When I wrote the book Windows on Easter, from which this booklet is adapted, my goal was to take a fresh look at the familiar events of the death and resurrection of Christ by seeing them through the eyes of some of the men and women who were there. Those moments that opened eternity for the undeserving at the cost of the life of the One who is eternally worthy must never be allowed to grow stale.
One of those eyewitnesses was the Roman centurion who assisted at the crucifixion itself. The old spiritual asks the haunting question: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Oh, yes, this man was there.
As we try to imagine what he saw and felt, may the grace and mercy of Christ grasp our hearts in ways that transform us deeply, just as the centurion was transformed.
Through the centuries, soldiers have been despised and they have been revered—despised by those they attack and conquer, revered by those they protect and defend. We are often shocked by the actions that war, itself a result of hatred and sin, compels military personnel to take; yet we are frequently amazed by the courage it requires for soldiers to take those actions. Those of us who have never experienced the horror of combat cannot comprehend the toll a soldier’s work takes on him or her. We will never fully understand what soldiers have endured in the line of duty.
Soldiers suffer the hardships of training and are often subjected, in duty or in combat, to a lifestyle of deprivation. It is a life that sometimes seems barely civilized, alternating between acts of valor and barbarism. To live continually in the shadow of death, to face the reality that you are an agent of death—even for a just cause—is a difficult thing.
The life of a soldier is not an easy life. It isn’t now, and it wasn’t two thousand years ago. Yet, even hearts hardened by the heat of battles and the struggles of military service are not beyond the reach of the gospel or the power of the cross.
Let’s look at this power at work in the life of one soldier—the centurion in charge of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Our Daily Bread Ministries