A soldier stood upon a rocky hill in Judea, fulfilling his duty that day as he had hundreds of other times. His dreadful task was to supervise the deaths of pickpockets and rebels of society on a hill called “The Place of a Skull.” He had been there before, but this day was different.
The centurion was uneasy. He had been since noon.
It wasn’t the deaths that troubled him. He was no stranger to finality. Over the years he’d grown callous to the screams. He’d mastered the art of numbing his heart. But this crucifixion plagued him.
The day began as had a hundred others. It was bad enough to be in Judea, but even worse to spend hot afternoons on a rocky hill supervising the death of troublemakers. Half the crowd taunted, half cried. The soldiers complained. The priests bossed. It was a thankless job in a strange land. He was ready for the day to be over before it began.
But he was curious at the attention given to one of the crucified. He looked worse than the others. His face was lumpy and bruised. His back arched slightly and his eyes faced downward. The centurion smiled at the sign above him on the cross: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”1 The condemned looked like anything but a king.
As the hours wore on, the centurion found himself looking more and more at the center cross. He didn’t understand the man’s silence. He didn’t understand his kindness. But most of all, he was perplexed by the darkness. He didn’t know what to do with the black sky in mid-afternoon. No one could explain it...but no one even tried. One minute the sun, the next darkness.
Suddenly the center head yanked itself up. A roar sliced the silence. “It is finished.”2 The centurion looked around at the rocks that had fallen and the sky that had blackened. He turned and stared at the soldiers as they stared at Jesus with frozen faces. He turned and watched as the eyes of Jesus lifted and looked toward home. He listened as the parched lips parted and the swollen tongue spoke for the last time...“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”3
Had the centurion not said it, the soldiers would have. Had the centurion not said it, the rocks would have—as would have the angels, the stars, or even the demons. But he did say it. It fell to a nameless foreigner to state what they all knew. “Truly this man was the Son of God!”4
Six hours on one Friday. What does that Friday mean? For the life blackened with failure, it means forgiveness. For the heart scarred with futility, it means purpose. For the weary soul, it means deliverance.
Because God loves you, he gave his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross that Friday so that you and I can have eternal life with him in Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”5 Accept God’s free gift of eternal life by believing that Jesus received the punishment for your sins by his death on the cross that Friday afternoon, and “that he was raised [back to life] on the third day”6 after. Confess that you’ve sinned and ask his forgiveness. Invite him into your life and ask for God’s help to turn from your sin. You can pray something like this:
Dear God, I admit that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. Thank you for sending Jesus to suffer the punishment I deserve for my sins. Please come into my life and help me live a life that pleases you. Amen.
1Matthew 27:37, 2John 19:30, 3Luke 23:46, 4Mark 15:39, 5John 14:6, 61 Corinthians 15:4