And 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, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and 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 27:50-54
It was recorded in the gospels that there were, indeed, “those guarding Jesus” who “saw the earthquake and all that had happened” and were moved to publicly rescind their previous denial and proclaim that Jesus was the Son of God. Matthew uses the word exclaim, which in the Hebrew translation means to “shout, express, cry out.” Matthew also records that they were “terrified.”
Now, I clearly have a rich imagination. I can visualize hulking, blood-spattered Roman soldiers, who, just moments before mocked and tortured Jesus, quaking in their sandals and falling to their knees. I see them flailing about like fish out of water, grasping for something to hold while the ground shook violently. I can hear them crying out, “Surely he was the Son of God!” as Jesus takes the victory over sin in one perfect act of obedience to his Father. What a beautiful picture!
Part one of The Roman Soldier’s Wife is based on events from this day; what we now traditionally refer to as Good Friday. Part Two is not a continuation of the story, rather, we are going to sit awhile with our characters, on the floor where we left them sleeping, and dig a little deeper.
The soldier’s wife lived as a slave to a man who did not love her, know her or even look her in the eyes. She worked hard and tried to protect her children. She had compassion for Jesus as she heard her women friends talk about his sentencing to death and she was moved to tears at the thought of crucifixion. She felt “tugging” in her heart for Jesus even though she had never seen nor met him. My friends, God begins to work in us before we exclaim “Surely he is the Son of God!”
The soldier encountered Jesus, the Son of God, that day. He saw things he would surely never forget and he was clearly repentant by the end of our story. How much more beautiful that his wife was able to offer him grace even though he had been so cruel to her! This is the power of the cross. Moved and changed by such amazing love and grace offered to us, we are then able to joyfully and freely give that same grace to others!
It may not sit well with you that such a vile man as the soldier received grace. You may be thinking, he treated his wife as a slave and helped crucify Christ! Let’s go back to the cross.
When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:33-34
Jesus forgave those who drove the nails into his hands and feet, hurled insults upon him and spat in his face. And here’s the thing: it was us. It was me. Jesus went to the cross for you and me. He went so that we may have “life and have it to the fullest.” (John 10:10) Not here on earth. Here, we will have much trouble. I have muscular dystrophy and other health problems in this world. You have __________. But Jesus said “Take heart I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He overcame sin on the cross and he overcame death three days later when he walked out of that tomb on the day of resurrection. He did it for YOU!
The full life he is talking about it is with Him in eternity. I will be there and there ain’t no wheelchairs where I’m going! Won’t you join me? Call out to Jesus!
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
Happy Easter! All Glory to God.