The writer of the book of Mark tells us that “an unnamed centurion” was present at the crucifixion of Jesus. This wasn’t all that noteworthy because centurions were mid-level officers in the Roman army. They would have regularly overseen their men as they carried out crucifixions. But little did this centurion know that this wouldn’t be just another day. This wasn’t just another crucifixion. This wasn’t just another criminal getting what he deserved.
We learn from the various accounts of Jesus’s crucifixion that it proceeded as most crucifixions did. Jesus was nailed to the cross and it was hoisted into the ground. The soldiers gambled for his clothes. Jesus was mocked and insulted as they waited for him to die. But then, things changed.
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)… With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 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!” – Mark 15:33–34, 37–39
The unnamed centurion saw the “way he breathed his last,” and this made Jesus remarkable. He was enthralled by Jesus’s words and how the entire world shifted at his death. “Truly this man was the Son of God!” His heart couldn’t contain that truth now that he saw Jesus clearly. Jesus wasn’t a criminal. He didn’t deserve a painful, gruesome death.
But when he breathed his last, Jesus gave us life.
Let us marvel, as the unnamed centurion did, at Jesus. Let us see anew the sacrifice the Son of God made so that we could live. Let us stand facing Jesus, who took our sin and endured death on a cross. Let our hearts and our lives not be able to contain the truth that changes everything: “This man was the Son of God!”