A View from Down Under The Cross
This is a monologue that I wrote explores how the Centurion went from a battle hardened cynic to a believer in Jesus Christ... all in one afternoon.
I am Clavius, a Roman Centurion — and I will never be the same.
I was on crucifixion duty today. I will never forget it as long as I live.
I have seen many battles and performed many crucifixions. I have seen many men on the worst days of their lives. On those days I can easily size up the quality of a man. Their true nature will come shining through. For some it comes out in arrogance and pride, for others in humility and sorrow. But it always comes out, the fear chases it out. Whatever is in the spirit of a man will come out at the crucifixion.
I crucified the Christ today. You probably knew that. It seems like the whole city has been up here to see this. Did I mention I hate celebrity crucifixions? NO? Ok, I hate crucifixions. And today we had three. I crucified two thieves with him. And the crucifixion displayed the spirit of each man for us to see. It always does.
One of the thieves crucified today was arrogant and loud. He faced the last few hours of his life with hatred. You could see the stress exploding out of him. And it came out. It always does. He screamed and yelled and mocked the other two men on the cross. His FEAR made the anger and rage come spilling out. It’s the angry selfish spirit that comes out of most men at the crucifixion.
The other thief … he was not loud, instead he wept softly. He was a broken man. His fear had filled him with sorrow. You don’t see many of those… up here at the Skull. I see more of those on the battle field when they are mortally wounded. They get scared and the spirit of regret begins spilling out all the junk of their lives.
Men are crucified naked, the cross strips off every shell, every mask. They hang their exposed in both the flesh and the spirit. On the cross --every man I have ever seen is either arrogant or humble. Until today. Until I crucified Christ.
He was unlike any other man I have ever seen. In the face of the hardest day of his life He had … Peace. What had given him such inner strength? No man I have ever seen has hat that kind of strength. It was like His spirit was wrapped up in peace and strength and I don’t know… ——Rightness. I felt like I was the one that was naked.
Just a week ago I had seen the entire city throwing their cloaks before his donkey as he rode into Jerusalem like he was the King of the Jews. So strange, the sign Pilot asked me to post on his cross said exactly that. “King of the Jews”. But the city that had cheered him a few days ago is now an angry mob shouting for his death. Today Christ had less value in their eyes than Barabbas, that murderer. Even Pilot could find no fault with him, and trust me, that man finds the worst in everybody.
We never flog people we are going to crucify because we want them to carry the cross up to the Skull. I think Pilate was trying to appease the Jewish rage and prevent a riot, so he ordered me to have Christ flogged. At the time we did not know he would be crucified, so we went all out. He was claiming to be KING, thinking he was better than us, so we laid into him pretty bad. We stripped him and whipped him. The men overdid it. They spit and struck him. I should have stopped my men, but to my shame I joined in and spat on him as well.
You know that wreath that Caesar wears around his head? One of my men made a wreath for Christ’s head, but instead of the customary laurel, he used thorns. You know, that flowering Euphorbia milii that covers the wall in the Praetorium? What? You didn’t think I knew Latin? It was my cloak, this one right here, that we used to dress him up as emperor. It’s now covered in his blood. We mocked him… allot. We knelt and saluted him as emperor. The whole time Christ never said a word. Not a single word. He just looked at us. Not with hatred or fear… but with compassion. It really caught my attention. Never had I seen this in anyone. It unnerved my men and they became crueler just to see if they could break him.
A man in that position, should have been fighting mad, seething with anger. Where did that peace come from? What was in his spirit that gave him such depth?
After the beating Christ did not have the strength to carry his own beam. I pressed a civilian into service for him… Christ was in such pain he was barely in command of his own muscles. Yet at one point he turned to the wailing women following us in the crowd and I heard him Bless them. Bless them! At that point I knew this man must be crazy. Never in my life had any one on the way to the cross stopped to bless anyone much less these childless mourners! Inconceivable. I began to have pity on Him.
At the skull, before we lifted him up on his cross, I thought I could help him a little. I gave him some wine mixed with Gall… it’s the same stuff I give to men if they are dying on the battlefield. It’s as bitter as hell, but it really takes the edge off the pain. As soon as he tasted it he turned his head and refused to drink. “Crazy Stupid” I thought, but I didn’t push it
Most men squirm and writhe and try to get away, but he lay their patiently for the spikes.
After we had finished the crucifixion of the three men, I stood there and watched Christ as he hung there dying. He had captured my curiosity. How could a man die like this – and still have peace?
It was noon, about that time those strange clouds rolled in making the gloomy affair … ——well gloomier. Cicreo I am not! — For the next three hours I watched him hang there in the dark. Struggling for breath. I have gotten pretty detached from death in my job, but this was starting to get to me.
My men were playing a game of for his robe, and during this time many people from the city came by to watch the spectacle. Many more than usual. Many of them important Jews by the look of it. They came by and they mocked him and shouted insults at him. My men did the same, but I no longer could. There was an inhuman nobility in Christ, in his ability to suffer in silence, and soak up the abuse, and yet radiate compassion in return. Christ was not acting as a crazy man. He seemed saner than any man I have seen on a cross. And most of the men I have worked with for that matter.
It was then that he did the unthinkable… he looked up in the sky and asked His Father to forgive us. Forgive us! We were killing him … slowly… painfully… and mocking him while we did it. But he was forgiving us! He said we did not know what we were doing. Are you kidding me? That is not possible! No man can possibly do that. Inconceivable. I suddenly felt as guilty as the second thief. I began to weep. At that moment, I realized something in me had shifted. If it had it been me on the cross yesterday, I would have been like the first thief… as mad as hell, and scared to death. But now… but now, standing there at the foot of his cross, wearing His robe, covered with His blood. I began to think of all the mean cruel and evil things that I had done. I felt unworthy next to this man.
Unexpectedly, I heard him cry out that he was thirsty. I felt obliged to offer him something. All we had left was the dregs of the sour wine we had been drinking, so I put some on a sponge and lifted it up to him. It must have been a site… a centurion offering wine to a criminal… but I didn’t care anymore. The crowd started up their mocking again.
He sucked the sponge dry this time, and I wondered why he had not taken the bitter drink earlier. What was he thinking? Was it really necessary for him to feel every bit of the pain for these last three hours?
Then he shouted “it is finished!”. At that very moment the ground started buckling and threw several people to the ground. Coincidence? My men didn’t think so, they were spooked.
The last words I hear him utter, with a strength that surprised me, were… “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
It was then that I realized the truth. I am a bit slow… some say it goes with the job. But I realized this man really believed his father was GOD! Not just in some Epicurean brotherhood of mankind sort of thing, but GOD was his personal father!
At the same moment I saw him exhale his breath and die. Like he chose that precise moment Like he could have left his body any time he wanted, and he had been waiting, waiting for something to complete. What was it? It was almost like he had needed to experience the full measure of suffering. Now that I think about it, interesting… that makes sense… why he refused the pain killer. He wanted, needed to experience the full pain. Yet, it was clearly something he did not enjoy, he was suffering in agony. He was going through this whole thing for a purpose. I remember something he had said before Pilate, at the trial earlier this morning…. That he was a King, but that his Kingdom was not of this world, and his purpose in life was to show us truth!
Well, I was watching him the whole time. What was he showing us? I know that there is no way ANY man could go through what we inflicted on him and then forgive us. Therefore, the only explanation is: he is no man! Because no man could endure the cross and behave as he did. His spirit was superior to any man that has ever lived. He had the Spirit of a Warrior, the Kindness of a mother, a perfect King. Truly this Man was the Son of God! That is the truth. The purpose of His Life was to show us that truth.
I bear this witness. Christ is the Son of God. And he died on that cross by his own free will. He did not avoid it, he embraced it. He was showing us a truth… a truth the world must know.
That He was the Son of the most-high God. I know that now.
And yet ... what good is that now… he is dead.
How can man Kill GOD?
OH GOD! I killed your SON!...
Cover me God, cover me! Take my sin away! I …I didn’t know what I was doing!...
Oh God I didn’t know what I was doing!......
I didn’t know what I was doing…. He said, ”Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing…”
Oh my… GOD. You have forgiven me?
I have killed your Son, and you have forgiven me? You can love me that much?!
That is the TRUTH that he came to show. That GOD loves me, you the world!
I am Clavius, I killed the Son of God. Yet, because of GOD’s LOVE I am FORGIVEN.