The Uncommon Spirit Of  A Centurion

The Uncommon Spirit Of A Centurion

The scripture says: when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.  At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.  When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”   Matthew 28:50-54

Imagine the fear inspired by a detachment of Roman legionnaires marching into your village. The ground rumbles beneath one hundred soldiers armed with sword, shield and armour as they move down your street. The entire unit moving as one. Not one solider thinking of his own choices but moving as a single entity. Along side riding on a proud steed is the centurion. Distinguished in attire and character. He is one who worked his way up through the ranks by merit into a position of trusted authority. Seasoned by battle and enforcing law in hundreds of villages throughout the Empire his eyes are filled with a deep knowing. He has a charge and a duty to carry out and is little moved by the opinion of any human spirit.

One Centurion on what would have been an ordinary day of keeping order was witness to the day that shook the city and the world. Perhaps he had heard of Jesus of Nazareth or even seen the crowds that followed him. He may have even been an acquaintance of the centurion who’s servant was healed by Christ. (Matt 8)  He certainly saw the huge crowds watching this  crucifixion. He saw some crying and others mocking. He saw the sign over his head, “This is Jesus. The King of the Jews” He even heard Christ promise one of the other crucified thieves next to him the promise of paradise! There must have been a lot of thinking and considering behind his steely-eyed gaze as he stood watch with his soldiers over this eerie event.

What made this Jesus so special? Another rabble-rouser Jewish extremist? But somehow he doesn’t fit the profile. And why do the priests and religionists hate him so much? Why are they so threatened? In the midst of thought suddenly Jesus clears his throat and yells, “It is finished!” and gives up his spirit as if by choice and purpose. (John 19:30)  Then a violent earthquake! Everything is shaking!  The loud and dramatic waves of earth moving power is rumbling through every soul causing terror, screams near and far… the panic of people running, horses bucking, birds fleeing and rocks falling.

The centurion makes an authoritative decision. “Surely he was the Son of God!” A statement that his men and others must have heard, only adding to the sense of foreboding awe. This very day both the rocks and history split into two and God began to present the question and choice to every human: “But what about you… Who do you say that I am?”  (Matt. 16:15)

He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.  Proverbs 3:34

A Brief Illustration of a Roman Centurion

In ancient Rome the “centurion” meant “captain of 100”, and the Roman centurion was captain over 100 foot soldiers in a legion. The centurion was loyal and courageous, beginning as a soldier in the army and working their way up the ranks. They were noticed by the general for their skill and courage in battle, and were made officers.

The Roman Army

The Army of Rome consisted of three types of soldiers: The Praetorian Guard (Caesar’s bodyguard), The Legionaries (infantry soldiers and officers made up of citizens), and The Auxiliaries (non-citizen troops).

The Centurion Characteristics

The backbones of the Roman army were the centurions. The centurions were legionaries and they were clearly noticed because they wore a special helmet, and a more ornate harness of much better quality. They carried a short vine wood staff as a symbol of rank. They worked their way up the ranks as soldiers, and were promoted for their dedication and courage. They were the veteran soldiers who commanded 100 men each, within a legion of 6,000. There were thus 60 centuries in a legion, each under the command of a centurion. During the time of Augustus there were 28 legions.

The centurion received pay that amounted to more than 20 times the ordinary soldiers pay, about 5,000 denarii per year. There were actually five senior centurions in a legion who received 10,000 denarii per year, and the chief centurion (the first javelin) received 20,000 denarii in pay annually. The common soldier received around 200-300 denarii per year.

During the time of Jesus the headquarters of the Roman army in Judea was located at Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast.

Centurion in the Bible Encyclopedia – ISBE

sen-tu’-ri-un: As the name implies, hekatontarches or hekatontarchos, kenturion, Latin centurio, was the commander of a hundred men, more or less, in a Roman legion. Matthew and Luke use the Greek word while Mark prefers the Latin form, as he does in the case of other words, seeing that he wrote primarily for Roman readers. The number of centurions in a legion was 60, that being at all epochs the number of centuries, although the number varied in the cohort or speira. The ordinary duties of the centurion were to drill his men, inspect their arms, food and clothing, and to command them in the camp and in the field. Centurions were sometimes employed on detached service the conditions of which in the provinces are somewhat obscure. Men like Cornelius and Julius (Acts 10:1; 27:1) may have been separated from the legion to which they properly belonged for the discharge of special duties. They and other centurions mentioned in the Gospels and the Acts (Mt 8:5; Mk 15:39, 44, 45; Lk 23:47) are represented by the sacred writers in a favorable light. Read Full Article

Centurion in Easton’s Bible Dictionary

A Roman officer in command of a hundred men (Mark 15:39, 44, 45). Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, was a centurion (Acts 10:1, 22). Other centurions are mentioned in Matt. 8:5, 8, 13; Luke 7:2, 6; Acts 21:32; 22:25, 26; 23:17, 23; 24:23; 27:1, 6, 11, 31, 43; 28:16. A centurion watched the crucifixion of our Lord (Matt. 27:54; Luke 23:47), and when he saw the wonders attending it, exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” “The centurions mentioned in the New Testament are uniformly spoken of in terms of praise, whether in the Gospels or in the Acts. It is interesting to compare this with the statement of Polybius (vi. 24), that the centurions were chosen by merit, and so were men remarkable not so much for their daring courage as for their deliberation, constancy, and strength of mind.”, Dr. Maclear’s N. T. Hist. Read Full Article

Biblical Definition of Centurion in Fausset’s Bible Dictionary

It is a propriety in the New Testament that centurions are so often favourably noticed. Good conduct was generally the cause of their promotion to the command of a century (properly 100 men). Truthful straightforwardness would make them open to conviction. For instance, the one whose faith Jesus so commends in Matthew 8; Cornelius, whom Peter was by vision sent to, and who is described as “devout, fearing God with all his house, giving much alms to the people, and praying to God always” (Acts 10); Julius, the centurion of Augustus’ band, who entreated Paul courteously and saved his life when threatened by the soldiers (Acts 27:1; Acts 27:3-42; Acts 27:43). In Acts 24:23 translate “the centurion,” namely, the commander of the horse who had conveyed Paul to Caesarea after the other of the two centurions had come back with the infantry (compare Acts 23:23; Acts 23:32). The centurion at the Lord’s crucifixion uttered the testimony so remarkable from a Gentile: “certainly this was a righteous man”; Luke’s explanation (Luke 23:47) of what a Gentile would mean by saying, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).

 How Smith’s Bible Dictionary Explained  Roman Army

The Roman army was divided into legions, the number of which varied considerably (from 3000 to 6000), each under six tribuni (“chief captains,”)

Ac 21:31 who commanded by turns. The legion was subdivided into ten cohorts (“band,”) Ac 10:1 the cohort into three maniples, and the maniple into two centuries, containing originally 100 men, as the name implies, but subsequently from 50 to 100 men, according to the strength of the legion. There were thus 60 centuries in a legion, each under the command of a centurion. Ac 10:1,22; Mt 8:5; 27:54 In addition to the legionary cohorts, independent cohorts of volunteers served under the Roman standards. One of these cohorts was named the Italian, Ac 10:1 as consisting of volunteers from Italy. The headquarters of the Roman forces in Judea were at Caesarea. 

 Bible Verses  About The  “centurion”:

Acts 10:1 – There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian [band],

Acts 10:22 – And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.

Mark 15:44 – And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling [unto him] the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.

Luke 7:6 – Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:

Matthew 8:8 – The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.

Acts 27:1 – And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto [one] named Julius, a centurion of Augustus’ band.

Matthew 8:13 – And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, [so] be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Acts 28:16 – And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.

Acts 22:25 – And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?

Acts 22:26 – When the centurion heard [that], he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.

Acts 27:11 – Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.

Acts 27:43 – But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from [their] purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast [themselves] first [into the sea], and get to land:

Matthew 27:54 – Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

Acts 24:23 – And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let [him] have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.

Acts 27:6 – And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.

Acts 27:31 – Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.

Matthew 8:5 – And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,

Mark 15:39 – And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

Mark 15:45 – And when he knew [it] of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

Luke 23:47 – Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.

The Bible also mentions a lot regarding “soldiers”:

John 19:23 – Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also [his] coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

Acts 10:7 – And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;

Acts 28:16 – And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.

2 Timothy 2:3 – Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 2:4 – No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of [this] life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

John 19:24 – They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.

Ezra 8:22 – For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God [is] upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath [is] against all them that forsake him.

Acts 23:23 – And he called unto [him] two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night;

John 19:23 – Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also [his] coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

Acts 23:10 – And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring [him] into the castle.

1 Chronicles 7:11 – All these the sons of Jediael, by the heads of their fathers, mighty men of valour, [were] seventeen thousand and two hundred [soldiers], fit to go out for war [and] battle.

Acts 12:6 – And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.

Isaiah 15:4 – And Heshbon shall cry, and Elealeh: their voice shall be heard [even] unto Jahaz: therefore the armed soldiers of Moab shall cry out; his life shall be grievous unto him.

1 Chronicles 7:4 – And with them, by their generations, after the house of their fathers, [were] bands of soldiers for war, six and thirty thousand [men]: for they had many wives and sons.

Acts 12:4 – And when he had apprehended him, he put [him] in prison, and delivered [him] to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

Luke 3:1

John 19:2 – And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put [it] on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,

John 19:34 – But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

Matthew 8:9 – For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this [man], Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth [it].

Mark 15:16 – And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.

Luke 7:8 – For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth [it].

Acts 23:31 – Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought [him] by night to Antipatris.

Acts 27:31 – Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.

Acts 27:42 – And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.

Luke 23:36 – And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,

Acts 21:35 – And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.

John 19:32 – Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.

Acts 12:18 – Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.

Acts 27:32 – Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.

Matthew 27:27 – Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band [of soldiers].

Acts 21:32 – Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *