Matthew 27:54
Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
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(54) Truly this was the Son of God.—St. Luke’s report softens down the witness thus borne into “Truly this Man was righteous.” As reported by St. Matthew and St. Mark (Mark 15:39), the words probably meant little more than that. We must interpret them from the stand-point of the centurion’s knowledge, not from that of Christian faith, and to him the words “Son of God” would convey the idea of one who was God-like in those elements of character which are most divine—righteousness, and holiness, and love. The form of expression was naturally determined by the words which he had heard bandied to and fro as a taunt (Matthew 27:43); and the centurion felt that the words, as he understood them, were true, and not false, of the Sufferer whose death he had witnessed. That the words might have such a sense in the lips even of a devout Jew, we find in the language of a book probably contemporary, and possibly written with some remote reference to our Lord’s death—the so-called Wisdom of Solomon (Wisd. ii. 13, 16-18). In the last of these verses, it will be noted, the terms “just man” and “son of God” appear as interchangeable.

Matthew 27:54. When the centurion — The officer who commanded the guard, called centurio, from centum, a hundred, because he had the command of a hundred men; and those that were with him — The soldiers that attended him; watching Jesus — And standing over against him; saw the earthquake, and the things that were done — The other wonders wrought at his crucifixion, together with his meek and patient behaviour under his sufferings, and the composure and confidence with which he committed his departing soul into the hands of his heavenly Father; they feared greatly — Were greatly alarmed and influenced by a religious fear of that Being who had given such awful proofs of his displeasure at what had just taken place. Luke says, The centurion glorified God, and that not only by acknowledging his hand in the prodigies they had witnessed, but by confessing the innocence of Jesus, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man — Gr. δικαιος, the character which Pilate’s wife had given of him before he was condemned, Matthew 27:19. According to Mark, chap. Matthew 15:39, he said likewise, Truly this man was the Son of God. It is true, because the article is here wanting in the original, and the words, both in Matthew and. Mark, are only υιος θεου, and not ο υιος του θεου, some would render the expression, a son of God; a phraseology which they think perfectly suitable in the mouth of a polytheist and an idolater, such as they take it for granted this Roman centurion was. But it is evident that no argument can be brought in justification of such a sense of the words from the absence of the Greek article, because it is often wanting when the true God is evidently meant, as Matthew 27:43, and John 19:7. It is probable this centurion was not now an idolater, but a proselyte to the Jewish religion, and therefore a worshipper of the true God. At least he must have been acquainted with the opinions of the Jews, and have known that Jesus was put to death by them for averring himself to be, not the son of a heathen god, but the son of the God whom the Jews worshipped: and therefore, when he made his confession, he doubtless referred to that circumstance, or to the words of the chief priests and scribes, recorded in Matthew 27:43, He trusted in God, &c., for he said, I am the Son of God. Matthew says, They that were with the centurion joined in the same confession. It maybe questioned, indeed, as they seem to have been the same soldiers that crowned Jesus with thorns and mocked him, whether they understood the proper meaning of the expression, The Son of God. They probably, however, were convinced that he was a person approved of, and beloved by, the God of the Jews; and that his heavenly Father would certainly avenge his quarrel very terribly on them, and on the Jewish nation, who had delivered him into their hands to be crucified. In the mean time, though the Roman centurion, and his heathen soldiers, were thus alarmed by the prodigies which they had beheld, these wonders appear to have had no influence on the minds of the Jewish priests, scribes, and elders: their minds, it seems, continued impenetrable and obstinate, and full of unbelief and invincible prejudice against Christ, so that neither the miracles done by him in his life, nor those wrought at his death, could convince them that he was any other than an impostor and deceiver. This, however, was not the case with the common people. From Luke 23:48, we learn that not only the centurion and his soldiers, but all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, for sorrow and remorse; in terrible expectation that some sad calamity would speedily befall them and their country, for the indignities and cruelties they had offered to a person for whom God had expressed so high a regard, even in his greatest distress. “They had, indeed, been instant with loud voices to have him crucified, but now that they saw the face of the creation darkened with a sullen gloom during his crucifixion, and found his death accompanied with an earthquake, as if nature had been in an agony when he died, they rightly interpreted these prodigies to be so many testimonies of his innocence; and their passions, which had been inflamed and exasperated against him, became quite calm, or moved in his behalf. Some could not forgive themselves for neglecting to accept his life when the governor offered to release him; others were stung with remorse for having had an active hand both in his death, and in the insults that were offered to him; others felt the deepest grief at the thought of his lot, which was undeservedly severe; and these various passions appeared in their countenances, for they came away from the cruel execution pensive and silent, with downcast eyes, and hearts ready to burst: or groaning deeply within themselves, they wept, smote their breasts, and wailed greatly. The grief which they now felt for Jesus, was distinguished from their former rage against him by this remarkable character, that their rage was entirely produced by the craft of the priests, who had wickedly incensed them; whereas their grief was the genuine feeling of their own hearts, greatly affected with the truth and innocence of him that was the object of their commiseration. Nor was this the temper only of a few, who may be thought to have been Christ’s particular friends. It was the general condition of the people, who had come in such numbers to look on, that when they parted, after the execution, they covered the roads, and, as it were, darkened the whole fields around.” — Macknight.

27:51-56 The rending of the veil signified that Christ, by his death, opened a way to God. We have an open way through Christ to the throne of grace, or mercy-seat now, and to the throne of glory hereafter. When we duly consider Christ's death, our hard and rocky hearts should be rent; the heart, and not the garments. That heart is harder than a rock that will not yield, that will not melt, where Jesus Christ is plainly set forth crucified. The graves were opened, and many bodies of saints which slept, arose. To whom they appeared, in what manner, and how they disappeared, we are not told; and we must not desire to be wise above what is written. The dreadful appearances of God in his providence, sometimes work strangely for the conviction and awakening of sinners. This was expressed in the terror that fell upon the centurion and the Roman soldiers. We may reflect with comfort on the abundant testimonies given to the character of Jesus; and, seeking to give no just cause of offence, we may leave it to the Lord to clear our characters, if we live to Him. Let us, with an eye of faith, behold Christ and him crucified, and be affected with that great love wherewith he loved us. But his friends could give no more than a look; they beheld him, but could not help him. Never were the horrid nature and effects of sin so tremendously displayed, as on that day when the beloved Son of the Father hung upon the cross, suffering for sin, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Let us yield ourselves willingly to his service.Now when the centurion ... - Centurion, a captain of a hundred soldiers. He was here placed over the band that attended the crucifixion.

They feared greatly - They regarded these things as proof that God was angry, and they were terrified at the prospect that vengeance was coming on them.

Truly this was the Son of God - They had heard, probably, that Jesus professed to be the Son of God. Seeing these wonders, they believed that God was now attesting the truth of his professions. The centurion was a pagan, and had probably no very distinct notions of the phrase "the Son of God" - perhaps understanding by it only that he was like the pagan heroes who had been deified; but he certainly regarded these wonders as proof that he was "what he professed to be." In the original it is "a son of a god;" an expression perfectly suitable to a polytheist, who believed in the existence of many gods. Mark Mar 15:39 says that they affirmed that "this man was the Son of God." Luke Luk 23:47, that they said, "Certainly this was a righteous man.' These things were said by "different persons," or at different periods of his sufferings - one evangelist having recorded one saying, and another another.

54. Now when the centurion—the military superintendent of the execution.

and they that were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake—or felt it and witnessed its effects.

and those things that were done—reflecting upon the entire transaction.

they feared greatly—convinced of the presence of a Divine Hand.

saying, Truly this was the Son of God—There cannot be a reasonable doubt that this expression was used in the Jewish sense, and that it points to the claim which Jesus made to be the Son of God, and on which His condemnation expressly turned. The meaning, then, clearly is that He must have been what He professed to be; in other words, that He was no impostor. There was no medium between those two. See, on the similar testimony of the penitent thief—"This man hath done nothing amiss"—[1378]Luke 23. 41.

The Galilean Women (Mt 27:55, 56).

See Poole on "Matthew 27:56".

Now, when the centurion,.... That was over the band of soldiers, that mocked Christ in Pilate's hall, and who was particularly over the guard of soldiers, set about the cross of Christ:

and they that were with him, watching Jesus: the soldiers that were with him, who were set to watch the cross of Christ, lest he should come down, or any should take him down from thence,

See Gill on Matthew 27:36.

Saw the earthquake, and those things that were done; as besides that, the darkening of the sun, the rending of the rocks, and particularly heard with what a loud voice Christ spoke, and then at once expired:

they feared greatly; not with a true godly fear, but with a fear of punishment; lest divine vengeance should light on them, for their concern in this matter:

saying, truly this was the Son of God; which they concluded, not from any mediatorial performances, which they were utter strangers to, but from effects of divine power; and which to them showed him to be a divine person, what he said he was, and the Jews charged him with blasphemy, on account of, and condemned him for, as these soldiers might have seen and heard.

Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
Matthew 27:54 Ὁ δὲ ἑκατόνταρχος] “Centurio supplicio praepositus,” Seneca, de ira, i. 16. He belonged to the σπεῖρα, Matthew 27:27.

οἱ μετʼ αὐτοῦ τηροῦντες τ. Ἰης.] is to be taken as one expression; see Matthew 27:35 f.

καὶ τὰ γινόμενα] καί, as in Matthew 26:59, and numerous instances besides, serves to conjoin the general with the particular: and what was taking place (generally, that is), viz. the various incidents accompanying the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:46 ff.). The present participle (see the critical remarks) is used with reference to things they have been witnessing up till the present moment; see Kühner, II. 1, pp. 117, 163.

ἐφοβήθησαν] they were seized with terror, under the impression that all that was happening was a manifestation of the wrath of the gods.

θεοῦ υἱός] in the mouth of heathens can only denote a son of God in the heathen sense of the words (hero, demi-god), the sense in which they certainly understood them to be used when they heard Jesus accused and mocked.

ἦν] during His life.

Matthew 27:54. ἑκατόνταρχος = κεντυρίων in Mk., the officer in charge of the detachment entrusted with the execution, not hitherto mentioned.—οἱ μετʼ αὐτοῦ, etc.: the whole military party make pious reflections in Mt.; in Mk., with more probability, the centurion only.—καὶ τὰ γινόμενα, and (generally) the things happening, the earthquake included. For a similar use of καὶ vide Matthew 26:59.—υἱὸς θεοῦ: Lk. substitutes for this “a just man”. In the centurion’s mouth the words would mean more than that and less than the sense they bear for a Christian = a hero, an extraordinary man. Yet Lk.’s rendering is to the point, because the Roman soldier is conceived as seeing in the events the anger of the gods at the treatment of an innocent man.

54. the centurion] in command of the guard of four soldiers who watched the crucifixion.

Truly this was the Son of God] “Certainly this was a righteous man” (Luke).

Matthew 27:54. Τηροῦντες, watching) In their turn.—ἀληθῶς, truly) This refers antithetically to Matthew 27:40; Matthew 27:43.—Θεοῦ Υἱὸς, Song of Solomon of God) He had said that He was so, and they acknowledge the truth of His assertion from the signs.[1214]

[1214] Matthew 27:55. ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, from Galilee) The journey (of Jesus and His followers) from Galilee towards Jerusalem [His last journey], recorded in Luke 9:51, is the one here meant. What great things these women, equally with the apostles, saw and heard in so short a space of time! These women already make up for His being deserted by the apostles.—Harm., p. 578. They were the steady attendants of Jesus in His life and death. Therefore no part of the Gospel history is destitute of eye-witnesses.—V. g.

Verse 54. - The centurion, and they that were with him. The officer with the small body of soldiers appointed to perform and take charge of the Crucifixion. St. Matthew relates the impression which these events made upon the soldiers' minds. Saw those things that were done. Instead of this reading, which has high authority, Alford, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort read, "that were being done," as the Vulgate, quae fiebant. This would point especially to the loud cry, in accordance with the words of St. Mark, "saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost." But there is no sufficient reason for altering the Received Text; and plainly it was not merely the closing incident that affected the soldiers, but the whole course of events which they witnessed. They saw the darkness, the earthquake, the rending of the rocks, the Divine meekness of the Sufferer; they heard his last words, his loud cry, and marked his patient death. All these things contributed to their awe and fear. They feared greatly. This crucified Man must be something more than human, for all these wonders to accompany his death: will he not visit upon us our part in his crucifixion? Have we nothing to fear from his vengeance? Some such course their apprehensions may have taken. But they learned something beyond selfish dread of possible danger. Truly this was the Son (Υιὸς, anarthrous, Son) of God; or, according to St. Luke, "Certainly this was a righteous Man." They recognized his innocence, and acknowledged that he suffered unjustly. What the centurion meant (for the words appear to have been his) by calling him "Son of God" is more doubtful. It may have been on his lips merely an affirmation that Jesus was holy and beloved by God; but more probably it meant much more than this. He knew that Christ claimed to be the Son of God, and in this hour of overwhelming awe he felt that the claim was just, whatever it might mean. This crucified Person was at least a hero or a demigod, or that which the words would imply in a Jewish sense, though he knew only imperfectly what was signified thereby. Tradition affirms that the centurion's name was Longinus, that he became a devoted follower of Christ, preached the faith, and died a martyr's death. Matthew 27:54The Son of God. But there is no article

The words must not be construed as a recognition of Christ's divine son-ship. They were uttered by a pagan soldier in his own sense of a demigod or hero. Yet they may have taken color from the fact that the soldiers had heard from the chief priests and others that Christ had claimed to be God's son.

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