The “Criminal” that Changed My Life

I had always found it difficult to relax at the scene of a crucifixion, even though, as a Roman Centurion, it was not a rare event for me. The conflicting atmosphere within the crowd was almost sickening. While some people wailed for all to hear, others would be laughing and joking about the criminals as they hung upon their cross.

But on one particular Wednesday, even though these same things were present, it was unlike any other crucifixion I had attended. During the previous night, a man named Yeshua had been arrested, and even though there seemed to be no criminal offence that he had committed, he had been sentenced to death. I had heard many strange stories about this man from Nazareth and so it had never been on my agenda to meet him. However, after he and the two other criminals had been hung upon their crosses, I was given the duty to guard over Yeshua.

From the very minute that I took my position at the foot of his cross I could sense something very unusual about this man. I knew that many people, including the man himself, claimed that he was the son of God. Until now, however, I thought that this was just another political stunt to win people over to a new cause, but as I stood in the very presence of this man, I couldn’t help but wonder who he really was.


It was shortly after midday that strange things began to happen. For it was this time that the sun, although still hot and bright, began to quickly fade, finally leaving an eerie darkness on the hill of Golgotha – The Place of the Skull. The crowd was immediately brought to an uneasy silence, leaving only the shallow, but laboured, breaths of Yeshua and the two criminals to move across the crowd.

What we had witnessed was not a natural phenomenon. Everyone in the sizable gathering knew this, and the revelry and excitement that had been so evident before, had all but vanished and anyone who dared to talk, spoke in hushed tones. The unnatural darkness seemed to halt the activity not only from those who stood atop the hill, but also from those within the city walls, where the general hustle and bustle that was part of the daily city life had also ceased.

Many gazed towards the heavens searching for a logical explanation, but I just looked up into the darkened face of Yeshua, and strangely, I sensed that this unusual event had something to do with him. Throughout the entire day, and many days previously, people had been accusing him of all sorts of things. They had whipped and mistreated him, and even as he hung upon the cross, people had been abusing him and spitting at him. But through all of this, he never retaliated by abusing those who tormented him. Instead, he often chose to be silent, and when he did speak, his words were gentle and loving, never showing a hint of self-pity or hatred towards others. He was definitely a remarkable man – one whose true identity always seemed to remain elusive.


For a full 3 hours, darkness shrouded the ancient city, creating an ever growing atmosphere of uncertainty amongst the crowd. But during the ninth hour the darkness was gradually replaced by the full glory of the sun once more. As the light increased to its previous intensity, Yeshua began to labour even more in his breathing, as pain wracked his body with severe cramps, and the continual flow of blood dripped into a pool at the foot of the wooden cross. Then, just as the sun reached normality, he cried out in a loud, but distinctly strained, voice.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. It was obviously a great effort for him to speak, but even so, the jeers and insults erupted from the Pharisees and other religious leaders. Quickly it spread throughout the crowd – almost everyone joining in with the vulgar and inhumane display directed solely at Yeshua.

Through all the loud chanting and cursing, I heard Yeshua trying to speak once again. I expected him to finally retaliate in some way to the despicable insults being hurled at him, but this was not the man’s way. He simply said, “I am thirsty”.

Although his decision to ignore the crowd baffled me, I quickly reached down to my own portion of cheap wine that I had been supplied with for the day. I soaked up some of the wine with a sponge and held it up to Yeshua with a long stick. As he drank some of the wine, the jeers of the crowd grew in volume and intensity. They didn’t appreciate my show of compassion, and so this time some of their abuse was directed at me.

“Why did you do that? Let someone else help him out!”. Some of the younger soldiers joined in with the Jews, laughing as though it was all a big game. The fact that three men were being killed didn’t seem to disturb them. Rather, it excited them and intoxicated them with an animal-like hunger for more death and brutality.

As the loud taunts of the crowd flew angrily from every direction, I heard the rasping voice of Yeshua as he spoke almost to himself, and yet loud enough for those close to him to hear.

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. I looked up at Yeshua as he said this, my whole body tingling with a nervousness and fear that I had no explanation for. I watched him lift his head toward the sun, and in a loud and unusually clear voice, he cried out, “It is finished!”.

As Yeshua breathed his last and his body became limp, the crowd instantly became silent, leaving the last words of Yeshua to resonate over the surrounding hills and through the nearby streets of Jerusalem. The ground began to shake, and people started to scream as I stood, motionless, looking upon the body of Yeshua.

“Surely this was a righteous man”, I said aloud, the boldness in my voice surprising me. Others that stood around, agreed with me, saying, “this was the Son of God”. Some of these people were the very ones that had been hurling their abuse at Yeshua only moments earlier, yet they had felt something that I, too, had felt deep within my very spirit. This man was no ordinary man and his death was no ordinary death.

As I swept these thoughts aside, I suddenly awoke to my senses, struggling to keep myself upright. I automatically groped for the nearby cross, covering myself with dark, clotted blood – the blood of the very man I had just watched die. The earth beneath me shook and the sound of hysteria flooded my ears as many ran from the small hill to the uncertain safety of the city walls. Then, just as an overwhelming fear began to take hold of me, the ground became still and the earthquake ceased just as suddenly as it began. I looked around and saw dust rising from within the city. Branches nearby had fallen and rocks had been split during the brief quake. Many of those that remained also stood, and surveyed the sight that was before them. They seemed to be stunned at what had taken place, and many left the site mourning for the man that only hours earlier they had wanted crucified.


After the majority of the crowd had dispersed from the small, rocky hilltop, I sat down a small distance away from the three crosses, and ate some of my daily food rations. I noticed that the sun was now well below its peak for the day, and that in a few short hours, it would reach its destination in the west. At dusk, the annual Jewish High Sabbath for Passover would begin. So, for this reason, it didn’t surprise me to see two soldiers walk over to one of the criminals, who was still crying out in agony, and begin to swing the shafts of their spears into his legs. It was often necessary to break the legs of the criminals in this type of situation, otherwise there would be no way of ensuring that death and burial could take place before the Jewish Sabbath began.

The two young soldiers obviously found great pleasure in breaking the legs of the two criminals. They would take it in turns to thump their spear shafts into the shins, and at the sound of the yielding crack, they would laugh and prod callously at the leg. After they had finished with the two criminals, they walked towards the cross of Yeshua, still laughing and expecting to have more of their cold-blooded fun. As they walked toward the cross, I could hear them joking at the sign above Yeshua’s bowed head: “This is Yeshua, the King of the Jews”. They began to mock him and spit at him, until they realised that he was already dead. Their laughter stopped, but in an effort to carry through with their fun, one of the soldiers thrust his sharp spear point through the abdomen of Yeshua’s body and straight on into his heart. It created an immediate flow of blood and water, and at this the soldiers erupted into another bout of devilish laughter. They continued to laugh as they looked upon the maltreated body and I could only turn my head away in disgust.


As I surveyed the crucifixion scene before me and watched the remaining Jewish people and soldiers talking amongst themselves, I noticed one of the soldiers point over towards me. He was talking to two Jewish men, and after a short time, they turned from the Cross of Yeshua and began to walk the short distance to where I now stood. Both men were obviously members of the Sanhedrin, or Council, and were dressed accordingly in robes signifying great wealth and importance among their fellow Jews. I had noticed these two men earlier in the day, and had wondered at their obvious separation from their Sanhedrin peers. They had not joined in with the cruel abuse that had been directed at Yeshua, but rather, had positioned themselves away from the ridiculing crowd and had chosen to stand with those that Yeshua had apparently known and loved.

As I stood up to meet them, I noticed that their eyes were red and their faces pale. However, they showed a purpose in their stride and when the taller of the two men spoke, he spoke with perfect clarity and in a bold and self-confident manner that was unusual to see between a Jew and a Roman soldier.

“We would like to see Pilate. Could you take us to him, please?”.

“The day is getting late. I don’t think he would be in the mood to see anyone just now.” I hoped that they would be easily discouraged, but they seem to be set on gaining their wish in this matter.

“We have come to take the body of Yeshua of Nazareth.” I tried not to show any look of surprise, for this was indeed an unusual request. The bodies of the criminals were usually taken to a dishonoured place and simply left to rot.

In order to cover up any signs of surprise, I quickly assured them that I would take them to Herod’s Palace where Pilate was temporarily residing. After making my intentions known to another Centurion, I led the two men from the hill and into the city through the nearby Judgment Gate. I escorted them along the stone pavement, and without speaking a word to either man, I contemplated their bold request. I’d been trying to force the strange thoughts and feelings about this man, Yeshua, from my mind. But even after his death, these peculiar feelings that I had, continued to haunt me.


I stood before Pilate, with the two men of the Council standing each side of me. We stood in a luxurious room that overlooked the streets of Jerusalem. It was decorated with small palms and detailed stone sculptures depicting some of the Roman gods and emperors. The furniture was all of imperial Roman quality and the fresh fruit and wine that adorned a nearby table looked very inviting.

I turned my attention to Pilate. He would recognise these men as members of the Sanhedrin Council, and he definitely showed some signs of curiosity as he looked at the two men. His face, however, was without its natural colour, and he stood in a way that lacked his usual air of authority and self-confidence. Even as he spoke, his voice revealed his despondent mood.

“Who has come before me?”. It was once again the taller of the two men that spoke. He spoke freely, and with a directness that almost seemed to startle Pilate.

“My name is Joseph, of Aramathea. This”, he introduced his friend, “is Nicodemus. My friend is a leader of the Pharisees, and we are both members of the Sanhedrin Council.”

“So I see, but what is your purpose in coming to me?”

“We come to ask for the body of Yeshua of Nazareth. I have a new tomb that has been cut into the rock, and I wish to lay his body there.”

“He is dead already?”. Pilate was rather surprised at this, and so he immediately turned to me. His voice became slightly more business-like. “Is this true?”

“Yes, it is true. He died this afternoon – just before the quake hit at the ninth hour”. It was a common procedure for the death to be confirmed, for people had been known to take a criminal from the cross before their actual death, and later revive them.

As I answered, Pilate turned his back, and walked slowly to the balcony, where he stood gazing into the crowded city streets. We could hear the noises of animals and people down below us, and yet these were overshadowed by the silence that filled the room. Pilate was obviously finding this a difficult subject. I’m sure that he, too, had been hoping that Yeshua would simply be forgotten, and the whole subject never heard of again.

Finally, without turning to face us, Pilate spoke. “I find no reason to deny your wish. You may take the body”. After a small delay, I motioned to the men to follow me. I gave a final greeting to Pilate, and left the room without a reply.

I led the men back through the city gate and onto the hill where the three men still hung upon their crosses. I helped lower the cross at which I had stood guard earlier in the day, and then watched as the men prepared to take the body away. They began to wrap the body in a clean white cloth, moving quickly, but ensuring a good job was done. Their special sabbath would begin soon, and they had to have the body in the tomb before the twilight came upon them.

I examined their faces, and I could sense the true dedication they had for this man. He had lived a short life, and yet he had created a massive following amongst the Jewish population. Many of these had been the poor people, looking for money and food. Others had been rebellious, young men looking to be part of a new revolution. But along with all these people were others who declared their lives to be truly changed.

In front of me were two wealthy men who were involved in the hierarchy of the Jewish religion. Their authority and influence would almost definitely be taken away from them, and yet they were still prepared to publicly defend the innocence of Yeshua with their current act. There was no doubt that Yeshua had affected their lives as well.

After they had fully wrapped the body in the linen cloth, and laid it upon a wooden bier, with one man at either end, I couldn’t prevent myself from asking them one question before they left. “Why are you doing this?”. I could see the tears in their eyes as they turned to face me. It was Nicodemus who spoke this time. His words were slow and few, but they hit me hard.

“This man”, he declared as he looked down at the bloodied body, “was the promised Messiah – the Son of God.”


“Good morning, our most noble governor. We wish to speak to you about Yeshua of Nazareth, who was crucified yesterday”. I had shown a small group of the chief priests and Pharisees into the same luxurious room that I had taken Joseph and Nicodemus into during the previous afternoon. It was basically unheard of for these men to request such a meeting during the first day of their Feast of Unleavened Bread, but when I heard the name of Yeshua mentioned, I knew that the topic would be considered extremely serious. The Pharisees had never liked the man, and even though he was now dead and buried, they still seemed intent on making sure he was totally accounted for.

“I thought I had heard the last of this man. What value is there in continually bringing up his name?”. It appeared that Pilate had slept very little during the night – a feeling I knew all too well.

“My governor, before his arrest and execution, the false prophet, Yeshua, claimed that after three days he would rise again from the dead”. The man who spoke, showed great skill in the way he presented his case. He was undaunted by the irritation Pilate showed for the persistence of the subject, and as he spoke, he revealed a slight smirk, knowing that Pilate would do anything to keep the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders on his side.

“It is obvious that this second deception would have a far greater impact on the people than the first, in which he claimed to be the chosen Messiah. If you allow his disciples to steal the body from the tomb, they will say that Yeshua has risen as the Son of God. There is no doubt that the people will accept this, for they are already talking about others being raised from the dead within this past day. So, if you truly want this matter resolved once and for all, I strongly recommend that you post a guard at the entrance to the tomb, making sure that it remains secure beyond the third day.”

Each of the Jewish men gave a small nod of approval as the speaker took a step backwards, leaving Pilate to ponder over the words that he had heard. The Pharisees showed nothing but smug confidence, as they stood waiting. They were well aware that he would not have the courage to go against any of their recommendations.

Pilate sipped some wine from a large, silver goblet, before he gave his final word. “I accept what you have said”, he couldn’t quite bring himself to look directly at the men as he spoke, “and I grant you permission to take a guard with you to the tomb, where he will secure it and guard it until the third day is complete”. Pilate turned and walked to the balcony. “That will be all.”

After leaving the room, the group of Pharisees took me directly to the tomb where Joseph and Nicodemus had placed the body of Yeshua the previous day. They stood in a small huddle, watching over me, as I proceeded to tie a cord across the stone that covered the entrance to the tomb. I placed a small amount of clay over each end of the cord, and carefully applied Pilate’s official seal. Having performed the task of securing the tomb, the Pharisees were finally satisfied. They quickly walked back toward the city walls, leaving me, and three other soldiers, alone in the quiet garden.


Two days later, and still at the garden tomb, I awoke from a short afternoon nap. The sun was setting, and it would soon be my turn to watch over the tomb for the final night. As the shadows lengthened, and the light in the garden dulled, one of the guards gave a muffled cough. I looked over at him as he leant against the large stone that covered the tomb entrance. Suddenly, his red tunic blazed out from the gloom, and the whole garden was illuminated as if it was noon once again. I jerked my head towards the western horizon, but the sun’s golden disc was not to be seen. I looked back at the young soldier, and followed his gaze into the sky directly above us. Descending like a dove, was a man, dressed in long, white robes, and with a radiance rivalling that of a lightning bolt. As we peered up at this man, the ground began to rumble and shake.

I grabbed hold of a tree to steady myself as the other guards collapsed to the ground, screaming in panic. The screams sparked something within my memory, and in my mind I could see the events of Wednesday afternoon only three days earlier. I could see the body of Yeshua that seconds before had been gasping for breath, but now hung limp upon the wooden cross. I could see the panic in the eyes of the people who ran from the hill of Golgotha. I could see dust rising from the city, as buildings shook and people and animals fled to safety. And then the earthquake ceased.

The vision suddenly left me and, through my natural eyes, I saw the man in white softly settle to the ground. He walked slowly to the tomb stone, and with the strength of ten men, he rolled it back from the carved opening. He looked down at two of the guards cowering nearby, and then effortlessly leapt onto the stone, where he simply sat down. By this stage, an uncontrollable shaking had taken hold of my body. I had believed that the man, who I now assumed to be an angel, had come to kill us for our involvement in Yeshua’s death. I fell to the ground in total fear. My body had become numb, and I could barely breathe or utter a sound, and yet somehow I struggled to crawl away a little further.

I hid in some bushes and looked back towards the open tomb. As I looked, I could see movement from within. It was a brief movement, lasting only a fraction of a second, but I was sure somebody was inside. As if confirming my thoughts, a man dressed in white walked slowly out of the darkness, and into the unnatural light. I instantly recognised the man – it was Yeshua! Only three days earlier, I had witnessed him die a very cruel death, and yet, for some strange reason, to see him now alive, did not seem at all unbelievable.

Yeshua stood at the entrance, filling his lungs with the cool air. He looked around his surroundings, finally resting his gaze in my direction. I was well hidden, and yet I sensed that he could see me. I could feel his eyes on me as they searched through my thoughts and deep into my deadened spirit.

I quickly looked away, and struggled to my feet. I crashed into trees and stumbled over rocks, as I fled from the tomb area. My ears pounded with rushing blood, and my lungs stung with pain as they were forced beyond their normal endurance. And then – suddenly – I stopped. I realised that the fear I had was unnatural. I could sense that something was directly trying to prevent me from talking with Yeshua.

My fear of him, and what he might do to me, still lingered – in fact, it grew stronger. Yet I knew what he had to offer me was something that I needed and could not afford to leave behind. There and then I made a decision, and I turned and began to walk back to the tomb.


Before I reached the tomb, I saw Yeshua through the trees. I stood motionless in the moonlight as he walked towards me, and I could feel the love that flowed from his very presence. As he got to where I stood, he looked straight into my eyes. With that look, his true identity was finally revealed to me. I fell at his feet and began worshipping him as the only true God.

“My blood once covered you as a sign of death”. The words that Yeshua spoke, once again took me back to the scene of the crucifixion. I could see the blood that had once flowed through Yeshua’s body, now covering my tunic, arms and legs, and I could smell the stench of death upon the warm air. The vision blurred as Yeshua spoke again. “But now I have risen from the dead, and this same blood can give you eternal life.”

“I deserve nothing from you, Lord. I stood beside you and allowed you to die. People ridiculed and abused you, and I simply turned away”. I looked up into his face. Tears of pure love trickled from his eyes as I continued to speak. “But even so, my Lord, I ask that you will forgive me so that I might have eternal life, and live forever as your servant.”

“Even as you speak, you are forgiven. You have been cleansed through the blood of the perfect Lamb.”

A teardrop fell onto my upturned face, and as it ran down my cheek, I felt the same love that Yeshua had shown me, begin to fill me from within. My emptiness and hopelessness was washed away in the rising waters of pure love. I continued to kneel, as Yeshua turned and walked back towards the empty tomb. As he disappeared from sight, I felt the presence of a true and living God surrounding and filling me, and I knew that my life would never be the same again.

This story was originally completed in 1993, and edited in 2024. It has been written in accordance with the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Although written as closely as possible to the facts presented in these gospels and other research documents, there are clearly other things that I have added that can, in no way, be proven as fact. These details are not added to detract from the Scriptural truth, but, rather, to create a believable setting that allows us to feel an involvement and insight into the certain affairs that occurred during those few days, around two thousand years ago. If you have never experienced the resurrection power in your own life, I encourage you to find Yeshua – who still lives!

One thought on “The “Criminal” that Changed My Life

  1. NG Reply

    Such a beautiful and touching story – thankyou for sharing it with all of us 🤍
    *Yeshua said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
    Amen!! & hallelujah that He rose from the dead 🙌🏼

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