That day was a day I won't forget. I had never seen anything like it. In my time spent with the Legion in Jerusalem, I had helped perform many executions, but this one was different. This day there were three men condemned to die. The sentence proclaimed on each of them had been death by crucifixion.
At the palace, we tied the large crossbeams of rough hewn wood across the backs of each of the condemned. Their arms were outstretched on the wood demonstrating to everyone throughout the city what was going to happen to them. We took "the parade route" through town. We wound down every street to warn the people that the Roman Empire was serious about crime. Everyone knew where we were headed. There was this hill called "The Skull" where we performed the executions. As we wound down the streets, the weight of the beams dug into their back. Several splinters from the rough wood slivered deep into their skin.
The first man hollered curses at the crowd. There was no remorse there, only bitterness. I can still hear his angry voice yelling at the top of his lungs. The bitterness came out with his words and hung around him condemning him yet further. He made no appeals for mercy. I guess he was holding onto the only thing he had left. His strength had been robbed from him in the prisons. I had to prod him with my sword several times to keep him moving.
The second man was almost the opposite of the first. In his tears, he cried out for mercy. He mentioned his child and tried to tell a heart-rending story to the crowd. But all they did was jeer back. I had to wonder about the wisdom of killing this repentant man. But mine was not to wonder, mine was to take orders.
As the third man came by, I heard the whispers and murmurs going through the crowd. I overheard that this was Jesus. I figured this must be the guy that had whipped the city into a frenzy and the reason why we were having this execution so quickly. He didn't look like the criminal he was supposed to be. Also on his head, there was a wreath of thorns. Each one had dug deeply into his flesh encircling his head with blood. His olive skin was hanging in strips on his back. He was so badly beaten that the pain had to be unbearable.
I glanced at him and saw such a peaceful look in his eyes that I couldn't help but stare. This peace didn't make sense. Did he not realise that he was about to die one of the most gruesome deaths possible? Did he know that he would die from lack of air as he started to lack the strength to pull himself up by his nail pierced wrists and finally his lungs would fill with liquid?
After an eternity of marching, we approached the site of execution. The sound of a hammer hitting a nail into the flesh of the condemed echoed throughout the countryside. As we finished each one we would lift the post up and into the hole in the ground. About three hours later, the entire land went dark. This was an unusual dark. It wasn't like night. It was a stifling darkness. This day was getting weirder and weirder. I just wanted this execution to be over with so I could go my own way. Then about three hours later, the darkness left and I heard Jesus scream out "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani" I wondered who he was screaming at.
The cry was with such agony that I can still hear it in my ears. It was not merely a physical agony. It went much deeper. It was the agony of a heart breaking. I was used to seeing a sense of desperation from these men watching their life slip away.I was thinking about this when he screamed out his final word, "Tetelestai". It echoed throughout the countryside. It was long and drawn out and painful for him to say. The timing and the tone of his words had me troubled. Tetelestai means something that is utterly and totally complete. That nothing else could possibly be done to add to it.
My curiosity could take it no longer. I went up to the cross and asked a woman there who this Jesus was. She broke down in tears and I couldn't understand her through her sobs. But the man with her explained to me all the wonderful things he had done. That He was the Messiah. Right then the earth shook and everyone was frozen in fear. The soldiers standing by were silent and had their eyes wide open. Finally I exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Source: Inspirational Stories, Ramblings of a Roman Soldier, website: http://www.pointsoftruth.com/inspire/ramblingsofroman.html