Meditation on the Centurion for Good Friday

Author’s Note: This meditation was written on Good Friday, March 21, 2008.

A Meditation on the Centurion: For Good Friday

I had heard many thing about the man Jesus of Nazareth — I had heard stories of his miracles, how he healed the lame, cured the blind, cast out demons, and even raised the dead! I thought nothing of it — I know it was people making falsehoods to entertain themselves.

But today, I met Him! I met Jesus of Nazareth!

I helped crucify Him…

The day began like any other. We were brought three criminals to execute on Golgotha — one of them was Jesus.

I saw Him from a distance. He looking like a walking, often stumbling, wound. He wore a cap of thorns on His head, and I saw the scourge marks on His body. He was completely covered in blood. I wondered how He had strength to move — for I knew it must have been extremely painful to make any kind of motion. They had forced a man to help carry His cross, because He was too weak to do it all by Himself, and they did not want Him to die on the way.

They brought Him before me. I didn’t even think. I just did what I had always done.

First, I stripped Him of His robes. He did not cry out, but he winced from the pain. All the wounds on His back had been reopened, and He began to bleed profusely.

Most prisoners are very reluctant to be executed. Sometimes, I literally have had to thrown them down upon their cross.

But He — ever so humbly, ever so patiently — slowly laid Himself down upon the hard wood.

Then, I knew I would have to nail Him. I was surprised at His countenance — it was filled with blood and sweat. I could tell He was in complete agony, but there was something more to it. There was a loving gaze in His eyes, beneath the blood.

I wondered at what His crime was — what was it they had convicted Him of… that He deserved to die in this manner.

But then, caught in my reverie, I heard the people and my fellow soldiers yelling at me, “Nail Him! Crucify Him!”

I head the other prisoners being nailed to their crosses — they cried out in pain, but the people simply laughed at their suffering.

So, with the nail and hammer in hand, I stretched out His right arm upon the beam. I looked at Him —

Our eyes met.

I cannot describe what I felt. I knew in that instant that there was something different about this man — something… extraordinary.

He looked at me, and seeing the nails in my hand, He nodded His head and closed His eyes.

My heart was racing — my hands were now shaking so badly that I could hardly hold the nail on His wrist.

I couldn’t stop — I had to do it. The voices of the crowd had drowned away in my mind — and I could only think of Him.

I raised my arm and hoped that I would hit the nail. I closed my eyes — I didn’t want to look.

Bang!

I opened my eyes — the hammer had hit — the nail had pierced. His wrist was now covered in blood.

I repeated my movements — I hit the nail again and again. Each time it drove deeper into His flesh — but He did not cry out.

He only winced with pain.

After the nail had pierced completely, I ordered my fellow soldiers to nail His other hand and feet.

I did not desire to nail Him again.

Again, He was nailed, and I could only watch as the other soldiers mocked Him and spat on Him as He was being nailed to the cross. The spectators did not help either — they shouted at Jesus and insulted Him as He laid there motionlessly.

Then, a sign came. A fellow soldier brought it forward. It said: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

“What is that?” I asked the other soldier.

He merely snickered and replied, “His title…”

The soldier took the sign to the head of the cross.

“Hail, King of the Jews,” he laughed, as he nailed it above the criminal’s head. Then, he spat in Jesus’ face.

I almost could not look — it was too gruesome.

Then, they lifted Him up. I helped to put the cross in its correct post — I did not want it falling over. I could not bear that!

So, He hung there —- Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

Many of the Jewish priests and religious leaders came and mocked Him. They told Him to come down from the cross if He truly was the Son of God.

Then, I heard Him cry out —

“Father, Forgive Them, For They Know Not What They Do.”

It was too much — I tried to hold back the tears.

I did not know who this man was — but I knew He was innocent of any crime.

He hung there for three hours — form midday until three in the afternoon. Some of the other soldiers cast lots for His clothes, but I did not want to.

Finally, He said —

“I Thirst.”

I immediately took a sponge, soaked it in some of my wine, put it on a reed, and pressed it to His lips.

I wanted to do anything to help ease the pain — even if only for a moment.

Some of the people nearby said He was calling for Elijah, one of the Jewish prophets. I took no notice. I only wanted to help Him.

Finally, His hour came! I marveled at how He had managed to live so long, considering all of the blood He had lost and the suffering He had endured.

He lifted His head — raised His eyes to Heaven and said —

“It Is Finished! Father, Into Your Hands, I Commend My Spirit.”

Then, he bowed His head and died.

At that moment, I knew — I understood who He was.

“Truly,” I said aloud, “this man was the Son of God!”

Some of my companions were going to rebuke me, but there was too much chaos.

Apparently, the curtain of the Jewish temple had split in two, and the Jewish leaders were in frenzy.

We were ordered to break the prisoners’ legs so they could die quickly.

One of the soldiers was going to break Jesus’ legs, but I told him, “No! He is already dead!”

The soldier looked at me in disbelief, so I took up my spear and pierced Jesus’ side.

Immediately, water and blood came flowing out.

And everyone was now convinced that Jesus had already died.

Most of the people left — some went away wailing and beating their breasts.

But — a small group came forward. There were several women and three men. One of the women said to me, gently touching my hand —

“Will you please,” she whispered with tears in her eyes, “help us take my Son down?”

She lifted her eyes to Jesus, and I knew she was His Mother.

I wanted to comfort her in her sorrow — to console her — but I could only agree to help. To do whatever I could for her and for Him.

Two of the men helped me take His body down, while the third supported His Mother. I gently took out the nails that had pierced His hands and feet, and the men placed Jesus’ body in His Mother’s arms.

Whatever heart I had left broke at that moment.

I saw the Mother gently hold and rock the bruised and beaten body of her Son — just as a young mother would hold and rock her newborn baby. She held Him tightly and her tears fell upon His blood-covered face.

Then, with all of the motherly tenderness in the world, she kissed His forehead and pressed Him close to her heart.

Her soft fingers wrapped around His head, and she slowly lifted the cap of thorns out of His wounded skull.

As she placed it beside her, I saw that some of the thorns had pierced her gentle fingers, and her hands were now covered with blood.

The men finally convinced her to let them bury Him. She simply nodded her head at their request, and relinquished her Son’s body to their devoted arms.

I watched quietly as they carried Him off to a nearby tomb. I wished to follow them — or, at least, return to the city.

But, I could not.

His Sacrifice has left me too humble to move.

Short Story: “Ecce Homo” (Part 6)

Short Story: “Ecce Homo” (Part 5)

Author’s Note: This short story was written in 2010 or 2011, and is dedicated to my friend F.S.B. The story is titled “Ecce Homo: A Calling.” This is the final part of six parts, which will be posted each Monday of Lent. The previously posted parts of the story are on this Word Document.

(From Part 5) The man stretched out his hand, and the boy took it. And as the man let go, the boy realized the man had put something in his hand.

The man smiled and reassured him: “But, it’s nice to have some direction, too.”

“But, what am I supposed to do?”

END OF PART 5; PART 6 BEGINS HERE

“Well, son: First, you need to go home and get some rest. After that, think about what I told you, what you felt. Consider what you’re being called to. But don’t worry, the right people will get in touch with you soon enough.

“But most importantly, you need to change: change your lifestyle, change your attitude, change the way you think about things; because you can never go back to how it was before, no matter how much you try. From now on, it only gets harder, not easier.”

The boy hesitated, but the man reached out and pulled him into a reassuring embrace and told him, “I believe in you.”

Then, just as quickly, the man let go, but the boy didn’t want to leave his presence. He felt a new life, a new breath, circulating through his body. It was a driving wind that filled his entire being, constantly propelling him forward; and now, he didn’t want to let it go.

“Minute’s up. I need to go,” the bus driver said.

The boy was reluctant, but the man nodded reassuringly and told him, “‘The great work begins.’”

So, the student climbed into the bus and showed the bus driver his pass. She was a little perturbed with him for making her linger, but she could tell by his wet clothes that he had been waiting a while. So, she said nothing.

She did, however, address the man outside, “Are you coming too?”

“No,” the man told her.

The boy turned around and looked back out, “What? Aren’t you coming?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be in touch.”

“I know, but I thought—“

“—Son,” it was the only time the man had ever interrupted him throughout the entire conversation.  “I wasn’t waiting for a bus…I was waiting for you.”

Then, as the bus doors closed, the boy saw the man smile and open his right hand. Unconsciously, he did the same and realized, for the first time, the gift the man had given him.

Short Story: “Ecce Homo” (Part 5)

Short Story: “Ecce Homo” (Part 5)

Author’s Note: This short story was written in 2010 or 2011, and is dedicated to my friend F.S.B. The story is titled “Ecce Homo: A Calling.” This is the fifth of six parts, which will be posted each Monday of Lent. The previously posted parts of the story are on this Word Document.

(from Part 4) “Man, who do you think you are? You don’t know anything about me!”

He had been seen through, exposed. He was rebellious and independent by his nature, and now he had to defend himself against the pressure he was under. The whole time he was shouting at the man, the boy never looked at him directly – only in his general direction. He couldn’t bear to make eye-contact, for fear that he would become transparent to the man’s gaze.

 “Son, look at me.”

END OF PART 4; PART 5 BEGINS HERE

On the surface, the student was unwilling to comply; but, there was some deep part of him that, for some reason, was drawn to look at the man.

Then, the man called him by name.

But, he didn’t just call it. It seemed, more so, that the man breathed the boy’s name to him; and a sweet smell, like perfume or incense, filled his nostrils, and his ears rang with the sound of his name.

And then, he knew.

He knew he was no longer intoxicated. It was a new day amidst the same rainy night. He also knew that he was not hung-over either. All of his senses had returned to their fullest, and his mind was sober and clear. He wished to hide himself, or he would risk being seen in the naked state that he felt he was in.

But, the man placed a hand on his shoulder, and continued to look at him – to look into him.

“It’s time,” he said.

“Time… time for what?”

“It is time for you to leave. Your bus is here.”

The boy, even though his mind was clear, couldn’t understand – until he saw the bright lights of the bus drawing ever closer towards them. It pulled up alongside the curb near their bench, and the doors opened.

“Are you leaving soon,” the student asked the bus driver.

The bus driver, a middle-aged woman, looked at her watch and replied, “This rain has put me behind schedule, so I’m not going to sit here for too long.”

“Can you wait just two minutes, please?”

The bus driver looked at her watch again and told him firmly, “One minute.”

The boy could do nothing but look again at the man, but this time, he could actually see him – see him for who he really was.

“How… how do I know this is real,” he asked, befuddled.

“You just have to have a little faith.”

The man stretched out his hand, and the boy took it. And as the man let go, the boy realized the man had put something in his hand.

The man smiled and reassured him: “But, it’s nice to have some direction, too.”

“But, what am I supposed to do?”