Summary: Centurions represented the best of Roman men. They rose through the ranks to become commanders of one hundred men. Those who appear in the New Testament are presented as strong and good men. This unnamed centurion witnessed the climatic events conn
Title: The Face of Faith: The Centurion
Text: Matthew 27:54
Scripture Reading: Matthew 27:45-56 (GW)
45 At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.
46 About three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
47 When some of the people standing there heard him say that, they said, “He's calling Elijah.” 48 One of the men ran at once, took a sponge, and soaked it in some vinegar. Then he put it on a stick and offered Jesus a drink.
49 The others said, “Leave him alone! Let's see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 Then Jesus loudly cried out once again and gave up his life.
51 Suddenly, the curtain in the temple was split in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split open.
52 The tombs were opened, and the bodies of many holy people who had died came back to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after he had come back to life, and they went into the holy city where they appeared to many people.
54 An army officer and those watching Jesus with him saw the earthquake and the other things happening. They were terrified and said, “Certainly, this was the Son of God!”
55 Many women were there watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee and had always supported him.
56 Among them were Mary from Magdala, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of Zebedee's sons.
Matthew wrote this about when Jesus died on the cross.
And Jesus… yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Centurions represented the best of Roman men. They rose through the ranks to become commanders of one hundred men. Those who appear in the New Testament are presented as strong and good men.
This unnamed centurion witnessed the climatic events connected with Christ’s death. He was probably at the arrest and the trial; we know that he was at the cross. What he saw and heard had a profound effect on him. Just after the earthquake at Jesus’ death the centurion confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God.” He had become a man of faith in Jesus Christ. This is the confession that God wants to hear from each one of us. If we look closely at this “face of faith” beneath the cross, perhaps we too can join him in his confession.
There are just two things that I want to present to you today:
First, the evidence for faith.
Second, the evidence of faith.
This noble man didn’t begin by believing in Jesus, he had to change his mind about Him in a relative short time. He set out to help the Jews rid themselves of a nuisance but soon confessed the nuisance to be none less than the Son of God. What is the evidence that changed his mind?
First, there was the evidence for faith.
There was the manner of Christ’s suffering. Never had the centurion seen one human being undergo so much abuse. He had been harassed, beaten, mocked, whipped, spat on, and crucified. But not once did the victim lose His poise or react in anger. Even as the soldiers nailed Him to the cross, He was meek and submissive. The only words He spoke were a prayer: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
Observing Christ’s behavior gave the centurion a strange feeling. What kind of man was this? Surely He must be more than human! The centurion had been an eyewitness of Christ’s suffering from the very beginning. After Pilate ordered Him to be crucified, the centurion became one of those who joined in the humiliation and punishment of the Savior.
Matthew describes the scene like this: Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. The soldiers were free to do with Him as they pleased. He became a plaything for this brutal, cruel crowd.
And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” It is frightful what they did to Him—Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. The soldiers took this opportunity to have fun with Him before He was crucified. Since He was going to die anyway, they could mutilate Him and do anything they wished with Him.