A story told from the perspective of the Roman soldier who crucified Jesus and saw Him die.
Music: ‘Bats’ by Phil Syonds – Partners in Rhyme, Inc From SmartSound
Full script and notes:
Seven Saying from the Cross – The Centurions Story
‘I’d seen men die before – lots of them coz it’s me job, I execute the ‘enemies of the state’. ‘Corse, ‘enemies of the state’s a cover all – a phrase to mean we execute anyone and everyone we don’t like. Rome rules – and seeing our power displayed in the bodies of the dead – tends to keep people in line.
But this one was different. The other two were just like everyone else we’d crucified. Pleading, panicking, promising, cursing and threatening as we nailed ‘em in place. But not this man Jesus.
When ‘e was passed on to us to crucify ‘ – already ‘e was in a bad state. ‘is back was more jelly than flesh ‘caz of the whipping the others ‘ad given ‘im and ‘e’d lost a lot of blood. They’d also rammed a crown on thick thorns on ‘is ‘ed which ‘ad the blood flowing down ‘is face. Honestly? It was pretty much a miracle ‘e was still alive for us to nail up there – but that said, ‘e was alive, ‘e knew what was ‘appening and spent the next 6 hours being the kind of person – I’d never met or seen before in all my life.
As I said, usually when we nail ‘em in place there’s screaming, crying, panicking, pleading – you know that kind of thing, but not this Jesus. Instead through the stress of it all, ‘e looks up at us and at the hate filled faces all-around – of people ‘ow seem to be loving every moment of ‘is suffering – and instead of cursing us all – ‘e calls out to ‘is ‘Father’! He calls, ‘Father, forgive ‘em because they don’t know what they’re doing.’
It took a moment to sink in, but then I realized that this ‘Father’ ‘e was talking to – was God. ‘e was pleading to God for God to forgive us! I’d never heard anything like it – forgiveness and no hate. I shook my head in wonder – and got on with ‘me job.
One of the ‘perks’ of the job is that whatever the ones we’re to crucify ‘av when they get to us, we get to keep. So ‘aving stripped them we got down to divide up their clothes between us – probably worth a few pennies. But this Jesus ‘ad a really nice garment, woven all in one piece and we didn’t see the point of running its value by ripping it up to share between ourselves, so we threw dice to see who’d get it. I guess it was my lucky day!
As I was smiling to myself at my good fortune I noticed Jesus once again. ‘e couldn’t care less about ‘is clothes, instead ‘e’s looking towards some people in the crowd. I turned to see who ‘e was looking at and there in the crowd were some people whose sadness seemed to flow from their faces. I guess it must ‘ave been ‘is family – some women and a man.
Now, once you’re on one of them crosses life aint to easy caz they’re designed to give maximum pain. You breath in ok, but to breath out you’ve got to push down on your feet – feet nailed in place. So breathing’s a bit of an issue – which also means speaking’s pretty tough. But Jesus sees these people and looks with such love towards one of the women – it didn’t take a genius to realise it was probably ‘is mother – and ‘e says. ‘Dear woman,’ then he indicates with ‘is head to the man standing near her and carries on. ‘here is your son’. Then ‘e turns ‘is eyes to the man – and with a knowing look ‘e says, ‘Here is your mother’. At that, the man moved next to the woman. Even as ‘e was dying, this Jesus was still looking after ‘is family!
Honestly, the next thing that happened ‘ad me shaking my ‘ed in disbelief. You see the level of hatred towards this Jesus bloke was off the chart – all kinds of well to do people kept coming by to shout all kinds of stuff at ‘im. Even the criminals on the other two crosses mocked ‘im – at least at first. But then one of those criminals quickly stopped ‘is mocking. Maybe ‘e heard what Jesus said to us and to ‘is mother, or maybe it was the hatred of the leaders – I don’t know, it’s beyond me. But for a while this other criminal just watched and listened then, ‘e seemed to just snap. The first criminal had been using ‘is energy up throwing hate at Jesus along with all the others. But then this second criminal takes a breath, pushes down on ‘is feet: – and almost as if ‘e doesn’t feel it ‘e shouts at the first criminal. ‘Don’t you fear God? We’ve been condemned the same as Him but we deserve it for all the things we’ve done. But this man’s innocent!’ That shut the other one up for a while. Then, this criminal turned as best ‘e could towards Jesus and pushing down once again so ‘e could speak ‘e asks, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’.
Kingdom? What Kingdom? ‘e seemed to think this Jesus was some kind of King? Maybe it was the sign the governor ‘ad ‘ad nailed on the cross above Jesus ’ed which read, ‘King of the Jews’. It was all a bit beyond me and I just snorted. Anyway, I knew what this man was like – scum, an’ ‘e was right, ‘e did deserve to be on that cross and there was no way I could see Jesus wanting to talk to the likes of ‘im.
But again, Jesus didn’t follow the rules. Instead, taking a breath and pushing down on ‘is own feet Jesus turned as best ‘e could towards that criminal and said, ‘I tell you the truth. Today you will be with me in the garden of delights.’
I stood there shaking my head – something was going on that was beyond my understanding. And, a change came over that criminal – or maybe I should say – something changed … intangible but real. But what really scared me was that I found I didn’t doubt what Jesus said.
Strange things happened from about midday. It was as if the sun didn’t want to shine anymore and darkness covered … everywhere from what I could tell. The hours ticked by with the three on their crosses unable to do much more than survive. But at about 3 in the afternoon the silence of slow death was suddenly shattered. Jesus cried out in a way that seemed impossible – and ‘e cried out in words that were in a language I didn’t know, but they were words from so deep inside ‘im it was as if the whole of Jesus sobbed them out – words of a broken heart. He cried out, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ Which I later found out meant, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’
Things were moving fast for Jesus, you could tell the end was close. Now, from hours of bleeding and dying on the cross, gently he said, ‘I’m thristy’. And someone lifted a sponge up to ‘im to take a drink.
When people die from crucifixion, usually it’s a quite affair as they expire – but as I said before, Jesus wasn’t following the rules because after ‘ed ‘ad a drink – it was as if there was a change. Moments before, it was as if ‘is heart was broken but then, with a power, a strength the likes of while ‘e shouldn’t really of ‘ad ‘e cries out. ‘It … is … FINSIHED’.
I didn’t know what was finished – but there was a new strength in ‘im – a joy of some kind – somehow whatever ‘e’d done or … or finished ‘ad changed … everything. Then once again in a loud voice – not a moan or a murmur like the other died. Clearly and for all to hear – ‘e cries out. ‘Father, into your hands I commend My Spirit’. Then it was as if ‘e dismissed ‘is spirit – and then ‘e was dead.
I saw it – I saw it all. And when ‘e died, a death the likes I’ve never seen before – I praised the God ‘e talked to – the God He called Father – and said, ‘Surely, this man was the Son of God.’
© Story Copyright Andrew Devis – June 13th 2016 – all rights reserved
NOTES: Here is a list of the sayings and where they can be found
While they were nailing his hands and feet to the cross, or a little later, when they were putting up the cross, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Touched by the repentant attitude and the faith of one of the thieves crucified with him, Jesus turned towards him and declared, “ I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Even while dying, Jesus was preoccupied with others. He thought of his mother, among others, and made arrangements to ensure that she would not lack anything. “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:2627)
After five and a half hours of agony, at the peak of his pain, the Lord cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
As he was on the point of dying, Jesus, with parched lips, cried out “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
Just before giving up his spirit, Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Usually a crucified person at the point of death did not have the strength to cry out but rendered his spirit with a moan. Jesus gave out a loud cry. His cry was not a cry of death but a cry of victory.
At the moment of rendering his spirit, Jesus opened his mouth again and cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) This prayer is an expression of total trust in God.
Music: ‘Bats’ by Phil Syonds – Partners in Rhyme, Inc From SmartSound
Photo by Francesco Alberti on Unsplash