The Response of the Soldiers

We have examined so far four supernatural events of the cross—the darkness, the torn veil, the earthquake, and the resurrection of the saints. Today we come to a final supernatural happening. Some may not think the response of the centurion and other soldiers is supernatural. However, any time someone has the faith to see Jesus for who He really is, God is at work.

This would not be the last time that someone would come face to face with the power of Christ and the cross and respond in faith. The confession of the soldiers has been spoken over and over again throughout history. Dan Leach, who lived just outside of Houston, Texas, made this same confession after being presented the evidence about Christ. On January 19, 2004, Dan Leach pulled off the perfect crime. By getting ideas from a popular television crime show, he murdered his girlfriend, but made it appear a suicide.  The authorities ruled the death of the girl a suicide. But on March 7, 2004, Dan Leach walked into the local Sheriff’s Department and confessed to the murder giving very specific details that detectives said only the murderer would have known. What made Dan confess? Earlier that day, he went alone to a showing of the movie, The Passion of the Christ. After seeing what he called the death of an innocent man, he realized that he could not truly repent of his sin unless he turned himself in for the murder. A miracle occurs anytime a person turns from sin to the Savior.

As his title suggests, a centurion was commander over one hundred soldiers. “Those with him” suggests regular soldiers. The important thing to understand is that these soldiers were just doing a job. They had presided over countless other crucifixions. The crucifixion of Jesus was no different than any other crucifixion. These soldiers had no emotional attachment whatsoever to what was going on that day. That’s what makes this confession so amazing. They are not looking to follow Jesus. They had not investigated Jesus’ works or His words. But, when confronted with what they saw that day, they had no other choice but to exclaim, “Truly this was the son of God.”

Let’s remind ourselves of a few things in the context of this confession. The centurion and other soldiers made this confession in light of the works of God. The darkness, the torn veil, the earthquake, and the resurrected bodies certainly must have made an impression on the soldiers. Second, the soldiers made their confession in light of the way that Jesus died. We sometimes talk about someone dying with dignity. Never has anyone died in a more humble, yet dignified way as Jesus. Finally, the soldiers made their confession in light of the words of Jesus. Remember that Jesus spoke seven phrases from the cross. Two of these phrases must have stood out to the soldiers. First, Jesus said specifically about the soldiers, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Second, Jesus said to one of the criminals, “Assuredly, I say unto you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Certainly in the midst of the works of God and the way the He died, the soldiers must have been amazed at the words of Jesus.

Most of all, we need to draw some conclusions from this confession. First, God desires that all would be saved. Consider the heart of God:

  • There is no past so problematic that God will not pursue.
  • There is no heart so hard that God cannot soften.
  • There is no sin so sinful that God cannot forgive.

The second conclusion to draw from the confession is that God demands a decision. Just as the cross demanded a response from the soldiers, Jesus, through the cross, demands and deserves a response from us.

In Bach’s oratorio, St. Matthew’s Passion, he designed the finale to make a very specific point. The finale musically dramatized the confession of the centurion. Bach felt that it was not enough to reflect only the confession of the centurion. He knew that every person must be willing to make this confession their confession. So, instead of the line being a solo, the entire choir sings this part. In addition, in the musical score accompanying this phrase, Bach musically wrote in his name for the bass line. This was Bach’s way of saying, “I believe that Jesus is the son of God.”

Can you put your name on this line? You must! For, God desires that all would be saved.  God demands your decision today.