His day began like any other day. It was just another hot day in Judea, hundreds of miles from his home in Rome. He hated being assigned to Judea and especially he hated duty on that hill. His day would be spent in the heat waiting while thieves, murderers, revolutionaries, and the rouges of society hung on crosses to die. He had been there too many times and had seen too many criminals crucified. He had grown indifferent to their screams, their pleas and their crying about their innocence. He often wondered why the sight of them dying so cruelly did not stop others from committing the same crimes. But he knew that greed, revenge, anger, hatred, seemed to blot out the consequences of being caught.
That day began as just another day, at his assigned duty on the hill. But this day was different for there was a large crowd on the streets below following along as another one approached the hill. He noted that there were important people following along as he struggled with the beam. He noted the Pharisees among them, their dress was easily recognizable. There were others of importance following also, scribes, priests and wealthy men. He noted there was a large crowd of ordinary people lining the street. Some were jeering at him and eager to see how he handled crucifixion. Some were obvious supporters as they were weeping; pleading for mercy, disbelief was evident in their faces. He could tell some were curious on lookers caught up in the moment. But he could tell from the posture of the religious leaders that they were determined to make sure he was crucified. He could feel their hatred and how they just wanting him out of their lives.
The Centurion watched it all and wondered to himself – Who is this Man about to be crucified. What crime did he commit to deserve this obvious hatred? All who ended up on this hill were always alone; never had there been such intent of the religious leaders to ensure an execution.
Who is this man is a question we must all at some point face and answer. It is the question Jesus asked the disciples – Who do you say that I am. The response to that question by Peter was because of inspiration for no mere man revealed it to him. You and I have had much revealed to us that we can easily answer who he was. But does the response come from an intimate knowledge or intellectual knowledge. It makes a difference.
I remember once a conversation with a teen about this very question and his response to me seemed to sum up how many approach faith. He said that if he acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God and that he came to die for his sins. Then it would change how he lived his life in response to Jesus. If Jesus came for him, he would then need to live his life so that in every way it would reflect that belief. Not just some of the time but all of the time. Then he said he something that summed up what faith is all about. He said he would have to give up some of the things he did for his own self satisfaction and he was not ready to give up those things.
Jesus asks us to follow him, believe in him, to put our faith in him. What is our response; not ready Lord, ask me to be a disciple later. Not ready for the life we are called to live. Acknowledging who Christ is; what would happen to if we acknowledged Jesus as Lord? What would have to change? The teen was right everything would change. But didn’t Christ promise us more blessings than anything we could give up?
The Centurion on that hill should be a reminder that we often do understand the reality of what is in front of us. Are we going to just be observers of Christ as he is in our midst? Will we look only at faith with the eyes of the Pharisees and fail to accept him as savior? It is not enough to watch – for we are called to believe.