c) Matt 27:54: A Roman centurion represented the most powerful military on earth. After overseeing the flogging, mocking, and crucifixion of Jesus, this commander and his men observed the supernatural darkening of the sky.[1]

They saw that “in this way he breathed his last” (Mark 15:39),[2] and they experienced the earthquake.

As a result, the members of the execution team recognized their victim’s true identity.[3] Taking the title used to mock the dying man in Matt 27:40, these gentiles made it the confession of their hearts.[4]

They appeared to recognize Jesus’s innocence and, therefore, repented for their complicity in his execution.[5] Thus, they acted as the “two or three witnesses” required for official testimony (Deut 19:15).[6]

Normal Roman usage of the term “son of God” might refer to a semi-divine hero or the son of a deity, such as the Roman emperor.[7]

However, the Greek structure of the sentence indicates that the centurion confessed that Jesus was the Son of God (Cf. John 1:1).[8]

The soldiers concluded that truth was on the side of Christ rather than with his mockers.[9]

Thus, Jesus’s death became the definitive event which proclaimed his true status.[10]

Matthew had hinted at the inclusion of gentiles within God’s people from the very beginning of his gospel. With the exception of Mary, he included only gentile women (Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth) in the genealogy of Christ (Matt 1:1–16).

Nevertheless, this pronouncement by the soldiers accentuated Jesus’s post-resurrection command to “make disciples of all the people-groups” (Matt 28:19).[11]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Matt 27:54. How were the Roman centurion and the soldiers with him affected by what they had witnessed? Why would Matthew have included them in this account? When did you recognize the divinity of Christ?

 

 

 

 

 

Go to Our Great High Priest

 

[Related posts include A Most Cruel and Ignominious Punishment (Matt 27:26–37); Forsaken (Matt 27:38–49); The Death of God (John 19:28–30); God Rends the Barrier (Matt 27:50–51); In the Beginning Was the Word (John 1:1–2); The Light Shines in Darkness (John 1:3–5); Equality with God (Phil 2:5–6); A Summary of Trinitarian Creeds (Appendix to Phil 2:5–6); Taking the Form of a Slave (Phil 2:7); Obedient to the Point of Death (Phil 2:8); and The Name Above Every Name (Phil 2:9–11)]

 

[Click here to go to Chapter 7: The Seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman (Genesis 3:14–15)]

 

[1] Wilkins, Matthew, 920–1.

[2] France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1083.

[3] Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 688.

[4] Davies and Allison, Matthew 19–28, 635

[5] Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 852.

[6] France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1083.

[7] Keener, IVPBBCNT, Matt 27:54.

[8] Osborne, Matthew, 1047. See In the Beginning Was the Word (John 1:1) for a detailed explanation of the grammar outlined by Philip Harner in “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” JBL, vol. 92, 1973, 75-87, http://digilander.libero.it/domingo7/Harner2.htm.

[9] France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1084.

[10] Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 688.

[11] Wilkins, Matthew, 921.