There is a man that we meet in just a couple of verses of Scripture. We know that he is a Roman centurion. I gave him an appropriate Roman name of Vitellius. I created a fictional backstory for this centurion, but all of the events are well documented in both biblical history and contemporary history books of the time. I have listed below all of the scripture references that you may want to consult, along with some quotes from notable historians.
What isn’t fictional is the fact that the Cross didn’t happen to Jesus, but He came to make Calvary happen.
Jesus said this about His crucifixion, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself” (John 12:32). That’s what happened to the thief, and to the centurion Vitellius, and to me, and to all who have acknowledged that Jesus is the Savior.
Vitellius’ bold claim on the day Jesus was crucified still rings true 2000 years later: “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”
Looking at Jesus who was lifted up on that Cross, we can appreciate the beauty of the 700-year-old prophecy about Him:
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:2-5)
Which is what we celebrate in Communion still to this day. “And [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:19-20).
The way Christians live today can still lift Jesus up for all to see. Jesus told His followers, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
When we live this way, our lives become the aroma of life to even sin-hardened thieves and war-hardened soldiers.
Check out this video of Vitellius’ personal experience—
Here are some further resources for you to check out:
- The Bible verses that form the background for this centurion’s story—Luke 23:1-47; Matthew 27:11-54; Mark 15:1-39; John 18:28-19:34
- Historian William Barclay wrote this about the centurions, “The centurions were the backbone of the Roman army. In a Roman legion there were 6,000 men; the legion was divided into sixty centuries, each containing 100 men, and in command of each century there was a centurion. These centurions were the long-service, regular soldiers of the Roman army. They were responsible for the discipline of the regiment, and they were the cement which held the army together. … A centurion was the equivalent of a regimental sergeant-major; and the centurions were the backbone of the Roman army.”
- The horrific torture of crucifixion
If you have missed any of the other messages in our series of Bold Claims, you can find them all my clicking here.