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What the soldier saw


And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”                      -Luke 19:9-10

What a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week!

Inside the capitol this week a chaplain prayed the opening prayer invoking a Hindu god, and prayer was closed saying ‘Amen and Awoman.’

And then outside the capitol building a mob broke through Capitol police barriers and rampaged through the capitol.

Some were asking where Vice-President Mike Pence was to try and physically intimidate him to do what we all had heard the President had explicitly said he expected Pence to do. Very disappointing.


I was already reeling this week because of the news about Ravi Zacharias. Ravi Zacharias was the great Christian apologist who died earlier this year.

This week his ministry board gave the staggering results of an investigation they had commissioned. It showed that Zacharias had indeed been guilty of  wrongdoing on many occasions.

In many ways this week an old saying has been proven true for us –

When you set your eyes on other people, they will let you down. But when you set your eyes on Jesus, He will lift you up.

Today we are going to hear about a Roman soldier, a centurion that did that as Jesus died on the cross for our sins.

And as we look at how he saw what Jesus did, may we too remember to look to Jesus above in the midst of a world full of sinful people like ourselves.

Read Luke 23:44-49           What the soldier saw                    Let’s Pray!


Centurions were non-commissioned officers in the Roman army or its auxiliary policing armies.

Like a junior officer in modern armies, senior centurion probably was as far up the ladder as they could go.

Troops in Judea were auxiliaries and would be rewarded with Roman citizenship after 25 years service.

A century is a hundred years, and a centurion commanded 100 men.

He carried a vine-staff that was a symbol of his disciplinary authority.

It looks like this centurion was over the unit that executed criminals against the state.

He served under Pilate’s authority and was over the men who physically tortured and crucified Jesus.

What the solider saw when he looked at the people around him       

The Centurion was probably disappointed as he saw Pilate’s actions  

Early that morning the religious leaders had drug Jesus to Pilate.

Pilate hated dealing with these guys! 

From the first they didn’t really have anything legitimate to charge Jesus with, nothing meriting executing Jesus.

But Pilate kept hoping to find a way to appease those religious rulers without giving into their demands to executing Jesus.

But nothing Pilate did was good enough for them and the growing mob they led.

Pilate found Jesus innocent; Herod found Jesus innocent; Pilate found Jesus innocent again.

The Centurion knew that what you are supposed to do with an innocent man is release him.

Yet Pilate had him and his troops scourge Jesus and crucify Him.

Astonishingly, the Centurion saw Barabbas released, a man who had been responsible for deaths in Jerusalem through insurrection.

Pilate had let him down and was asking him to kill an innocent man.

Pilate himself made a big deal of washing his hands of Jesus, of having another man carry Jesus’ cross up Skull mountain, of refusing to change the sign that said “King of the Jews.”

But he still expected the Centurion and his men to do the dirty work of death. How could Pilate put him and his men in such a situation?!

The centurion could only sleep at night now knowing the ones he executed were guilty and being kept from doing it again! But this man was not guilty, and if the sign was right, so much more than a normal man!

The Centurion was probably disgusted when he saw the religious rulers’ actions.

These guys followed a lot of religious rules but there was such hate in their heart!

Earlier in the day they refused to enter Pilate’s residence because they said it would defile them and make them unclean and unable to keep their Passover schedule.

SARCASTICALLY – “Oh, so killing this man Jesus won’t make you unclean but being around sinful Gentiles like us will?”

What pieces of work those religious rulers were.

The centurion had heard about how Jesus’ love and teaching and miracles had transformed so many lives, and he knew these guys were jealous of Jesus and felt threatened by Jesus.

They so badly wanted to keep their power over the people through their oppressive rules that they didn’t even seriously investigate whether Jesus’ claims were the truth. They had badly let their own people down by ruining Passover.

They were so filled with pride they couldn’t imagine the Christ coming and not checking in with them first!

Here they were, mocking and judging a man who was a far better Man than them, and if what Jesus said before Pilate was true, would one day judge them.

The Centurion probably saw the discouragement of Jesus’ followers.

There were so many women crying so intensely for Jesus, including His mother.

It’s so much harder when there are family members around – you keep having to move them away from the crosses.

He probably had a mother somewhere, although who knows when he would get to see her again.

Somewhere inside of him it may have made him feel bad that Jesus’ mom had to hear what the religious rulers were saying, and the other criminals, and the centurion’s own men.

Perhaps Mary made eye contact with him and he felt how much she felt let down by him for doing this to Jesus.

He also felt a little sad for Jesus. Only his male disciple John was close, the others were nervously watching from a distance trying not to be seen.

Oh, but he saw them – the preparations they had made to deal with any of the co-conspirators of Barabbas they just kept in place to deal with the disciples of Jesus.

But it didn’t look like they had much to worry about with those guys – standing at a distance bawling their eyes out. He probably couldn’t help but think of how they had let Jesus down.

That’s what people wind up doing to each other – let us down.

What the solider saw (and heard) when he looked at Jesus above him

There was the centurion, taking all these things in!

They had put Jesus on the cross about 9 AM.

In those first 3 hours, Jesus had said three things, and they all probably moved the Centurion.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”                                                                                                                -Luke 23:34

The centurion must have been astonished when he heard that!

He had heard a lot of things leading the crucifixion squad, but never anything like that!

The centurion thought of all the people he needed to forgive, and ask to forgive him!


The second thing he heard Jesus say…

One of the criminals had a change of heart, and seemingly asked Jesus to save him spiritually.

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”                                        -Luke 23:43

The centurion had never heard anything like that before.

Death was the final reality, as far as he was concerned.

He had never seen anyone confidently speak about what they would be doing after death.

Jesus was not only confident His life would go on in a Perfect Place, He was saying He had the power to bring that evildoer with Him there, despite all that turkey had done.

Could it be true, the centurion wondered?


The third thing the centurion saw and heard Jesus say…

When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to His disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.                                                                 -John 19:26-27

The centurion could hardly believe it.

The crucifixion is so painful, yet here Jesus had the presence of mind to make sure his mom was taken care of before He died.

The centurion couldn’t help but think of his own mom out there somewhere, and how little thought he had given to making sure she was okay.

And that’s when the lights went out!

Look at Luke 23:44

It was noon, and from noon to 3 darkness covered the land!


There was not an eclipse scheduled – this was the doing of God or the gods. The centurion wondered if it was the work if the guy on the cross! He was the only one who didn’t seem to be rattled by it!

For the next three hours Jesus didn’t say anything. Then came the fourth saying…

And about the ninth hour (3 PM) Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”                                                                                               -Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34

Some thought that Jesus was calling for Elijah, but the centurion was close enough to hear what Jesus had said.

Why in that moment did Jesus feel forsaken by His God?

Looking back we now understand that at that moment the sins of the world were downloaded on Jesus’ back, our sins transferred to the sacrificial lamb who could take away those sins.

Everything about the crucifixion was painful, but I submit to you this was the most painful.

In that moment the Father looked down and saw not His son but the sin of all of us miserable wretches that would ever live here on earth.

And He had turn away, and the unbroken fellowship between God the Father and Son was broken for that short time. And so Jesus cried out!    

He was being forsaken so that you and I and the centurion could be accepted!


“I thirst.”                                          -John19:28

The centurion didn’t know that one of the ways people would later try to explain away the cross was by saying that Jesus didn’t really go to the cross, a ghost of some kind looked like He was up there.

But the centurion could shatter that!

He knew that he had instructed his men to put some sour wine to Jesus’ mouth to alleviate the real suffering He was enduring as a real man there!

Jesus had a look of resolve in his eyes, as best as he could see as he held up a torch in the darkness.

And then he heard the last two things Jesus said from the cross, in rapid succession…

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished (tetelestai)!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.                      -John 19:30

The Centurion had seen those words before.

They were written on bills of sale by vendors, to indicate “Paid in Full!”

Everything it would take for a repentant sinner to be accepted by God rather than judged for their own sins had been taken care of by Jesus on that cross!

And then Jesus said…

And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last.             -Luke 23:46

The centurion had seen many men die of crucifixion. None of them had gotten to dictate the terms of when they died, and simply call it out like Jesus just had.

He understood that neither he nor Pilate nor the Religious Rulers was really moving this slice of history along, but Jesus Himself!

And at that moment the earth shook beneath the Centurion’s feet, an earthquake that seemed like a final drum roll from Jesus about the importance of what He had just done!

Later the centurion would understand that at that moment the veil at the Temple was torn away, the veil that separated God and everyone but the High Priest on his yearly visit.

Now everyone could go directly to God through Jesus, the Mediator between God and man.

Look at verse 47 –

SO when the Centurion saw what happened, he glorified God, saying…

“Certainly this was a righteous man!” According to M & M, he also said, truly this was the Son of God!”

I hope that “he glorified God” means we will see that soldier in Heaven!

He had looked around at his fellow man and was disappointed, but when He looked up at Jesus He glorified God!

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”                                                                                    Jesus in John 12:32

“Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other!”                        -Isaiah 45:22

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the more we look to our fellow men to meet our deeper needs, the more we will be disappointed!

But if we keep looking up tp Jesus, we will be saved!

Sinner’s Prayer