What started out as a typical day, soon changed...
I was almost immune to death. Day in and day out, watching men draw their last breath was part of my job description. It was a part of life...and I had accepted it. I was a career man in the Roman military...termed a centurion for my troop size of one hundred loyal soldiers. I led one of Rome's local forces in the occupied territory of Jerusalem.
One historian had stated that soldiers like me were the backbone of the Roman army, that centurions were not prone to take offense or start fighting on a whim...we are loyal...steadfast...and able, in the midst of adversity. We were willing to die at our posts rather than surrender or retreat.
One of my responsibilities was to oversee punishment for crimes...especially capital punishment. My unit was in charge of all scourgings and crucifixions. Over the years, I had become calloused...so hardened...by seeing so many men die. I knew a lot about men. I observed enough to know what a man was made of...not by the way he lived...but by the way he died.
This day, was different...unlike anything I had ever saw. Our orders were clear...crucify three men. Just another typical day...I thought...
I was pulling a double shift...seems as though one of these three men was somebody special...a king they said...king of the Jews. And my orders were to personally make sure that this so-called king received the 'royal treatment'. And at my command, he did...treatment like no other prisoner had ever received...yet, something about Him was different...
I was there during the last twenty-four hours of His life. I saw what happend...I ordered it...I saw what He endured...I heard what He said. He was different...unlike any man I had ever seen before.
After the long trip up the mountain, trying to maintain the chaos that was taking place with that ridiculous mob of people...and making sure these three men didn't escape...the time had come to put an end to this day...kill them...crucify them all. Then I could go off duty...go home and get some rest.
One by one, we held these three men down, stretched out their arms, and began to drive the spikes through their hands. For years, I had followed my orders...for years I had killed many men...for years, I had looked in their eyes to see anger...bitterness...pain...fear. But not this time. His eyes were not filled with that same anger...I couldn't imagine it...so I looked deeper. And I just could not believe what I saw...in the midst of pain...death...I saw a heart that was breaking...breaking with compassion. As He looked at those around the cross, He said something almost unbelievable...I could not believe my ears. Never had I heard a man...a crucified man say such words. I was accustomed to hearing them curse and swear and scream...but never words like this man spoke...this king...this king of the Jews. When He looked at us and cried out, "Father forgive them, for they don't have any idea what they're doing". What?!...what did He just say?! How could anyone ask for forgiveness for those who had just carried out the most horrible form of capital punishment known to man? I thought to myself, who is this Man...what resides deep inside Him...what's happening?
His words dug their way deep into my heart...but they weren't the only words He spoke during those last six hours that haunted my soul.
He was killed between two other men. At first, both of them yelled at Him...one of them demanded that He get them all down off their crosses. The vileness of that man's life showed in the words he hurled.
Suddenly the other crucified man look at at him and asked that he be remembered...remembered...remembered for what? Then this man, this King looked at him with those same eyes of loving compassion and promised the criminal that he would be with Him very soon...in a place called Paradise.
Then suddenly something happened that stunned the entire land. There it was, 12 Noon, and the entire sky went black. The sun was gone, and darkness prevailed over all the land. Here I was, the leader of this group of soldiers...the strong one...the confident one, yet inside, I was horrified. For deep down, I knew what was taking place. It was in this black hour of judgment that the sins of the entire world was placed upon this man...this man they called Jesus...and He must bear this cross, alone.
As the final minutes were quickly ticking away in this man's life, He was still concerned about others, and offered comfort and a promise of a better tomorrow. I've never seen a man die the way He did. What kind of man cares for others while His life is being drained from His body? I tell you I've seen a lot of men die...but I've never seen a man die like Jesus died.
The hours passed...death was hammering on the anvil of Jesus' life...and as the final minutes were approaching, He managed to raise His head toward the sky. And as He did, I watched His eyes...they seemed to be searching the heavens, almost like a lost child searches the crowd for his father. What was He doing? What was He...maybe, Who was He looking for? Then out of His mouth came words that began to crumble my heart that had turned to stone over the years. Through the blood and through the tears as He continue to search the sky, He cried out with such a lonely, haunting voice, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
Little did I know what Jesus was seeing on that heavenly stage...and it was as though for just a brief moment I was allowed a box seat to the Kingdom event of the ages. For there, standing on the edge of heaven was His Father...and slowly His Father was turning away while His Son was drawing His last breaths. And all around His Father were angels, thousands of them...everywhere. And I could see the look on the angels faces...they couldn't believe it either...there they were, gathered on the verge of attack...waiting for the battle cry to come and rescue this King off the cross. And I could see one specific angel, a leader like me, and I could almost hear his voice as he screamed, "come on Jesus, just say the word and we'll rescue You, we'll take those nails out of your hands and feet, and take you off that cross and destroy every single human in sight! Come on Jesus, come on! Please Jesus, let us take care of all this! No...No, Jesus, please don't die! Just one small word is all we need! Just say it...say it please!"
But He never called them...He just lowered His head and looked at us...and He looked at me. It was at that moment that I saw what others were proclaiming. And as He closed His eyes for the last time, I knew I was in the presence of someone very special...someone who changed lives...someone who had just changed mine.
My heart was absolutely melting away as I watched this remarkable man die...under my orders...by my hand. There I was, standing at the foot of the cross...His cross...drenched in His blood...with tears streaming down my face, and I felt as though the weight of the mountain had been lifted off my chest. Something had just happened...He really was who they said He was..."Surely this man was the Son of God!"
Before I walked away, I had look one more time at this man called Jesus. And as I was standing there, I somehow knew that I was standing in the presence of God. I knew I was watching love being poured out on unworthy people...people like my men...people like me. I knew that Jesus' death somehow, was for me.
I've seen a lot of men die...but I've never seen anyone die like Jesus.
I have to close this entry now, rest must wait. For there are others...my friends...my family...my men that need to hear. There are many that I must go tell...