It had been an eventful year in Jerusalem. My Legion had been there from the start. Who could ever forget that memorable crucifixion. The one where my Centurion (who had his belief in God confirmed) said “In truth this man was the Son of God” (St Mark Chapter 15 verse 39).
Events followed with the body of Christ disappearing from the tomb under the noses of the guards. They were trusted soldiers who would not have been easily frightened. But they were terrified at what they saw when the angel came and rolled the stone away so that all could see that the tomb was empty. The angel told the women who had come to mourn, not to be afraid because Jesus had risen and had gone into Galilee.
Of course the Chief Priests would not believe a word of the soldiers report and paid them some hush money to say that the body was stolen while they slept. I am not sure how the men got round it but sleeping on guard duty was punishable by death! However, they made up their story and I am ashamed to admit they took the money.
I was captivated at Pentecost when St Peter spoke with great authority. I was on duty and could see the effect his words had on the multitude of Jews from many lands. When they realised they had crucified their Messiah many broke down and cried, “what shall we do?” They were told to repent of their sins and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. These new believers had their sins forgiven and received the gift of God the Holy Spirit to be in them (Acts Chapter 2 verses 37/38).
I thought this salvation was a Jewish thing. Later when Centurion Cornelius and his household were converted I realised it was for all nationalities. It was then that I too repented of my sins and believed in Jesus as My Saviour and Lord.
Now I am back in Rome on my first leave in time for Saturnalia and delighted to be able to meet up with fellow believers – mainly army men from the provinces.
I had an interesting encounter with my old Centurion friend who questioned me: –
“I hear you have a new religion – where is your Temple?” “Jesus is our Temple.”
“Where do you make your sacrifices?” “Jesus is our sacrifice.”
“Who is your priest?” “Jesus is our priest.”
“By Jupiter what kind of religion is that!” And of course my friend is right – it is not a religion. It is a relationship with the living God. We know Him through Jesus Christ.
John 14:6-7 Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
So this year I will be celebrating Saturnalia a little differently!