This Week's Story

A Roman centurion is shocked by what happens at the crucifixion of Jesus.

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

A Centurion Watches, part two

We were a crowd locked in darkness on Skull Hill.  The sun’s light had vanished with no warning.  I sent soldiers to get lighted torches and continued to sit upon my horse in front of three crosses. Each had a prisoner nailed to it, who was struggling for oxygen.  My presence was essential.  With my armor and silver-plated helmet topped with feathers I was Rome’s authority, and hated by the crowd around me.

What a day this has been in Jerusalem! I was charge officer for the crucifixion of Jesus and two criminals.  When I received my orders, I expected nothing unusual. In my experience crucifixion is common and unpleasant. However, the crucifixion of Jesus was unlike any that my men and I have seen, and we are veterans of execution.

I joined the Roman Army infantry when I was nineteen.  Spirit and discipline make our army powerful.   We’ve been trained to march twenty miles a day with an eighty pound pack, swim rivers, climb mountains, penetrate forests, and anticipate danger.  We fight with broadswords, half-broadswords, spears, and darts; and carry a personal dagger.  In my rise to becoming a centurion, I started from the bottom and was promoted for courage and skill. I do not expect to go home.  Nor am I allowed to marry.  One hundred soldiers

are accountable to me.  I am to be their role model and leader in battle and campaign.  We know that we are part of the greatest army on earth.  We have 28 legions, about 168,000 soldiers.  Death is our duty and our glory.

None of my military life prepared me for today.  This morning at 9:00 A.M. the Jewish temple guards gave the prisoner Jesus to us.  He had already been through three interrogations, a Roman beating, and torturing.  When we took him to the place of execution on Skull Hill, we did not know when he would die.  Death by crucifixion was planned to be a slow and agonizing process.

One of the criminals beside Jesus kept mocking him, “So you’re the Messiah, the Son of God, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

The other criminal had a different attitude.  He said, “Don’t you fear God even when you are dying?  We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”  Then in his pain, he pleaded, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

I was startled when Jesus, who was gasping for breath, replied, “I assure you, today, you will be with me in paradise.”

When have I ever heard a man dying upon a cross make that claim?  Never!

In the darkness I heard Jesus cry out loudly, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jewish leaders mocked him, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself!”

His mother Mary was standing near the cross.  Jesus saw her standing beside John, evidently a beloved follower.  I heard tenderness as he spoke, “Woman, he is your son.”  He directed John, “She is your mother.” What love!

When the darkness lifted at 3:00 P.M., we heard him say, “It is finished!”  His head dropped and he was dead.

Immediately the ground began trembling and cracks began opening. My men and I were terrified.  Words burst from my mouth, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

This evening I have many questions.  What does the death of Jesus mean?  I must learn more about him.

This is Barbara Steiner and like the centurion, the more I know of Jesus, the more I want to know.  My primary source for this story was the Bible, but I also used many other historical sources.  Please check out

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