Summary: Something happened the day Jesus was crucified that turned a callous Roman Centurion into a worshipper at the cross. It was something he "saw" and something he "heard." But what?
OPEN: Years ago when I was in Bible college, a movie premiered in the movie theatres that some friends of mine and I wanted to attend. What struck me as I watched, were the powerful images of Christianity in the movie.
The movie? It was called "The Poseidon Adventure." How many of you have seen it? (about 2/3’s raised their hands).
For those of you that have not seen it, "The Poseidon Adventure" was the fictional story of a group of passengers aboard a cruise ship which had turned upside down in a terrible storm. The movie followed the efforts of a handful of those passengers seeking to find their way to safety through the bottom of the boat.
Like I said the Christian symbolism was powerful and unmistakable:
– Their world was upside down
– They were led to salvation by a clergyman who, in turn, was listening to the advice of young 12 year old (or so) boy who said he knew the way out
– But, no one would listen to them (especially offended that a child of that age would know anything) preferring instead the expertise of professionals who actually were as lost as they were.
– Their way to safety was the exact opposite of what was accepted by all of the other passengers
– They clambered to safety by climbing out of a ballroom up (of all things) a Christmas tree - the eternal symbol of the season celebrating Christ’s birth.
– And ULTIMATELY their adult leader (Gene Hackman) who was the “man of God” in the movie, died toward the end of the movie giving his life (just like Christ did) to save the lives of his followers.
As I said, the Christian symbolism was phenomenal.
However, I have since rented this movie and been embarrassed by all the profanity that the characters used. In fact, the clergyman (Gene Hackman) died cursing God.
But I didn’t see that the 1st time I visited the theatre. All I saw was Christ. In fact, after the movie, I went into the bathroom and overheard a couple of men talking about the movie. One of them said to the other: "I need to change my life!"
APPLY: Now, if men could be effected for God by an imperfect movie, filled with cursing and self-righteousness and blasphemy of God, how much more do you think a soldier who stood at the foot of the cross, seeing all that took place that day have been effected.
The Centurion is so moved by what takes place, that he utters the powerful words: "Surely, this was the Son of God."
A question: what had this Centurion observed this day that changed his heart?
I. To understand what took place that day, we need to revisit the scene:
Jesus has been nailed to cross 6 hours earlier by this centurion and his soldiers. It has been this Centurion’s job to crucify Jesus. And over the hours, he has watched as Jesus has been abused and mistreated
* by the crowds passing by
* by the chief priests & teachers of the law
* by the thieves on either side
* by his own soldiers
* And … perhaps he, himself, has joined in on the ridicule
More than likely this Centurion has heard of Jesus before. Judea is not a large country, and the Roman soldiers were not totally isolated from what took place in the nation they were to watch over.