Summary: The dynamite (power) of the cross is displayed in the reaction of the centurion at Calvary’s cross. This is displayed through the righteousness and royalty of Christ, the response of heaven and the witness of the centurion’s own heart.
The Bible does not give us many facts about activities of the centurions. In fact, centurions are referred to only four times in the Bible.
Matthew 8 records the story where the centurion asked for his servant to be healed. “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matt. 8:8). Jesus remarked that never before in Israel had He found such faith as possessed by that centurion.
Of course the most famous centurion of all was Cornelius. In the Book of Acts, he was a man of valiant prayer who sought God through Christ. Cornelius became a believer after his encounter with the Apostle Peter.
Acts 27 records a centurion by the name of Julius whom the Apostle Paul encountered on his voyage to Rome.
All three of the Synoptic Gospels record the life-changing rescue of the centurion at the foot of the cross. The account of Luke is somewhat different from the accounts of Matthew and Mark. The reason why this is so will be apparent in a little bit.
What was a centurion? A centurion was also called a legionnaire. A legionnaire, the commander of one hundred men, a unit in the Roman Army known as a century, was called a Centurion. He had absolute authority over these men.
Publius, a first-century historian, said that in order to be a centurion one had to have unusually high intelligence and physical stamina. If a man was chosen to be a centurion, he was the elite of a chosen few. The centurion was that kind of man.
Why did this centurion become convinced that Jesus was indeed the Son of God? Why did he become convinced that Jesus was a good man? Subsequent history indicates that this man became a Christian. He accepted Christ, confessed Him, and followed Him in all matters. I trust that is so.
Have you ever thought about why you are a Christian?
• Why are you not a skeptic?
• Why are you not an atheist?
• Why are you not a Madelyn Murray O’Hair?
• Why do you believe this Bible is true?
• Why have you chosen to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is?
Why did this man choose to believe? What inspired and motivated him? What caused him to shout out in a doxology of praise, “Truly this was the Son of God!”? If anything will convince you that Jesus is all He said He is, surely it is the experience of the cross.
There are four reasons why I believe the centurion burst out with, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST
The centurion could see the obvious goodness of Jesus Christ. Luke 23:47 records that the centurion said, “Certainly this man was innocent” (or righteous). You may think this is a contradiction with what is recorded in Matthew and Mark. The truth of the matter is that there is no contradiction. In essence what he exclaimed was, “Truly this was the Son of God, a righteous man!” He stated both of those.
What made him see the goodness of Jesus Christ? While the other people were hating, Jesus was loving. Those who passed by were railing at Him, but Jesus was blessing. One of the two thieves was pronouncing damnation upon the executioners, but Jesus was asking for their forgiveness. “He could have called ten thousand angels,” but He didn’t.
There was a look about His facial countenance that showed He cared. Even when His mouth was as dry as sand, even when blood was spurting from His hands and feet, even when the thorns on His head were piercing His forehead and scalp, causing Him excruciating pain – Jesus still thought about others.
Mark records that the centurion was standing opposite Jesus.
That meant that he was right there very close. He literally had a bird’s eye view of the crucifixion. When those two thieves were thrown on the cross they resisted and struggled as the nails were placed into their hands and feet. Yet when the Roman soldiers grabbed the Lord Jesus to nail Him to on the cross, He did not resist. Jesus plainly said, “You don’t need to take My life from Me – no man can do that! I lay it down freely!” They watched Jesus as He climbed upon that cross
and gave His life freely.
Artists, most of the time, have drawn the cross incorrectly.
They will show it fifteen or twenty feet in the air. The truth of the matter is that the feet of the person being crucified were only a foot or two off the ground. When the mob would come by, they could mock at the victim’s nakedness. Sometimes they would use rods and hit various parts of the victim’s body. They might tear his beard from his face or strike him with their fists.