The Bystanders: The Centurion

By Chad Hershberger

This week, as we continue to observe the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I invite you to join me in being mindful of God’s gifts. We’ll have a series of blog posts that look at the eyewitnesses of the Crucifixion and how the events of this week still have meaning to us today.

In Luke’s gospel (23:47-49), we encounter another bystander at the Crucifixion of Jesus. It’s the centurion who was standing guard as part of the Roman army and was an eyewitness to the events of Good Friday. In fact, he provided testimony that Luke records in his writing. After Jesus’ death, he proclaimed, “Certainly this man was innocent.” Crowds were gathered, they left crying and wailing, and some women followers of Jesus stood nearby watching what was going on.

The centurion seems like an unlikely person to get a mention in a gospel writing! But Luke felt it important to show that even one of the Roman soldiers could see that the Jesus was for real.

In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, they record that the centurion at the foot of the cross said that Jesus was “God’s son.” Many consider him to be the first Christian because of his testimony here.

During this time in the Roman army, centurions were commanders who led about 100 others, called legionaries. They were expected to lead by example and were promoted to that role for being an exemplary solider. Their responsibilities included handling supplies, logistics, and discipline.

What can the centurion remind us today? Even in small ways, we can be witness of Jesus and spread the good news. And unlike the centurion, Jesus has prepared us to do that! And with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can go out and proclaim the good news of Christ to others.