“I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean…”
One of Mark’s minor yet major characters at the scene of Christ’s death was “the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus,…” He was on duty, responsible as an agent of the state to carry out the crucifixion. He had probably done this number out times and had perhaps grown callous to the process.
War does that. Serving in the military or policing may well jade soldiers and officers in their outlook. They are often dealing with the worst of society and may reach the point where nothing surprises them anymore.
But this centurion was in for a huge surprise. He was to an eyewitness of the death of Jesus, who is called the Christ. Had he ever encountered Jesus before? Had he heard Him teach? Had he watched the growing envy among the Jewish leaders who, humanly speaking, had called for Christ’s death?
“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” After being on the cross for six hours, He drew His final breath. It had been an eventful day with many watching, including a group of women and His own mother. Two thieves had been part of the event and had drawn radically different conclusions. Jesus had uttered many remarkable statements and now having cried out, “It is finished!” He dies.
Mark preserves the conclusion, openly confessed by this military man, this leader of one hundred soldiers. “And when the centurion who stood there in front of Jesus, saw HOW HE DIED, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
How far beyond the posted charge over the head of Jesus! Pilate had ordered the sign be crafted in three languages with the text – “This is Jesus the King of Jews!” The Jewish leaders had expressed their opposition to this wording, but Pilate had declared “What I have written, I have written.” And now the centurion charged with following protocol confesses his grasp of the Person of Christ.
Did he become a Christ follower? We don’t know. Was his testimony impactful on others? Mark records it, and likely many heard it. I doubt this military man spoke with an ‘inside voice.’
How openly do I confess to others who Jesus is? It becomes far easier to openly confess who He is, when I first “stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how HE could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean!”