I recently received a nice painting commission from a church in California. The commission is of the scene of the Roman centurion standing before the cross, as Jesus was being crucified.
A friend of mine was sitting in a church service, having been dragged there by some well meaning individual. As my friend sat there, despondently, he looked at all of the people in the church and reflected. He’d spent decades not really believing or disbelieving in anything, just somewhat neutral. And then, he said, he just had an instantaneous awareness that God is real. That was it. Nothing flashy, nothing sensational, just that God was real, and that God was reaching out to him. This friend of mine actually, before he became my friend, was my history teacher in high school. For years of my schooling, I sat under a man for whom God was considered so real as to be his friend. The idea is somewhat absurd, but the writers of the ages, from Moses, to David, to Matthew, to St Augustine, to C.S. Lewis, they all propose the same absurdity- God is knowable, and wants to be known. Paul went so far as to call it foolishness, but wiser than any wisdom this world.
And so, a Roman centurion, some measly, tired, foot soldier looked out at a cross. The sky turned black with clouds, the earth shook in a violent earthquake, and the man on the cross yelled out “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing… It is finished.” And the God who reached down to my history teacher and opened his eyes, the same God reached down and opened the eyes of a Roman soldier.
“When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’ ” Matthew 27
I have a bit if work to do, putting in the armour, background, etc. Then I send this drawing off to the church, and pending their approval, I begin painting.