trial began.
Move forward to Friday morning. The Jews have determined that Jesus is guilty of blaspheme, for which the sentence is death. However, they can’t legally execute Jesus, so they bring Him to the Roman soldiers and Pontius Pilate. They demand that Jesus be killed.
In Mark 15:15, we’re told that Pilate found Jesus to be innocent but he wanted to appease the Jews, so he had Jesus scourged in hopes this punishment would be enough. I don’t know about you, but I don’t hear this term scourged very often, so I have a hard time imagining what this means. In Roman tradition, they had a punishment called “40-1” in which they tied broken glass, sharp objects, and jagged rocks into the ends of a whip and crack it across the criminal’s back 39 times because 40 times could kill a man. That was still hard for me to comprehend until Terri and I left our daughters with their grandparents so we could watch Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ.” The scourging scene was so intensely graphic, the theater had to stop the movie and bring in EMTs to treat a man who had suffered a heart attack. It’s that dreadful.
Matthew 27:27-31 tells us that Pilate has given in to the Jews and turns Jesus over to the Roman soldiers to prepare Him for crucifixion. Our soldier could have been part of the battalion, about 420 soldiers, who gathered around Jesus in the governor’s headquarters. They replaced His clothing with a scarlet robe, placed a crown of thorns on his head, and handed him a reed for a scepter. They then mock Jesus, kneeling before Him and proclaiming, “Hail King of the Jews!” They spat on Him and beat Him over the head with the reed, then according to John 19:5, Pilate presents the scarlet robe wearing, crown of thorns bearing Jesus to the crowd and declared, “Behold the man!”