We suggest that you begin reading the Centurion series from the beginning.
I was so tired when I got back to the barracks it took real effort not to just throw my armor on the ground by my bed. But I hung it on its stand and then sat on the edge of the bed to clean the dried blood off my gladius and make sure the edge was still sharp. I’d taken a squad of troops to patrol the streets around the temple – we like to maintain a heavy presence where the crowds are largest. Some fools had set up a crude ambush – tried to separate my men and pick one of us off. As if we haven’t seen it all before. People can be so stupid. They led us on a merry chase but we finally cornered them. I had planned to make the usual example of them and crucify them, but a crowd gathered and started yelling at us. Crucifixion is a pretty effective deterrent, but sometimes there’s nothing better than sheathing your sword in an insurgent’s body to shut the crowd up. So I dispatched the six of them there and then. As the blood spattered on the faces of the onlookers, most of them turned and ran, which was no more than I expected. I sent two of my men to find a cart and then we loaded the bodies up and took them out to the city dump. Then we headed back to the temple – I wanted to stamp out any residual revolutionary thinking. Because it’s always simmering just below the surface in this city.
My friend shoved a mug of wine into my hand and said, “You look like you need that.” I told him about the events of the day, and he shrugged. “Just another Passover.”
I laughed. “I guess so. How about you? What’s the word on your Jesus of Nazareth?”
“Well, he didn’t come into Jerusalem today. Probably trying to steer clear of the chief priests. My little spy tells me he’s staying in Bethany. Sounds like he’s laying low – dinner with some friends was about the sum of his day. And he’s got some very generous friends apparently.” I raised an eyebrow, and he gave what was becoming a daily report.
“During the dinner a woman broke open a jar of perfume – pure nard by all accounts, and proceeded to pour it over his head. The whole jar. That’s more than our soldiers make in a year.”
I shook my head. “That’s some gift. Although I think I’d have preferred to have been given the jar! Why would someone do that?”
“My thoughts exactly. In fact, several of his followers expressed the same sentiment. Although they said they would have sold the perfume and given the money to the poor.”
I laughed, “Sure they would.”
He leaned forward, intent. “But Jesus’ response was really…strange. He defended her actions, and then seemed to explain why she did it. My boy reported him word for word. He said, ‘She has anointed my body beforehand for the burial.’ What do you make of that?”
I thought for a moment. “Well, I’m sure there are plenty of folk who’d be happy to see him dead. Maybe he’s got a death wish.”
“Maybe. One thing’s for sure, he’s going to smell that perfume for a long time to come.”
Two days later I would remember his words, when I smelt that aromatic oil, mixed with the scent of his blood and sweat, as I stood at the foot of the cross I had nailed him to.
This is part of an ongoing historical fiction series leading up to Easter. It features the story of Jesus’ path to the cross from the perspective of a Roman Centurion. It was written by Sean Gladding, the author of The Story of God, The Story of Us. This series will be posted as a daily devotional. We hope this narrative stirs deeper reflection on the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ final days.