Excerpt from "And Then He Touched Me" by Wayne
I was an optio, a centurion, second in command.
My post was Jerusalem, in the restless Jewish land.
What could be said about a people so bereft of wit
They could imagine but one god and lorded it
Over us? On my little household altar stood
Figures of eight gods, all very Roman, very good.
As I approached the praetorium that morning
Fed and rested, without the slightest warning
I came upon a man in bloody garb surrounded
By tough soldiers of our command who hounded
Him and shouted curses with wild abandon.
I could see that major damage had been done
During the night. His hands were bound
And around His head a crown of thorns wound.
The primus approached and greeted me.
“Your day’s work, at least till about three,
Is to escort this man through the town untied,
To that gruesome hill called Golgotha to be crucified,”
I acknowledged the order and selected my detail.
I sent them to get the usual: a cross, a hammer and nails.
As custom dictated, He carried the cross as I opened the praetorium door.
The crowd, when they saw him, went wild. Many jeered, others swore.
I heard the words “blasphemer,” “charlatan,” and “sham,”
But all I saw was a tired, resigned, condemned man.
I was determined that this execution be conducted
With all the dignity and swiftness it deserved,
And about the crazed crowd I instructed
The men to be firm and not to become unnerved.
It was a constant battle to remain in control,
But we managed to get Him there more or less whole.
We nailed Him to the cross, hands and feet, and raised it high.
The angry mob had quieted. Perhaps it was the angry sky.
We raised two thieves on either side of Him thereafter.
He suffered the abusive thief meekly.
To the believer He promised weakly
That he would join Him in paradise hereafter.
A sunny day had turned forbidding and gray,
And many, totally spent, began to slip away.
It was then that the weary waiting began,
And I had time to take the measure of the man.
He seemed very calm for a man about to die,
And I could see a gentleness in His eye.
I asked around the crowd about His crime,
But His accusers had left, satisfied, by that time.
A group of supporters, weeping, wailing and crying
Moaned over and over that the Son of God was dying.
Many of my gods had sons and daughters, but mine
Were immortal. How could a god die?
Near the end He cried out, “I am thirsty!” for all to hear.
So I held a sponge dipped in wine to His mouth with my spear.
I think what He said next was heard by no one.
He simply whispered, “Thank you, my son.”
How a man clearly my junior by a decade
Could call me son with no hint of irony made
Me ponder and look deep inside.
Shortly thereafter He died.
The darkness intensified on that cursed, quaking hill,
And I realized it was an upright man we had killed.
We came back to break the thieves’ legs after a while
To hurry death, but Jesus, seeming dead, we left whole.
To be absolutely sure, I took my spear and pierced His side.
Water and blood sprayed my arm, and my eyes went wide!
I was flooded with certainty on this subject alone:
There WAS only one God, could only be! Just one
For all of humanity, the Creator eternal and all-powerful.
I determined to immediately resign my commission in the legion
And seek knowledge about this one God throughout the region.
I learned much from Jesus’s followers and other Jews
As I made my way back to Rome.
But a rumor of His resurrection, called by some “good news,”
Nearly beat me back to my home.
I told about Jesus and the one God throughout the town
Even though my part in His unjust death I had to own.
Eventually, one of His twelve friends visited our group.
He shared Christ’s message of love and hope.
We now understand why He came, why He died,
And what He wants from us while we’re on this side.
I became a priest so that all my brothers may be fed
With Christ’s body and blood in the wine and the bread.
We prepare for the end of the world He said would come
So that we will be ready to enter into Christ’s kingdom.
The thought of His victory over death gives me a thrill.
I marvel that it all started on Golgotha, that glorious hill.
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