The Centurion And The Jew

The centurion ambles through the marketplaces,
examining native wares, observing local faces.
Arrived newly in Jerusalem from Rome, he
is eager to learn from what he can hear and see.

Recuperating in Rome from battle wounds received
at the northern frontier, he heard Caesar was aggrieved
greatly at civil unrest in Judea, and the rise of a new
religious sect called Christians was trouble, Caesar knew.

While all Judea sparks with growing tension and turmoil,
the Roman garrison is reinforced, any revolt to foil…
Now the sun directly overhead, the street is hot and dry.
Suddenly the centurion hears shouting; he hurries to find why.

Three Roman soldiers are kicking a man lying on the ground.
An angry, yelling crowd is growing, gathering all around.
“Halt! What goes here?” comes the centurion’s command.
The reply, “We heard sedition being spoken by this man.

“He speaks against honoring the gods or even Caesar himself.”
“Return to camp. Leave it to me to deal with this man myself.”
The soldiers depart. As the centurion begins leading the man away,
a stone sails past his head. The angry crowd now heads his way.

As his sword is being drawn, the Jew steps in front, raising his hand.
“Peace, my brothers. How very soon you lose your way! This man
and I shall talk. Do not interfere.” With his words, the crowd calms.
“Come, centurion, let us sit, converse, shaded by this grove of palms.”

The plan had been to escort the man to camp for further interrogation,
but somehow the idea of sitting here now seems a compelling suggestion.
As they stroll to the grove, “Centurion, you walk with a bad limp, I see.”
“A Celtic arrow to the knee left a painful reminder of our victory with me.”

As he sits, the Jew kneels before him and then gently takes the knee
in his hands, rubbing it. “Aren’t you Christians all supposed to be
loving and peaceful? The one who cast that stone surely had deep hate
in his heart.” “Temptations to stray from the chosen path are great.

“God expects Man to lead a good life, one filled with kindness and love.”
“I know the true nature of man to be brutal and mean. By Mars above,
there will always be hatred and wars. Superior brute force is the way
Rome has ruled the entire civilized world. Her armies always carry the day.”

The centurion and the Jew converse for hours, with any question
answered, the new teachings explained. Finally, “Without hesitation
I can safely say Rome has nothing to fear from you Christians.
Caesar fears an armed rebellion; you won’t fulfill that expectation.

“Two thousand years hence, no doubt the Roman Empire will still prevail
through might of arms, while Christianity was just another sect to fail.”
“Centurion, our faith shall not conquer Roman bodies through battles
but shall convert Roman hearts through peace. This religion will rattle

the world to its core. Much sorrow, suffering, and bloodshed will
Rome demand from the innocent.” “Then that must be the will
of the gods…” “It is the hand of Man that sets the arduous path
we must tread, but even Rome cannot stop ideas with a bloodbath.”

“Time will tell if our Roman armies crumble before the power of love,”
he laughs. “Maybe we’ll talk again some day.” “Definitely so, from above
I will call out to you…” That said, they now go their separate ways.
The Jew is swallowed in the embrace of the waiting crowd. In coming days,

this centurion will regret that he had not thought to ask for the name
of this Jew, for his belief in the Roman way would never be the same.

For now, he simply realizes he is walking without any pain or limp…

Harry Edward Gilleland      03.23.03