The Roman soldier was a leader of men, yet it was his obligation to follow orders. They came through the ranks after serving in the military for years. The requirements to become an officer were often difficult. The candidate had to be able to read so he could carry out written orders. He needed to be extremely fit and strong to wield the sword and carry the heavy shield. In addition his troops were well disciplined and ready. These were men who aptly followed orders and executed them to the letter.
That day they were in charge of a crucifixion. Three men were to be executed. The cross was the instrument of torture used for this horrible death. It was designed to support the body enough so that the flesh wouldn’t tear away from the nails, yet it was positioned in such a way that the victim would slowly suffocate because of lack of support and oxygen flow to the lungs. It was a slow and painful death.
Soldiers are used to seeing the ugly side of life. When in battle, they’re subjected to death, suffering, bloodshed and adrenaline rising to the limit, but this was different. These men had been accused of crimes against the government and had to be dealt with. Just another day for a soldier and officer of the state – nothing like the field of battle and yet a battle was being waged at that very moment – one for the hearts of men.
The victims were laid out on their crosses. Soldiers hoisted the beams to an upright position and each body let out a gasp of pain as the air was sucked from their lungs for a moment. They waited to die.
The one in the center had already gone through hours of torture. He’d suffered the tearing of His flesh by the scourge – a beating that would have killed most. He’d been on public display, humiliated and spat upon. He carried the weight His own cross to His execution.
The soldiers sat below the cross and gambled for the seamless, homespun robe of purple which had been placed on the back of the supposed king of the Jews. They laughed and enjoyed the moment. Finally the sky began to fill with darkness as the man uttered His final words.
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
The earth began to shake as Jesus died that day. Rocks came tumbling down, Lightening pierced through the heavy sky. The Centurion looked upon the face of the stricken soldier on the cross and knew that He was more than just a man as he declared, “Truly this was the Son of God!”