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Centurion’s View 29 March 2013

Posted by Dr Moose in Easter, Faith.
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There are many ways to take a man’s life. The quick and the slow, the painless and the agonising. I, Longinus, I should know. In fifteen years under the eagle standard I’ve seen most of them, used many of them. You don’t get to be a Centurion in the Legion if you’re soft-hearted. You follow orders. Your life, the lives of your men, and the security of the empire depend upon it.

Doesn’t make it easy, of course. Some times you have discretion, sometimes you don’t. Crucifixion detail is one of the hardest. Death in a straight fight, that’s the mark of man. Death by dehydration, suffocation, all the while on public display, is harsh, dehumanising and degrading. No discretion. No way out. But as my old instructor used to say, “If you ain’t horrified, you’re doin’ it wrong”. It’s not just an execution, it’s a public warning to others.

And someone has to be on guard, make sure no-one decides to rescue a comrade. Not that I’d blame ’em for trying. Some guards handle it by being callous and cruel. Some handle it by being competent, and grateful that it’s some other blighter up there, not themselves. You can’t afford to let it get to you.

I’ve seen death all right, looked dying men in the eyes. Seen terror, fear, hatred, scorn. The silent ones and the babblers. But this Jesus, this “King of the Jews”, this was different. Un-nerving. Of course I knew the stories. Unlike some I didn’t hide in the barracks all the time. I knew what was going on in Judea. I’d heard about this Jesus. A teacher, not a traitor. Popular with the poor, feared by the priests. I didn’t know why, not really, not then. Something about bringing their god closer. O, there’d been fear in his eyes, no doubt about it, as he’d hung there, but something else. Confidence, even authority. Almost the feeling that he’d been watching over us, standing sentry over us, not the other way round. It wasn’t just me. We all felt it. Like having the Commanding Officer up there.

I think it was the earthquake that did it though. Almost as if the very hill trembled at his last breath. No tiny tremor, but a big one. It felt like it went on forever. There was fear, real fear, in the squad, not like I’ve seen for years. Looking back now I’m proud that they stood their ground. At the time though, somehow, I couldn’t keep my eyes off him, up there on that cross. Never doubted that he was the reason. That somehow his death was what shook the world. There somehow, released from his stricken body, was more power than I’d ever known. Something truly godlike.

And though the earth rumbled, louder than any battle, I heard a voice. “Surely… son of God.” Did I really say that? Or did they? I suppose I must have, on that Friday. That Friday the world changed.



1. BenDQ - 29 March 2013

Thank you for this reflection – it is too easy I find to turn too quickly to statements of faith and doctrine and miss the story which is after all the heart of it. The Word became flesh, not the other way around.

Dr Moose - 30 March 2013

Just glad you found it useful. I was asked to do a 5 minute meditation for yesterday’s service at our church (nearly wrote “my church”, but I’m not on the staff). The three others were all good, and the first was very good and theological, but this was the only “first person” view. Must be the Gamer in me!

2. BenDQ - 29 March 2013

Reblogged this on Much More Than Near and commented:
A Good Friday reflection from another roleplaying minister I know.

3. The Legend of Longinus | Church, State, Faith and Culture - 30 March 2013

[…] Centurion’s View (drmoose.wordpress.com) […]

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