“The Centurion’s Report” is my own one-man, four-act drama. It’s the story of our Lord’s passion, but it’s told from a different point of view, the viewpoint of the centurion who witnessed Christ’s death upon the cross. It was this man who is quoted in Matthew’s gospel as saying, “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Mt. 27:54).
Over the years, countless lives all across the continent have been changed by the Spirit as they have witnessed this portrayal of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. Have you been to the cross lately? Every man, woman and child needs to visit there.
“The Centurion’s Report” also led me to write the award-winning biblical novel, “The Soldier Who Killed a King“. Trust me on this point. There is no higher drama than the drama of the cross and the resurrection. Don’t miss out on participating in it this year.
Reading: Psalm 148
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the LORD (NIV).*
Broadly speaking I like modern translations of the Bible over the traditional King James Version, but… But sometimes the old King James just sounds better, or more familiar. Here at the close of Psalm 148 we have a case in point.
The New International Version ends the psalm with these words: Praise the LORD. The King James Version ends the psalm with Praise ye the LORD. But a more literal translation or transliteration of this final phrase is Hallelujah! The footnotes to the New American Standard Bible point out that Hallelu means praise, while JAH is the abbreviated Hebrew name for God, which is often translated Jehovah or more accurately Yahweh.
Whenever you see the phrase praise the LORD, you are actually looking at a translation of the Hebrew word hallelujah!
Hallelujah is entirely absent from the New International Version of the Bible. It has also been scrubbed from most of the other modern translations. To put it bluntly, I miss hallelujah. It has an uplifting ring to it. Hallelujah skips off the tongue like a shooting star. It bursts forth from a thankful heart like fireworks on a summer night.
For the Christian believer Christmas is the great Hallelujah! God has come to the earth and been born as a baby like you and me. This is the beginning of the great redemption story.
The resurrection is the second great Hallelujah! The Son of God was vindicated. His death was not in vain. He conquered death, our greatest foe, and now Jesus reigns on high forever. That calls for a hallelujah! And for good measure, let’s add praise the LORD too!
The one who at his birth was laid in a manger is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. As Handel’s Messiah proclaims, “He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!” Let the hallelujahs resound from the earth to the heavens as we join in the song of the angels—the song of the ages.
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
Response: LORD God, I praise you for sending Jesus. I praise you for your great plan of redemption. Jesus, I thank you for carrying my sins to Calvary. I rejoice in your resurrection victory. Hallelujah! Amen.
Your Turn: Do you enjoy Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus? What is your favorite expression of praise to God?
*New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.
Reading: Psalm 107
Some became fools through their rebellious ways
and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
They loathed all food
and drew near the gates of death.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them;
he rescued them from the grave.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
Let them sacrifice thank offerings
and tell of his works with songs of joy (NIV).
There is a verse in Psalm 107 that holds deep significance for all eternity—past, present and future. Here is the verse: He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave (Psalm 107:20).
I was introduced to this wonderful verse at the funeral of my maternal grandfather. Psalm 107:20 was the sermon text. This Bible verse might seem like an odd choice for use at a funeral. After all, in the end the deceased was not healed. In the case of my grandfather, he made it to the ripe old age 92 years, but death triumphed in the end. Or did it?
The pastor pointed out that throughout his life, on countless occasions, God sent out his word and healed my grandfather, and God who is faithful would do it again. But on the next occasion the LORD would raise my grandfather from the dead.
This is the great hope of all who believe in Jesus Christ. He is our forerunner. He suffered death on our behalf, but he also experienced resurrection—the same kind of resurrection that every believer will experience.
The God who in eons past spoke galaxies into existence can send His word and resurrect my grandfather, and all who have put their faith in the resurrected Savior. With each passing day that awesome moment draws nearer. That’s the ultimate healing and it happens through the power of God’s word.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Response: Father God, send your word. Send your word and heal those who are sick. Send your word and save and transform those who are hostile to you. Send your word and resurrect those who are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins. LORD God, send your living word. Amen.
Your Turn: Who springs to mind when you pray for God to send His word?
Reading: Psalm 104
All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face, they are terrified;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.
But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the LORD, my soul. Praise the LORD (NIV).
Recently, my wife and I attended the funeral of my brother-in-law, Victor. He was a man of deep faith, who was always active in the church. At no point was he ashamed to call himself a follower of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Victor loved his Savior and I am sure his spirit rejoiced to see Jesus face to face.
There is a line from today’s reading from Psalm 104 which is particularly relevant as we think about life and death: when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
In context of this psalm, the author was speaking of all creatures, in other words the animal kingdom, but these words apply to all that breathe the breath of life, including humans. For Victor, who struggled for every breath during the last years of his life, the words of this psalm had true meaning. But the second part of this psalm reading is also pertinent in the context of a funeral: When you send your Spirit, they are created.
I believe in the resurrection of the dead. The grave is not the final end for those who have placed their faith in Christ. A great re-creation will happen. The grave could not hold Jesus, and a day is coming when it will not hold Victor, or any who have died in the faith. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Response: Father God, send your reviving Spirit. Come, Lord Jesus. I long for your return. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Who do you long to greet on the other side?
Reading: Psalm 104
He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.
How many are your works, LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there (NIV).
There is something to be said for routine and regularity. By that I mean the whole vast rhythm of life. Today’s reading from Psalm 104 eloquently reflects the rhythm of life from sunrise to sunset and the return to sunrise once again.
Yesterday, my wife and I collected beautiful ripe tomatoes from our garden. But I expect in another month a hard frost will be on its way. By the end of October we will be digging out the potatoes and root vegetables and putting them into storage. The seasons are changing. They always have. In this part of the world, all we can do is prepare for the transition; we can’t prevent it from happening.
In reality, transitions are about rest and renewal. The setting sun lets us know that it’s time to stop our labor and get the rest that is essential for our well-being. In the same way as winter approaches trees and vegetation go dormant, but after a season of rest the great spring renewal will surely come. It always has, and so it will continue until the end of time.
In the same way there is a renewal promised to us at the end this life. Resurrection happens every spring and it will happen to this old clod of earth as well. That’s the great hope we have because of Christ. The word of God has been planted in our hearts and it will bear fruit now and in eternity, which has been promised to those who believe. Do you believe? Do you have faith in the changing seasons? Do you have faith in the One who created the seasons?
Response: Father God, thank you for designing the days, months and seasons. I want to draw near to you in every season of life. How many are your works, LORD! You are worthy of all praise. Renew and refresh me in the seasons of my life. Amen.
Your Turn: What is your favorite season? Why?
Reading: Psalm 71
Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.
I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—
I whom you have delivered.
My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
have been put to shame and confusion (NIV).
Typically Christians view resurrection as a New Testament concept, but here in the conclusion to Psalm 71, we can see that the Old Testament psalmist had a solid grasp of resurrection truths. Consider his words. Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.
That sounds like resurrection to me. Jesus fulfilled the prophetic words of the psalmist when he stepped out of the tomb on resurrection morning. Elsewhere David spoke prophetically of Christ and his resurrection when he wrote, “I am your chosen one. You won’t leave me in the grave or let my body decay” (Psalm 16:10).
Peter sited this verse as proof of Jesus’ resurrection when he preached to the crowd that gathered on the Day of Pentecost. See Acts 2:22-36.
The promise of the resurrection filled the psalmist with hope and it should do the same for us. Because Jesus is alive now, we too will be raised to life. That thought should buoy us on tough days. When we lose a loved one, whose faith was rooted in God’s redeeming love, we can rest assured that our farewell is not forever. We will see them again at the resurrection. On that great day we can join with the psalmist and declare, “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I whom you have delivered.”
Response: LORD God, thank you for the promise of resurrection. Thank you for the hope we have in Jesus. Through Jesus’ shed blood we have redemption, and the forgiveness that makes resurrection possible. Hallelujah! Amen.
Your Turn: Why is the resurrection meaningful to you?
Reading: Psalm 68
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. A song.
May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
may his foes flee before him.
May you blow them away like smoke—
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the LORD.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land (NIV).
Anyone who has read through the Book of Psalms will readily admit there is a great deal of variety from psalm to psalm. Some psalms are filled with joyous praise, while others are personal or even national laments. Some are filled with humble contrition, while others call for retribution against one’s foes. Each psalm is reflective of the state the psalmist finds himself in. In this respect the psalms act as a Spirit-inspired mirror of the human condition. The highs and lows of life are reflected there.
Psalm 68 is a hymn of triumph—national triumph. Think of it as a triumphant processional song. The enemies have been vanquished and God’s army has returned victorious. May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him.
Because God has won the victory, His people can rejoice before Him. Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the LORD.
In his lifetime David experienced many victories over his foes, but he did not take credit for his successes. He knew that his triumphs came from the LORD. God was his personal defender—but God was and is also the defender of the fatherless and the widow.
We too have experienced a great victory. It was won for us on Mount Calvary. Satan and the power of sin and death were defeated there. Jesus triumphed over hell and the grave through his resurrection. Now that victory is ours by faith. Rejoice before him—his name is the LORD!
Response: LORD God, I thank you for the victory Jesus won on my behalf at the cross. I praise you for your unconditional love. Help me walk triumphantly in life today because of you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you experiencing victory today? Allow the eternal significance of Christ’s victory permeate your heart and mind.
Reading: Psalm 62
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done” (NIV).
In this life that we have been given, what things are solid? What things are sure? Not much according to the psalmist, David.
Our station in life is just a fabricated lie. At heart, the highborn are no different than the street pauper. We breathe the same air, suffer the indignities of aging, and our bodies are fated for death and decay. In his epistle, James makes our fate quite clear. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14b).
As for this world’s wealth, it has no lasting value. Here is sound advice—advice from this psalm that you won’t get from a financial planner: though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
What then should we do? How should we live? Live in the light and knowledge of eternity and the One who holds eternity in His hands. David reminds us God will…“reward everyone according to what they have done.”
In other words, how we live matters. It matters for now and eternity. That knowledge should inform and give shape to all that we say and do. But there are two additional truths that should bring meaning to our lives. One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love.”
God alone has the power of life, death and resurrection. And in Jesus, He demonstrated his unfailing power and love for every man, woman and child on this planet. On the cross Jesus showed his unfailing love. Other loves—human loves—may fail us, but God’s love stands firm and unwavering. In a changing world of eroding values our LORD remains firm and immovable.
Response: LORD God, thank you for the unfailing love of Jesus. You love me even when I have failed and despite my shortcomings. Help me live my life in the light of eternity. Amen.
Your Turn: Is God’s love a motivator for you to change your ways, since He never changes?
A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?
Date: Nine in the morning, Sunday, April 9, 30 A.D.
Marcus Longinus, the Roman centurion, investigates his soldiers’ report that Jesus had risen from the dead.
It was as they said. The stone was rolled away. But it was not merely rolled to the side as I had expected. It had been pushed right up and out of its stone track, and it had toppled over a good distance from the tomb entrance.
I edged my way toward it. About two paces from the end of the stone track, there was gouge in the shallow soil, where the round cover stone had landed and then rolled. This was a real headshaker. How had this happened? It must have been rolled back with such force that when it reached the end of the track, it bounced up and out. No wonder the men were scared! This was awesome. Forty men could not do this!
Suddenly I felt very small, small and afraid.
And this was the very stone we had sealed just a day earlier. A close examination showed that in a few spots there were still fragments of broken plaster on it. I exhaled a huge puff of air. This discovery in itself was beyond all expectation. The force of the quake could not have done this. A quake of such magnitude would have collapsed the tomb itself, and not a building in the city would be standing. No, a direct force had hurled this boulder away from the tomb’s entrance.
An almighty warrior from heaven’s realm?
I rejoined my two men. Suddenly they gained a new level of respect in my eyes. Their fears had become my own. I found I was rolling my head from side to side just as I had seen Claudius do.
“You saw this happen?” I gestured to the fallen round rock and then put a finger to my lips. I was astounded.
“Actually,” Philip admitted, “I didn’t see him roll the stone. We all fell like dead men when the earthquake hit. But after, when I opened my eyes, the angel was sitting on it, and . . . and Jesus was walking out of the tomb.” He fell to his knees and began to beat the ground as he said this last part. He was gripped afresh by the memory.
“Where were you when this happened?” He raised his head and pointed to a spot a few paces away. “Right there.”
“And you?” I looked at Claudius. He pointed to another spot. “Just over here,” he said. “That’s my cloak. I left it when I ran.”
There was, in fact, a good bit of flotsam scattered about: a few cloaks, a water jug, Philip’s precious dice, even a helmet. Here were all the signs of panicked flight. They had left all and fled for their lives.
For me only one question remained. Was the open tomb truly empty?
“Get to your feet, Philip,” I said. “You two stay here and watch while I go take a look inside.”
I took three deep breaths and set out on my little journey. It was only about twenty paces to the tomb entrance. A distance made much longer by my fear. But the whole scene was bathed in the warmth of morning sunlight. I started slowly. About halfway to the entrance, a songbird broke forth in glorious melody. The sun’s rays streamed into the rock tomb, lighting my way.
It was empty! The stone slab lay empty. Actually, it was not entirely so. The death shroud had been rolled up, and the face covering was neatly folded and lay off to one side. It appeared as though the awakened corpse took a moment to make his bed after getting up.
The Galilean prophet, the true king, had arisen and gone forth!
To download a free study guide for this high-impact, bible-based novel visit: https://www.davidkitz.ca/centurion.php/free study guide PDF
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