Bible Studies In The Christian Library

INTRODUCTION: What is one of the dirtiest job that a person could have? There would be various answers if I put that question to each one of you. But one of the dirtiest ones as far as I am concerned is preparing a condemned criminal for execution and carrying out the execution. Traditionally, the executioner's identity has been shrouded in anonymity.
The axeman, for example, would always wear a black hood. 

Last week we looked at John and Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the shadow of the cross. This morning we will look at the very ones who carried out the execution, the Roman guards. They led the Lord through the streets of Jerusalem, up to Calvary's hill, nailed him to the cross, and thrust the sword into the side of the Savior.



A. There was the crucifixion guard.
1. They were there for two purposes.
a. The carry out the crucifixion, execute the criminal.

b. To maintain order. They would be there to keep anyone from interfering in the execution, either to free a prisoner or to torment him physically.

2. Their purpose there was simply to obey orders. They did not have an emotional stake in the proceedings. Whomever the ones being crucified on that day, either the Son of God or a wicked criminal, meant nothing to them.

3. These soldiers could be expected to be coarse and vulgar, having no sympathy for Jesus.

a. John 19:2-3 "And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. {3} Then they said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck Him with their hands."

b. Luke 23:36- "The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine,"

B. There was the commander of the crucifixion guard.
1. He would be a centurion, normally in charge of a hundred troops, he would be delegated to make sure that the crucifixion was carried out properly without any complications.

2. He would be a career soldier who had worked his way up through the ranks by virtue of courage and intelligence.

3. He would be expected to be cold and efficient. His first task would be to carry out the orders of his superiors.

4. Jesus had contact with an earlier centurion, who desired for him to come heal one of his servants.

a. Matthew 8:5-10


A. The guard seemed to have absolutely no pity for Jesus and his agony.
1. They went about their task with cold precision.

2. There were only four legionaries there. There would be no need for more. There would be no mob rush to save the Son of God.
a. John 19:23- "Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece."

3. As the custom was, the crucifixion guard would divide among themselves the meager possessions of the condemned criminals.

4. While the Son of God hung naked for all to see and mock at, they cast lots for his seamless coat that was used to cover the entire body.

a. John 19:23-24- "Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. {24} They said therefore among themselves, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be," that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: "They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots." Therefore the soldiers did these things."
B. The Centurion was different.
1. Somewhere along the way, he became impressed with Jesus.
a. It could have been the way he held up under the anguish of the cross.

b. It could have been the way he lovingly made allowance for his mother's care.

c. It could have been how Jesus prayed for their, and specifically his, forgiveness. He had almost certainly never heard such a prayer from a cross.

2. It was also, no doubt, because of the signs that took place during the crucifixion.
a. Matthew 27:51-54- "Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, {52} and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; {53} and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. {54} So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God!""
3. He went on to express a belief in Jesus' innocence.
a. Luke 23:47- "So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, "Certainly this was a righteous Man!""

b. It could well be possible that this centurion was like the centurion earlier, and Cornelius in Acts chapter 10, in that he was a believer in the one true God. Notice that he "glorified God."

C. One can't but wonder about how coming in contact with Jesus affected the soldier's lives.
1. Did they become Christians?
a. The Pulpit Commentary relates the tradition that the centurion's name was Longinus and that he became a devoted follower of Jesus, preached the gospel and died as a martyr.

b. We do not know if any of them ever became followers of Jesus.

2. We can be sure that their lives would never be the same after seeing the Son of God hang on the cross. 


A. Even the most holy and spiritual activity can appear carnal to those who are not spiritual.
1. Titus 1:15-16- "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. {16} They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him,
being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work."

2. Here was a man giving his life without complaint, without pleading for mercy, and the Roman soldiers were casting lots for his meager possessions. 

3. We should not be terribly surprised when those who are not Christians do not see the great spiritual significance to the Lord's Supper, baptism, etc.

a. Romans 8:5-8- "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. {6} For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. {7} Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. {8} So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
B. The cross of Jesus has the power to change the individual.
1. The centurion began as a Roman officer overseeing a crucifixion, but ended the day acknowledging that Jesus was the Son of God.

2. 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24 "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God....but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, {24} but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."

3. Galatians 2:20

4. Acts 2:36-38- ""Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." {37} Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to
Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" {38} Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

5. Colossians 1:21-22- "And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled {22} in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight;"

CONCLUSION: As you travel along I-10 in Louisiana there is a large billboard which catches your eye. It stands high above the city just as you start up the Mississippi River bridge. On it is a picture of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross of Calvary, head bowed. The caption underneath says in bold letters, "It's Your Move!" What a powerful thought. God has already taken the initiative in salvation. Christ died for you. Now it's your move!

Copyright 1999 by Grady Scott may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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