A Very Short Story: The Centurian's Confession

I was a young Centurion un­der Herod’s rule. I lead the 60 soldiers of my cen­turia as we slaugh­tered the male babies in Beth­le­hem two years of age and younger. I was in charge of car­ry­ing out Pon­tius Pi­late’s cow­ard­ly ver­dict aimed at ap­peas­ing the jeal­ous Jewish elite in Jerusalem. I se­lect­ed five men from my centuria who had accompanied me in Bethlehem and we carried out the task of cru­ci­fy­ing a man named Je­sus.

Once we had him in our cus­tody, I stood by as my sol­diers beat and mocked him. I couldn’t stand his stoicism and lost my­self, strik­ing him as well. Since he would not speak, we spoke for him, “All hail, king of the Jews.” I de­cid­ed that since he was so mighty, he could car­ry his own cross. He seemed in­tent on some­thing else; some­thing be­yond our com­pre­hen­sion. It made me and my men fu­ri­ous even though we didn’t know him.

I nor­mal­ly don’t do this, but I nailed this man to the cross my­self. The nails felt as if they pierced my own skin but I ig­nored the pain. I mind­less­ly joined my men gam­bling for his gar­ments. We cru­ci­fied him on the third hour. It be­came eerily dark from the sixth through the ninth hour. Then, there was an earthquake. I heard a report to the Jewish leaders that the veil of the temple had ripped from top to bottom. I know those whose dead friends and rel­a­tives ap­peared to them around this time. They spoke of accompanying them back to their graves.

Some­one ap­proached me with an or­der from Pi­late for Je­sus’ body. I pierced his side to be sure he was dead. He was. The blood in his heart had al­ready co­ag­u­lat­ed, and wa­ter to­geth­er with blood flowed down my sword, over my hand, and on­to the ground.

I began to shake as I considered all that had transpired. I looked up to him and spoke the words that emp­tied my soul of all I was, “Sure­ly, this was the Son of God.” My men and I have been filled with re­morse to this day. Strange. I felt we com­mit­ted a greater sin in killing that one man than all the chil­dren we slaugh­tered in Beth­le­hem. That’s a dis­tinc­tion of con­science I wish up­on no one.

It’s 2012 and I still walk the ground you’re stand­ing on. I have dif­fer­ent mem­o­ries in each new body. My orig­i­nal mem­o­ries dawn on me as I age and re­al­ize who I was. First, memories of having been a soldier haunt me. I feel an instinct of violence and an ability to carry it out. Then, I'm horrified as I realize I slaughtered babies and crucified the Christ. I remember he died for me even though I raised my own hands against him. The man I once chased and slaugh­tered is my new king. His peace settles upon me.

I still meet my sol­diers from time to time. Though we don’t have the same bod­ies, there is still a recog­ni­tion be­tween us. They are Ro­man sol­diers in dif­fer­ent skin and cultures. They silent­ly rec­og­nize me as their old Centurion. My men and I will join Christ when he re­turns. Mean­while, he has sentenced us to remain on earth, living life after life, bound by covenant to forbear violence against all; even those deserving. We are called to forbear as we are ridiculed and despised by those who are much like we were. In some lives, we are murdered or put to death. However, our sufferings are nothing compared to the comfort he gives us and the assurance that we are his.

To what end do our lives continue? We don't know. It's only for us to obey. We are not earning our salvation. Jesus won that for us and his Father long ago. What could we hope for after mocking and killing the Lamb of God? We thank him ev­ery­day for his mer­cy. O the depth of the rich­es both of the wis­dom and knowl­edge of God! how un­search­able are his judg­ments, and his ways past find­ing out!

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