When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”  (Matthew 27:54)

The centurion (who was a Roman officer with command over a “century” or 100 or so soldiers gets one line in the Passion play, but it’s a good one. He’s overseen the beating of Jesus, and Jesus’s bloody crucifixion–as well as the the crucifixion of two others. He sees in what a stately manner Jesus dies, how Jesus forgives those who killed them.

In Matthew’s version of the Passion, he also sees the the holy dead rise from their tombs and feels a great earthquake that rends the curtain in the temple. And so he cries out, “Surely, this is the Son of God!”. In Luke’s Passion, he merely declares Jesus innocent.

In this story, we get a prefiguring of the gospel truth that all people–Romans, Greeks, and all Gentiles as well as the Jews–are beloved by God, and that surely the innocent one, Jesus, is God’s Son who brings the good news of peace and reconciliation to God and to one another.

Julian of Norwich meditated on the bloody death of Jesus, and her imaginations led her to a fuller love and understanding of God and God’s love for her. I think of what she did as a kind of “crucifiction,” a meditative imagining of the Passion story that settled her heart on God. I don’t quite know the value of this kind of imagining for modern urbanized Christians today, but I’m trying to learn.

May God’s peace through the death of Jesus lead you to proclaim Jesus as God’s Son.