Judea. Not the best assignment for a Roman legion. Nor for a governor. These men entered a hostile country with a culture and religion vastly different from their own. Temples and sacrifices, they could relate to, but one God? A coming Messiah?
Yet numerous Romans are drawn into the Easter story:
- Pilate and his wife with her strange nightmare (Matt. 27:19)
- The soldiers at the Praetorium responsible for Jesus’ flogging, his crown of thorns, and royal robes (Matt. 2:27-31)
- The centurion at the cross who not only experiences an earthquake, but proclaims, “Surely he was the Son of God.” (Matt. 27:54)
- The soldiers posted at the tomb who witnessed yet another earthquake and an angelic appearance. Scripture records they shook from fear and became as dead men. (Matt. 28:1-4)
Think of the conversations over the next week: Friday afternoon soldiers with Sunday morning guards, Friday afternoon soldiers to Friday afternoon centurion, Friday afternoon centurion to the legion commander, the legion commander and Pontius Pilate, Pilate and the missus. Up and down the chain of command, eyewitness reports flew. Was the information just another briefing, a report to be filed (or scrolled?)?
Or was it life changing?
Look at Matthew 28:1-4 and 11-15. Note, not all of the soldiers on guard went to the chief priests. How do you think the scene played out when both sets reported to their CO? (That’s Commanding Officer for you civilians.)
Look at Matthew 27: 50-55. Why would the centurion and the other soldiers identify Jesus as the “Son of God”? Was it a term they heard from the crowd (vs. 36-44) or did something in their own religion connect with what they witnessed?
Pilate also struggled with Jesus: who He was and how he (Pilate) should handle the case. What made this case a special challenge for the Gentile governor? Normally Pilate would not have cared. What changed?
Do you identify with any of these groups?
Have you seen similar struggles in people you know?
What has made this same information life changing for you?