Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | May 5, 2021

Crucifixion Miracle 7: Roman Centurion & Soldiers Converted

(5 Minute Read. 5May2021)

This 2021 Easter season I have been studying the Seven Crucifixion Miracles that occurred while Jesus hung on the cross.

Here are the Seven Crucifixion Miracles reported in the Gospels:
1. Thief on the cross saved.
2. Darkness covered the land for three hours from noon to three.
3. Jesus voluntarily gave up His spirit of His own accord.
4. Temple veil torn in two from top to bottom.
5. Earthquake and rocks split.
6. Tombs opened and dead raised to life.
7. Roman Centurion and his soldiers converted.
(Matthew 27:38-54; Luke 23:39-47; Mark 15:33-39; John 19:28-30)

Roman Centurion stands before the crucified Jesus
Crucifixion scene from the movie Risen, compliments of Columbia Pictures.

The preceding articles,
Crucifixion Miracle 1: Thief Saved,
Crucifixion Miracle 2: Darkness Noon to Three,
Crucifixion Miracle 3: Jesus Gave Up His Spirit,
Crucifixion Miracle 4: Temple Veil Torn in Two,
Crucifixion Miracle 5: Earthquake & Rocks Split, and
Crucifixion Miracle 6: Tombs Opened & Saints Raised
covered the first six Crucifixion Miracles. This article covers the seventh and final Crucifixion Miracle.

Crucifixion Miracle 7: Roman Centurion and Soldiers Converted

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report the response of the Roman centurion and his soldiers to the Crucifixion of Jesus.
Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54)
When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)
Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.” (Luke 23:47)

Imagine standing at the cross and watching the battle-hardened Roman centurion with his soldiers become very frightened when Jesus died, as Matthew reports. Would you wonder what in the world was going on and start to panic yourself, wondering what so frightened the soldiers? Would their fear strike consternation in you?

The soldiers’ fear was not just a temporary startle like from someone in the dark saying, “Boo!” It was even much more than “scared silly.” It was a much deeper fear. The Greek words that Matthew used are phobeō sphodra.

According to Strong’s Greek Dictionary, the Greek words Matthew used mean this:
phobeō – be (sore) afraid, fear (exceedingly) (G5399)
sphodra – vehemently, that is, in a high degree, exceedingly (G4970)

Thus Matthew says the soldiers were exceedingly afraid at Jesus’ death. They were full of fear much beyond ordinary fears men experience.

The Roman soldiers were not cowards. They were not facing battle. They were not in a cyclone at sea. Why were the soldiers so scared?

These terrified soldiers were led by a centurion, a commander over 100 soldiers. He himself was also petrified.

This terror in a seasoned, stalwart Roman centurion and in his valiant soldiers is one of the most amazing and surprising events of the Crucifixion. What caused it?

Matthew says when the centurion and soldiers “saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, they became very frightened.” What engendered deep fear in the soldiers were the events and miracles surrounding the crucifixion (that have been studied in this series of articles). They recognized that something tremendously unusual and deeply alarming was going on. And they were right.

But then Matthew and Luke report something even more astounding than the soldiers’ fear! The centurion began praising God and with his soldiers was making this profession of faith: “Certainly this man was innocent. Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Would the soldiers’ deep fear and subsequent confession of faith astonish you?

Would you wonder what changed the soldiers from fear to faith?

From a human point of view, the cause of the change was everything the soldiers witnessed throughout the Crucifixion. They saw one crucified thief change from abusive to repentant; they saw Jesus extend grace to him, saying, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” They endured through three long hours of complete darkness immediately prior to Jesus’ death.

The soldiers heard Jesus say as they crucified Him, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:33-34) In excruciating agony, in the process of being crucified, Jesus forgave the soldiers doing it! The soldiers had certainly never heard anyone respond to crucifixion in that way before.

They heard onlookers verbally abuse Him and jeeringly refer to Jesus as Son of God, Christ of God (Messiah), His Chosen One, and the King of Israel. They saw Jesus take all the abuse without responding in kind.

They saw Jesus give up His spirit of His own accord. They felt the massive earthquake and saw huge boulders split in two as tombs were opened. All this was far beyond the events surrounding any other crucifixion they had ever overseen. It was utterly different and distinctive; it was mind-blowing and life-altering.

But the fundamental reason for the change in the soldiers is that the Holy Spirit used all that they saw and experienced to work in their hearts to effect the change to faith. It was the divine grace of God that opened the soldiers’ eyes to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God.

Was It A Miracle?

Why do I consider the salvation of the Roman centurion and his soldiers a miracle?

It is because conversion requires a work of the Spirit of God within the heart of a man. It is a supernatural work, not a natural occurrence. It is a work of God, not a work of man.

Men are dead in sin, and only the Holy Spirit can regenerate them and bring them to life.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (Ephesians 2:1-5)

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

What could almost instantly change a battle-hardened soldier into a believer in Jesus? It had to be a work of God in the man’s heart. It was a miracle. The Roman centurion’s terror followed by his profession of faith was one more divine sign to the mocking bystanders.

I wonder, was anyone else affected by the miraculous change from fear to faith in the Roman centurion and his soldiers?
How many people were influenced back then?
How many people are impacted today?
Will you be touched by it?

Summary and Conclusion

Thus we have these preeminent events and miracles surrounding the Crucifixion:
– Jesus forgave the soldiers as they crucified Him, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” What a remarkable act of grace and mercy!
– The salvation of the profane and then penitent thief as Jesus extended grace to him from the cross saying, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
– Total Darkness covered the land for three hours from noon to three immediately preceding Jesus’ death.
– Jesus voluntarily gave up His spirit of His own accord right after twice crying out with a loud voice.
– The 4-inch-thick temple veil was miraculously torn in two from top to bottom at the moment of Jesus’ death.
– At the instant Jesus died a massive earthquake shook the land and rocks cracked open.
– When Jesus died, tombs were opened, and many bodies of dead saints were raised and appeared to many in Jerusalem after His resurrection.
– The battle-hardened Roman centurion and his soldiers experienced deep terror at Jesus’ death. But shortly they expressed faith, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent. Truly this man was the Son of God!” What caused the terror? What caused the change from fear to faith?
– The soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves, but they did not break Jesus’ legs because He was already dead. This fulfilled a Scriptural prophecy that none of His bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20). One soldier pierced His side with a spear to confirm He was dead, thereby also fulfilling Scripture (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10). (John 19:31-37)

These special events and miracles were followed by the Resurrection of Jesus. Based on the death and resurrection of Jesus, divine grace has been granted through faith to millions for over 2,000 years.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 28-10)

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

The significance and meaning of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus is both profound and simple for each person. The Apostle Paul expresses it simply and clearly:
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

Action is required! May all readers of the Bible-Science Guy blog follow Paul’s prescription!

Questions to Ponder

1. To whom should you confess today that Jesus is your Lord and that you have believed in your heart that He was raised from the dead? (Romans 10:9-10)
2. Which of the events and miracles surrounding the Crucifixion impress you the most? Why?
3. Which of the Crucifixion Miracles can you share with someone today for their encouragement, edification, and faith-building?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria. Alere Flammam Veritatis.

This completes the series of eight articles on the Seven Crucifixion Miracles. Read the prequels:
Crucifixion Miracles
Crucifixion Miracle 1: Thief Saved
Crucifixion Miracle 2: Darkness Noon to Three
Crucifixion Miracle 3: Jesus Gave Up His Spirit
Crucifixion Miracle 4: Temple Veil Torn in Two
Crucifixion Miracle 5: Earthquake & Rocks Split
Crucifixion Miracle 6: Tombs Opened & Saints Raised

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday May 5, 2021 A.D.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. (Romans 6:3-5 ESV)

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