God can transform the hardest of hearts. I know. I have watched him do this.
Roman centurions were a tough lot. These career officers were in charge of 100 men. They worked their forces with tenacity. At times they conducted mock battles, soldiers wielding swords and shields weighing twice that of ordinary weapons. Strength and stamina were at a premium!
Soldiers under a centurion’s command gave their all. Pity the troops that did not. Inferior fighting, inadequate courage, or mutiny could result in decimation. In decimation soldiers would “draw straws.” Their officers would club every tenth man to death while the other foot soldiers stood by or even participated.
Centurions were not Boy Scouts. These were tough and heartless men. It was no big deal to them to nail a criminal to a cross and watch him die – that was “kids play!” This is why we have to take notice when we hear what the centurion said as he watched Jesus die.
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" Mark 15:33-34; 37-39 ESV
When people see Jesus—really see him—something happens. God grabs the heart and transforms the life. He turned a cold-hearted centurion into a tenderhearted follower of Christ. Governments cannot legislate this kind of change, schools cannot teach it, and twelve-step groups cannot guarantee it.
The centurion’s response gives me great hope for "the tough guy." You know type: smug, self-sufficient, hard-hearted, sometimes arrogant, but mostly just indifferent about Jesus. I look at them and say, “They will never change!” But God proves me wrong. He can transform the hardest hearts, the toughest of men and women. That is the power of the cross and the good news of the gospel.
Today, thank God for the life-transforming power of Christ and take time to pray for "the tough guy" in your life.
Note: Join us for our Good Friday Service at Spanish River Church. 7:30 p.m.