Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin and found guilty on charges of blasphemy. Following this, as the morning was dawning, they bound Jesus and led Him away to be delivered to Pilate, the Roman governor in Jerusalem.
Pilate, as we know, found no fault in Jesus. Thus, he went before the people, saying that he would scourge Jesus and release Him. They cried out for His death. Pilate disagreed. He was innocent. Yet because a tumult was rising, he handed him over to be crucified.
This is where we first see the Roman soldiers. They were no strangers to death. They had seen it several times. To them, Jesus was no different. As they looked at Jesus, they no doubt thought He was a crazy man. Their governor had said that He was innocent of any crime, the only possible crime being that He claimed to be King of the Jews. As they looked at Him, His appearance was far from royalty. He was an ordinary man. No one special.
Due to Jesus' claim to be King of the Jews, the soldiers were provided with a source of entertainment. They "...took Him into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!' Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified."
As we read of the things that the soldiers did to our Saviour, it tends to make us sick. We develop a great hatred for them. How could they so abuse the Son of the living God? We cannot excuse their actions, but we can understand their position. Romans did not regard life as a valued resource. If one was so badly in debt that he was unable to pay his debts, it was considered honourable to take one's own life. The Romans crucified people often. They eventually tortured Christians in their Coliseum as a form of entertainment, just as we would go to a ball game on a Saturday afternoon.
We must further understand of the Romans, they had no concept of religion. Their honour went to Caesar. Sure, they had gods whom they ‘served', but the idolater's concept of religion is far from truth.
What these Roman soldiers did not know was that they were part of a divine plan. From times of old, it was prophesied that the soldiers would do certain things, and such they did. David wrote in a Psalm, "For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots." Without even realizing it, they were a part of His master plan. Prophecy was fulfilled in their actions!
The gospel writers tell us the events which happened while Jesus was on the cross. Jesus spoke several words to His Father, darkness overcame all the land. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. As well, the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, earthquakes came, rocks were split... Matthew writes, "So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!'" What a marvelous statement of faith. These faithless Romans, due to the events surrounding the death of Christ realized that He indeed was the Son of God. Whether they did anything about it, we do not know. But they came to know, and confessed that He was the Christ.
Some things for us to realize from the Romans: