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Discovering the Son of God

What the Centurion Discovered

Pilate called his soldiers. The soldiers beat Jesus severely. They also mocked Him. They put a purple robe on Him like a king might wear. They said, "Hail, King of the Jews." They put a crown on His head. It wasn’t a king’s crown. It was made of thorns. The thorns pushed into His head. Then they put Jesus’ own clothing on Him and led Him away.

The soldiers gave Jesus a cross to carry. It was the cross he would die on. It was heavy. Jesus had been up all night. He had been badly beaten. He was already too sick to carry a heavy load. He fell when He tried to carry the cross.

The soldiers grabbed a man from the crowd. They forced him to help Jesus carry the cross. They took Jesus outside the city. They went to a hill called "The Place of the Skull."

The soldiers laid the cross on the ground. They made Jesus lie on the cross. They stretched out his arms. Then, they drove nails through his hands into the cross. They nailed his feet to the bottom of the cross. They pushed the cross up so it would rest in a hole in the ground. Jesus’ back was already cut from the beating. Blood ran from His wounds. Jesus hung by His arms. It was hard to breathe in this position. The pressure caused by trying to breath would slowly kill Him.

Pilate made a sign. The soldiers put the sign at the top of the cross. The sign said, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." The religious leaders did not like this. They hated Jesus. They didn’t want Him for their king. Jesus was dying like a criminal would die. Pilate’s sign meant their king was a criminal. It made them look bad. The leaders asked Pilate to change the sign.

Pilate wouldn’t change the sign. "What I have written, I have written," he said."

The soldiers had taken away Jesus’ clothes. They tore his clothing into pieces. Each soldier received a piece. Jesus’ coat was a nice one. It had been woven as one piece of cloth with no seams. The soldiers didn’t want to tear this coat. They gambled to decide who would get it.

Jesus’ enemies came. They mocked him. "You said you are the Son of God. If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!" they said.

Jesus wasn’t the only one the government executed that day. Two thieves hung on crosses beside Him. One of them mocked Jesus like His enemies did. He said, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross. Take us down with you!"

The other criminal didn’t like this. He said, "You should be afraid. We are dying because we deserve to die. Jesus has done no wrong. You shouldn’t mock Him." Then, He looked at Jesus. He said, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."

Jesus was hurting and dying, but He was still kind. He also knew why He was dying. He was dying so criminals and other sinners could be forgiven. He was dying to give humans life after death. He said to the man, "You will be with me in a good place today."

Jesus’ mother stood near Him watching. John, one of his closest friends, stood there too. Jesus asked John to care for His mother. John cared for Mary for the rest of her life.

About noon the sky became dark. We don’t know if there was an eclipse. We don’t know if there were thick clouds. We don’t know if God made the sky dark without using nature. We just know that it got dark. The sky remained dark for three hours.

Jesus was nearly dead. He hurt badly. In addition to the pain, He also suffered spiritually. He was being punished for the sins of the whole world. Sin offends God. His Father turned away from Him because of those sins. Jesus felt very much alone. He cried, "My God! My God! Why have you left me?"

Someone offered him medicine.

Then, Jesus cried out, "It is finished." He took one last breath and died. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon.

There was an earthquake when Jesus died. Something wonderful happened in the temple at the same time. The temple had a large curtain. It was called "the veil." The veil hid the holiest part of the temple. The holiest place was where God would come. God is too holy for ordinary sinful people to come near. The veil kept people away from God. When Jesus died, the veil ripped in two. God had made a way for people to come near to Him.

Soldiers guarded the dying prisoners. One soldier was an army officer called a centurion. This officer had seen and heard everything. He had seen Jesus hang from the cross. He’d heard people mock Him. He’d heard them talk about Jesus being the Son of God. He’d seen the darkness. He’d felt the earthquake. He’d heard Jesus’ last words. He had helped kill Jesus. He and the other soldiers became frightened. Now they understood that the man they had killed wasn’t a criminal. The centurion said, "Truly, this was the Son of God."

The centurion had discovered the truth about Jesus. We don’t know what he did with this truth. He might have learned more about Jesus. I hope he did. Jesus died to take everyone’s punishment. Since Jesus died, God will forgive anyone who asks—even those who killed His Son. I hope the centurion believed in Jesus and found forgiveness.

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