Meeting God in Your Daily Work

By Mark D. Roberts

March 19, 2024

Scripture — Mark 15:37-39 (NRSV)

Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”


A Roman centurion oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus. It was something he had done before, a horrific part of his daily work. But this time it was different. For one thing, the man being crucified actually prayed for the centurion’s forgiveness. Then, when the man died, the centurion’s eyes were opened, and he realized who it was who had just died. Jesus wasn’t just an executed Jew. He was the Son of God. If God can be revealed to the centurion who helped to crucify Jesus, then God can be revealed to us in our daily work.


We know very little about the centurion who appears in Mark 15. He is first mentioned in verse 39: “Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’” A few verses later, when Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the dead body of Jesus, Pilate summoned the centurion to find out for sure whether Jesus had died (Mark 15:44). When the centurion confirmed Jesus’s demise, Pilate let Joseph have the body (15:45). That’s all the gospels tell us about this particular centurion.

Historians have observed that the centurion was the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer in the Roman army. The name “centurion” implies that he commanded a “century” of one hundred soldiers. So, the centurion in Mark 15 would have overseen those who actually crucified Jesus, watching as they nailed Jesus to the cross and making sure nobody rescued him.

We do not know for sure how the centurion experienced the crucifixion of Jesus. He could have been a cruel madman like the Roman soldiers pictured in the film The Passion of the Christ, though his response to the death of Jesus makes this unlikely. Perhaps he had learned to shut down emotionally when he had to oversee a crucifixion. It was, after all, one of the most horrible aspects of his job, or of any job ever. It’s also possible that the centurion was somehow moved by Jesus as he was dying, though the text doesn’t say this explicitly. All we really know is that when the centurion watched Jesus take his last breath, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (15:45).

The fact that a Roman officer acknowledged Jesus in this way has inspired centuries of Christian reflection. Truly, the response of the centurion to Jesus does foreshadow the eventual response of the wider Roman world to Jesus. Today, however, I want to focus on something rarely mentioned among commentators: the centurion encountered God in his daily work. It’s not unusual for people to meet God in their work. This happens all the time, though often we don’t realize it. But what is so striking in the case of the centurion is the kind of work he was doing when he had his divine encounter. He was supervising the torturous murder of three human beings, one of whom was God’s own Son. It would be hard to imagine work less conducive to encountering God. Yet, as the centurion did his vile duty, he looked upon Jesus and saw, not an executed Jewish criminal, but the Son of God.

Many of us would like to encounter God in our work, but our actual work seems to get in the way. Though we’re not supervising crucifixions, we often do work that seems far removed from God. Yet, if God could open the eyes of the centurion in the midst of a crucifixion, then surely God can be revealed to us in our daily work. God, who is present with us always, will help us recognize the Spirit’s presence if we are open to it – and sometimes even if we aren’t.

Encountering God in our daily work can be surprising, even contrary to our expectations. Consider the experience of the centurion. Surely as he went about the horrific work of crucifixion, he was not expecting to meet God. Yet even before his proclamation of Jesus’s identity, the centurion experienced something else that would have been utterly unprecedented. In the Gospel of Luke, as Jesus was being crucified, he prayed for the Roman soldiers, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Surely the centurion had never heard anything like that before from a person being crucified. Cries of torment, yes. Curses and obscenities, no doubt. Anguished prayers to God, surely. But “Father, forgive them”? Never. I expect the uniqueness of this prayer was part of what helped the centurion to see Jesus’s true identity. Among other things, this reminds us that meeting Jesus in our work is an expression of God’s grace in our lives.


What do you think enabled the centurion to see Jesus as the Son of God?

Can you think of times in your life when you encountered God at work, perhaps in a most unexpected way?


Today, as you begin your work (or tomorrow, if you’re reading this in the evening) ask for the grace to meet God in your work. Then, pay attention. See if God might encounter you in an unexpected way.


Gracious God, how thankful we are that the centurion appears in the gospel accounts of Jesus’s death. Though we know little about him, his testimony to Jesus as the Son of God moves us. It also reminds us that you can make yourself known in the midst of our work, even work that seems far removed from you.

Help us, Lord, to be open to seeing you in our work. May we be ready to welcome you into our work and to honor you in all we do. Even as you once surprised the centurion, surprise us with your inspiring presence. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Cross and Resurrection (Mark 14:32-16:8).

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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