The Second Mile
By: Kevin Kindrick
The sun beat down on Piletius, a Roman centurion, as he approached the gates to leave Jerusalem. In full armor, he felt as if he was a walking oven, and his fifty pounds of gear didn’t help any. Several Hebrew men were gathered around the gate, as always, and seemed to be discussing something of great importance.
As he neared the group, he overheard part of their conversation; “…but He couldn’t have been talking about them, right?” one of the men was saying.
Another responded, “He spoke of loving your enemies, and they are certainly our…” The man’s voice dwindled to a murmur as Piletius drew nearer.
That was when Piletius made his decision. It was custom for Roman soldiers on long journeys to order a Hebrew man to walk with them one mile, in order to carry equipment – or, perhaps, just for company. Piletius stopped next to the group of men, and reveled for a moment in the respectful silence – and intimidated looks – that his Roman uniform earned from these men. He pointed to the first man who spoke, and said, “You, walk with me.”
All eyes turned to the man chosen. He nodded slowly, turned to put on his cloak and pick up his staff, then joined Piletius, as custom demanded. Piletius handed the man his bag; and, as they left the gate, asked, “What is your name, Hebrew?”
“Matthias,” the man responded, “and I am a member of what you would call the Way.”
Immediately, Piletius’ interest doubled. He had heard of this “Way.” It was a growing band of Hebrew men and women who were apparently discontent with the Jewish tradition; and followed instead the teachings of a carpenter who had been crucified some months before.
“Tell me of your ‘Way’,” Piletius demanded of his unwilling companion.
Suddenly, the man’s face brightened, and his step seemed lighter, despite the weight of a Roman soldier’s bag slung over his shoulder. “We follow the teachings of a Man named Jesus, who we believe is the Mes-“
“Yes, yes, I know who you follow,” Piletius interrupted, “but what did He teach?”
At first stunned, perhaps frightened by Peletius’ reaction, Matthias quickly recovered, and began, “He taught a doctrine of love. He spoke constantly of two things, love God with all your heart, and love people. But He didn’t mean just love friends and family, He meant to even love your enemies – to pray for them! This was such a strange teaching that, at first, few were willing to follow Him. But we have grown over time; and now our number even includes Gentiles such as Greeks, and even Romans!”
The man continued in this vein for some time, and Piletius grew more and more absorbed with what he was hearing; so much so that, at first, he didn’t see the mile post at the side of the road. When he did notice, he stopped this strange Hebrew in mid-sentence and said, “It has been most interesting listening to you, but your obligation has been fulfilled, so hand me my bag, and I will be on my way.”
Matthias merely kept walking, and said, “You don’t understand. When Jesus said to love your enemy, he meant even Roman soldiers. He said, ‘Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.’ So I beg of you, sir, allow me to go with you a second mile.”
Piletius consented to this strange request, intrigued by the teachings of this carpenter.
As they walked, Matthias continued to expound on the words of this Jesus. He spoke of phrases such as, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through Me,” and, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
Something inside Piletius was stirred at Matthias’ words. By the time they reached the second mile post, he had come to a new decision. He dropped to his knees and said to Matthias, “I want to follow this Jesus of yours. Will you tell me how?”
Matthias spoke with joy, “You must commit your life to Him, and Him alone. Repent of your sins, and His blood can wash them away.”
When Piletius heard these words, his eyes began to fill with tears, and he said, “I want this cleansing, I want to commit my life to following Jesus, I want to make Him my Lord. I repent of all my sins, and will gladly accept this cleansing He offers,” then he fell to his face and wept unashamedly before this man who had walked with him two miles.
As Piletius wept, Matthias turned and saw a small pool beside the road. Filled with excitement, he said, “Come, and be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Piletius arose and accompanied Matthias into the middle of the small pool. As he leaned back, Matthias lowered him down into the water; and, as he came back up, Piletius felt a new peace and power fill him. Immediately his soul was filled with joy, and his mouth was filled with words of a language he did not recognize.
Matthias said, “Welcome, brother, to the Way of Jesus Christ.”
When they returned to the road, Piletius picked up his bag and said to Matthias, “Return home, brother; for I must carry on. My journey is long, and I have much to pray about.” And so the Hebrew and the centurion, two men who began a journey as enemies, parted as brothers; and, though they were going in different directions, both were walking in the same Way, all because a Hebrew man walked the second mile.
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