“Thud, thud, thud.” His footsteps seemed to keep pace with the each strike he witnessed. Three blows to drive the nails into each wrist; a few more blows to nail the feet into the angled block to increase suffering. The soldier continued to walk.
The centurion hearing the voice, turned. “Tirian. Yes…good to see you.”
“Gaius, what were you saying up on the hill?”
“Sorry, Tirian. I don’t remember. I’ve said a lot today?”
“You remember. When that “King of the Jews” shouted something about committing his spirit or some idiocy.”
Most of the day Gaius thought about all he had seen and heard. “Certainly this was a righteous man!” were his words. Now he wished he hadn’t spoken them.
“Gaius, what did you mean, he was righteous? He was found guilty of treason and insurrection. Even his own people were yelling for the cross. Do you think he was innocent?”
He replied too quickly, “I don’t know.”
“C’mon you dolt! He’s just a Jew. Forget him. Let’s get something to drink.”
“No. I…I need to go to the barracks and rest. It’s been a long day.”
“Fine, fine. My men are down for the night and here we are, two handsome, strong centurions with women waiting. All you want to do is pine over some fool.”
“Maybe you’re right Tirian, but I’m tired. I’ll see you in the morning,” Gaius turned to walk away.
“Get over it man, it’s your job.”
“Tirian is right.” Gaius thought to himself. Why am I concerned about this man?” Then as he straightened up to prove he could carry the guilt of innocent blood, he saw silhouettes against the dusk sky taking down the body. He fell to his knees weeping hard. In time he drifted into a fitful sleep against the wall.
“Gaius! Get up you fool! You have patrol this morning.”
Picking himself up slowly, Gaius straightened out his armor.
“Why are you sleeping in the streets? You know a lone soldier is a target. Let’s go and clean up. I’ve been patrolling and need some food. Join me.”
“Yes. Thanks Tirian.”
The day passed quickly without event. The night equally still until early morning.
“Gaius…have you heard?”
“No, nothing. What is it Tirian?”
“Those idiot Jews are saying their King has risen. There’s even a rumor that others have come up from the grave and are walking the streets. It looks like you’ll be busy today.”
Gaius shook his head and commanded the patrol to move forward.
The city was stirring. People were darting in and out of doors and shadows. Then one of the soldiers shouted from the ranks, “I don’t like it sir!”
“Quiet!” the centurion shouted back. “Maintain your discipline. You’re Roman soldiers, not barbarians. Stay alert.”
Then Gaius saw a man peering fearlessly into his eyes. “I’ve seen that man,” he thought to himself. “Men halt!” Still the man stared at the centurion. “You there! What is your business here?”
The man stood silently.
Gaius unnerved, drew his sword and quickly walked to the man. “You. I said what is your business here? What is your name?”
“You are my business centurion. My name is unimportant. You bear a weight not meant to be carried by men. You have killed the Son of God, but I come to give you hope.”
Gaius began to feel the blood drain from his face and said, “I broke your legs myself on your own cross.”
“Do not be afraid.” The man replied. “Jesus has risen and I have been called from the grave to tell you to trust in Him. The cross He hung on is now your bridge of life.”
“He was righteous?”
“Yes,” replied the man, “and by believing in Him, you may have that same innocence.”
“I want to know innocence again.” Gaius thought to himself.
The man gently smiled at the soldier and said, “Speak to God and tell Him the weight of your heart.”
The centurion’s head bowed.
“Son…God longs to forgive. Know this; your heart can be free in the man you crucified. Be at peace.” Suddenly he was gone.
Gaius looked about for the phantom and then walked back to the ranks, a soldier turned to him and asked, “Who was that man sir? Is everything alright?”
Turning to where the man was standing Gaius replied, “Better. Yes, better. Men, the streets are busy today. Let’s keep the peace. Forward.”
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