1/13 Matthew 27:54

54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"

Jesus' life was the ultimate example of how a Spirit-filled person should live. His death was the ultimate example of how a believer should die. The centurion had seen many people die by crucifixion. It was a gruesome, drawn-out process. Jesus' death was utterly unique. While enduring the worst pain imaginable, He spoke forgiveness for those executing Him. There was assurance for the repentant victim next to Him. He resolved the custody of His mother. He declared His work was accomplished. Instead of clinging to life, He released His Spirit to the Father. His courage and acceptance were probably as impressive to the centurion and his men as were the physical events that occurred.

From noon to the time of the afternoon sacrifice, a period of three hours, darkness enshrouded the land (Matthew 27:45). I believe it was not an eclipse or cloud cover, but the thick darkness that could be felt, reminding me of the curse upon Egypt (Exodus 10:21). When Jesus released His Spirit and His body died, there was a great earthquake. People in Jerusalem witnessed departed saints walking the streets (Matthew 27:52-53). The centurion had never witnessed a crucifixion anything like this one. He was filled with awe and confessed that Jesus must be the Son of God.

This centurion and his men may well have participated in the scourging and mocking of Jesus, but when Jesus died they were trembling in fear. They had no doubt heard the accusations that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews and even the Son of God. Now they confess that they believe it is true. It may well be that the prayer of Jesus was answered that very moment: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Consider: One of the most powerful tools of conversion throughout history has been the death of the martyrs. They followed Jesus' example in life and in death.