The centurion Longinus, a descendant of Cappadocian Jews, served Pontius Pilate during the passion of Christ. He witnessed the signs and unprecedented wonders at that saving Crucifixion: the earthquake, the blotting out of the sun, and darkness over all, the rending of rocks, the opening of sepulchers, and the rising from the grave of many saints who then entered the holy city of Jerusalem. Oh, to be alive at such a time and see first hand that which is recorded in scripture:
Account from Matthew 27: 51-54
“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely He was the Son of God!”
Account from Luke 23: 44-47
“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When He had said this, He breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
Jesus Draws the Centurion to Himself
After the Resurrection, Longinus forsook the military and departed for his homeland of Cappadocia to preach the resurrection of Christ. By the agency of Pontius Pilate, Tiberius Caesar had him arrested and beheaded. Longinus suffered courageously, and was rightfully crowned a martyr. As seen below, Saint Cyril of Alexandria later writes about Longinus becoming the first of many that Christ draws to Himself upon being “lifted up from the earth”:
“When the centurion saw what happened, he glorified God. He said, “Truly this man was righteous.” Please observe that immediately after Christ endured the passion on the cross for us, he began to win many to the knowledge of the truth. It says, “When he saw what happened, the centurion glorified God saying, ‘Truly this man was righteous.’ ” Certain Jews also beat their chests, because their consciences doubtlessly pricked them. Their mind’s eye looked up to the Lord. Perhaps they tried to clear themselves of their impious conduct against Christ by shouting against those who crucified him, although they dared not do this openly because of their rulers’ impiety. Our Lord spoke the truth, saying, “When I have been lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself.” – Cyril of Alexandria. Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke. Translated by R. Payne Smith. Long Island, N.Y.: Studion Publishers, Inc., 1983.