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Verse 54

Matthew 27:54. When the centurion The officer who commanded the guard, called centurio, from centum, a hundred, because he had the command of a hundred men; and those that were with him The soldiers that attended him; watching Jesus And standing over against him; saw the earthquake, and the things that were done The other wonders wrought at his crucifixion, together with his meek and patient behaviour under his sufferings, and the composure and confidence with which he committed his departing soul into the hands of his heavenly Father; they feared greatly Were greatly alarmed and influenced by a religious fear of that Being who had given such awful proofs of his displeasure at what had just taken place. Luke says, The centurion glorified God, and that not only by acknowledging his hand in the prodigies they had witnessed, but by confessing the innocence of Jesus, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man Gr. δικαιος , the character which Pilate’s wife had given of him before he was condemned, Matthew 27:19. According to Mark, chap. Matthew 15:39, he said likewise, Truly this man was the Son of God. It is true, because the article is here wanting in the original, and the words, both in Matthew and. Mark, are only υιος θεου , and not ο υιος του θεου , some would render the expression, a son of God; a phraseology which they think perfectly suitable in the mouth of a polytheist and an idolater, such as they take it for granted this Roman centurion was. But it is evident that no argument can be brought in justification of such a sense of the words from the absence of the Greek article, because it is often wanting when the true God is evidently meant, as Matthew 27:43, and John 19:7. It is probable this centurion was not now an idolater, but a proselyte to the Jewish religion, and therefore a worshipper of the true God. At least he must have been acquainted with the opinions of the Jews, and have known that Jesus was put to death by them for averring himself to be, not the son of a heathen god, but the son of the God whom the Jews worshipped: and therefore, when he made his confession, he doubtless referred to that circumstance, or to the words of the chief priests and scribes, recorded in Matthew 27:43, He trusted in God, &c., for he said, I am the Son of God. Matthew says, They that were with the centurion joined in the same confession. It maybe questioned, indeed, as they seem to have been the same soldiers that crowned Jesus with thorns and mocked him, whether they understood the proper meaning of the expression, The Son of God. They probably, however, were convinced that he was a person approved of, and beloved by, the God of the Jews; and that his heavenly Father would certainly avenge his quarrel very terribly on them, and on the Jewish nation, who had delivered him into their hands to be crucified. In the mean time, though the Roman centurion, and his heathen soldiers, were thus alarmed by the prodigies which they had beheld, these wonders appear to have had no influence on the minds of the Jewish priests, scribes, and elders: their minds, it seems, continued impenetrable and obstinate, and full of unbelief and invincible prejudice against Christ, so that neither the miracles done by him in his life, nor those wrought at his death, could convince them that he was any other than an impostor and deceiver. This, however, was not the case with the common people. From Luke 23:48, we learn that not only the centurion and his soldiers, but all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, for sorrow and remorse; in terrible expectation that some sad calamity would speedily befall them and their country, for the indignities and cruelties they had offered to a person for whom God had expressed so high a regard, even in his greatest distress. “They had, indeed, been instant with loud voices to have him crucified, but now that they saw the face of the creation darkened with a sullen gloom during his crucifixion, and found his death accompanied with an earthquake, as if nature had been in an agony when he died, they rightly interpreted these prodigies to be so many testimonies of his innocence; and their passions, which had been inflamed and exasperated against him, became quite calm, or moved in his behalf. Some could not forgive themselves for neglecting to accept his life when the governor offered to release him; others were stung with remorse for having had an active hand both in his death, and in the insults that were offered to him; others felt the deepest grief at the thought of his lot, which was undeservedly severe; and these various passions appeared in their countenances, for they came away from the cruel execution pensive and silent, with downcast eyes, and hearts ready to burst: or groaning deeply within themselves, they wept, smote their breasts, and wailed greatly. The grief which they now felt for Jesus, was distinguished from their former rage against him by this remarkable character, that their rage was entirely produced by the craft of the priests, who had wickedly incensed them; whereas their grief was the genuine feeling of their own hearts, greatly affected with the truth and innocence of him that was the object of their commiseration. Nor was this the temper only of a few, who may be thought to have been Christ’s particular friends. It was the general condition of the people, who had come in such numbers to look on, that when they parted, after the execution, they covered the roads, and, as it were, darkened the whole fields around.” Macknight.

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