"When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, 'Surely he was the Son of God!'”
—Matthew 27:54 NIV.
The centurion’s faith had been impressive. We first meet him in Capernaum where he had gone to ask Jesus to help his servant who was suffering terribly from paralysis. Jesus was willing to go home to the centurion to heal the servant. But the centurion perceived that he never deserved to have the Lord Jesus under his roof. He asked Jesus to 'just say the word and my servant will be healed.'
His faith amazed Jesus a result of which the Lord said to those following Him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (see Matthew 8:5-10). Centurion's servant was healed.
There was no doubt in the centurion’s mind about who Jesus said He was. He had believed that Jesus could speak to sickness and it would obey just as he (the centurion) could speak to people under him and they would obey.
At the crucifixion of Jesus, he features again. It is difficult to fathom what was going on in his mind to counter the paradox of God’s Son ‘helpless’ in the hands of crucifiers. But being someone who had had a moment of inspiration of Jesus’ words, he could have retained what Jesus had said about His resurrection. After the wonderful encounter with Christ, the centurion must have been privy to His teachings, including the subject of resurrection.
When Jesus finally succumbed to death, the centurion in the company of others, exclaimed: “Surely he was the Son of God!” (note: italics for emphasis). Behind this declaration is a faith that bemoans the contradiction that surrounded Jesus death. One can easily imagine the mental agony that tortured the minds of those who had believed in Him: How could evil camouflaged in religion triumph over the essence of righteousness?
If they believed ALL that Jesus had said about His resurrection, they could as well have said: Surely He is the Son of God. Jesus to them is now a past tense. Jesus had predicted His death, and with it declared that He would rise again. He had all along said what He meant and meant what He said, why would they think He never meant what He said about resurrection?
They must have been asking: How can God allow this to happen to His Son? But despite this paradox, they still maintained and confessed: 'He was the Son of God.'
The same confession would get them into a heated debate with those who mocked Christ's divinity: If He was the Son of God, why didn't He just come down; or didn't you hear him call Elijah to come and help Him? In their own words, the unbelieving commented: “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:43).
Thank God for the resurrection: It changed 'WAS' to 'IS'. Forever He Is!
When Jesus rose from the dead, the centurion must have learnt that death needs not bring expiration to an inspiration.