Work on an assembly line and you do the same thing day in and day out. Lots of jobs are that way. I filled bottles with herbicide at DuPont as a winter job for a number of years. It becomes rote once you get the hang of it.
I suppose even something as gruesome as crucifixion could become routine. To a hardened soldier, desensitized by years of combat, it might come a little easier. Can you imagine the horrific injuries he witnessed? Consider the instruments of war used by the Romans. Consider what passed for medical treatment. I don’t like to think about it, but this was the centurion’s reality. Look it from his point of view. Carrying out a crucifixion was just another day at work. Let’s let him talk.
Yes, I am a centurion. I have a job with the state. Crucifixion is simply a criminal getting what he deserves. You get used to it. You’ve seen one guy crucified you’ve seen them all–well, until today. I’ve been watching. This one’s different.
After being tried, scourged, pummeled and mocked, this man they’re calling Jesus, on command, willingly picks up the cross beam. With his last ounce of strength he carries it until he collapses. At first I thought he was just resigned to death, but something’s not the same with this guy. He doesn’t resist. The nails are hammered in. He groans in agony. The cross is lifted up and dropped into place. The slow, torturous process of asphyxiation begins.
We put the list of charges on a sign above his head. It says, “This is Jesus. The King of the Jews.” It seems like a strange way of listing charges, but I just do what I’m told.
He’s so different from others I’ve put to death this way. There’s no cursing. There’s no blaming everyone but himself. There’s not even begging for mercy.
Any number of things puzzle me. Like now, for example, in the middle of this torture, he’s telling someone to be sure and take care of his mother?? And why doesn’t he defend himself as the Jewish leaders drop by to make fun of him? Among other things they say he claimed to be God’s son. Even the ones crucified beside him jump in.
But get this. After awhile one of the criminals changes his mind and asks to be remembered in the kingdom. I’m not sure what that means, but the response is very surprising. This one in the middle answers benevolently. What? After all that badmouthing he just forgives him as if it didn’t happen?
Who is this guy? I’ve never seen anyone maintain his composure like this Jesus has through this kind of duress. This is certainly not your run-of-the-mill crucifixion.
Another something strange to add to the growing list. It’s the middle of the day and the sky has turned black. It all seems so ominous. He’s saying something. He thinks God has forsaken him. I guess I can agree with him on that one.
Well it’s been dark for a few hours and it looks like it won’t be long now. I’ll be glad when this crucifixion is over. I heard him say it’s finished and he’s stopped moving. I’m not quite sure what he meant by that either.
Wow! It feels like…it is..an earthquake! How many strange things can happen in one day? Bravery brought me through the ranks to lead solders as a centurion, but now fear wildly surges through my body.
My mind flashes back to events earlier in the day. Pilate tells the Jews, Jesus is innocent. His wife is beside herself, disturbed by some dream that brought her to the same conclusion. Under interrogation by Pilate, Jesus says he’s a king, but “not of this world.”
How do I make sense of all these things?—this man Jesus, unlike any human I have ever encountered, middle of the day darkness, and now an earthquake. I woke up thinking this would be a day like any other. Now I stand here shaking, not knowing how to respond.
Everything I have witnessed points to one conclusion. “Truly this man was God’s Son!”