This man was the Son of God.
The Centurion stood at the foot of the cross, dumbfounded. The words had spilled out of his mouth before he even thought about them. A few members of his century shot him sideways glances, but he could see the fear in their faces just as clearly as he perceived it in his own heart. He felt himself begin to tremble. How many times had he seen death, never once troubled by it? How many times had he overseen the torment that led to the death of criminals and insurgents? This man was different. Why? Why had he forgiven where others condemned? Why had he prayed where others blasphemed?
If this man—this wretched, beaten, whipped man—was the Son of God, then what judgment would fall on their heads for their participation in his death? The Centurion staggered back from the cross a few steps, craning his neck to read the words Pilate had written: Rex Iudaeorum. King of the Jews. From the rumors, Pilate had not even wanted to crucify the man in the first place. Now here the man was, this “King of the Jews,” his body dead and slack. The sky raged. The earth shook.
There could be no question of it. Death and judgment from the heavens would surely fall on the Centurion and his men—this God would strike them down for their crimes against his Son.
Yet no judgment fell. The man’s body was removed from the cross and taken away to be buried.
One of the soldiers, Quintus by name, walked to the Centurion’s side and grimaced. “Son of God, sir? I think not. He is dead. They are carrying him away now as we speak.”
The Centurion’s eyes followed the mourning group of Jews who walked away with the man’s body. “No. That man—that ‘King of the Jews’—he is the Son of God. I am certain of it.”
Quintus scoffed. “Which God, exactly?”
“That,” the Centurion said, glancing up at the clouded and stormy sky, “is what I do not yet know.”
“The Centurion” copyright 2017 by A.L.S. Vossler.
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