This story is inspired by Acts 10:30–49.
Let me introduce myself: I’m a centurion who was in Cornelius’s house when the Holy Spirit poured down upon us.
What does the Holy Spirit feel like? It was as if a breeze of warm air permeated my soul, and my fears disappeared. The shame over my previous choices as a Roman guard fell away. I heard myself praising God in words new to me. I could not stand still.
From Cornelius I had picked up a love for the Unseen God. But receiving the Spirit was completely new. I felt empowered to make the tough choices about what to do with my life. God was revealing a path based on my talents and desires that I was energized to accept.
How vastly different I felt from the man sent to Joppa to ask Peter to travel with us! Back then I was a slave to my appetites and oblivious of God’s power. Cornelius had said, “You three. Go to Joppa and bring back Peter.” I hit my chest with my fist in a Roman salute, and off we went.
When the Apostle opened the door and saw me, he tried to mask his surprise. As Peter waited, I said with urgency, “We want to know more about Jesus. Will you come with us?”
Peter asked six others to join him. Did he think it was a trap? On the way, I talked about Cornelius’s household and our cohort. Peter nodded when I related what we’d heard from a centurion who guarded Jesus’ Crucifixion.
“Had the sky really opened and the earth quaked when Jesus died?” I asked.
“Yes,” Peter said. “Another centurion could tell you about a servant’s miraculous healing. That centurion told Jesus, ‘I’m not worthy that you should enter under my roof.’ Centurions were among the first believers.”
My heart was burning as Peter spoke on the road. Could Jesus bring peace to my life, my family, and even the empire?
“Do visions happen often?” I asked. “Cornelius saw an angel, who said to send for you.”
Peter replied, “Jesus said we would see—and do—great things.”
We arrived to an excited crowd at Cornelius’s place. The noisy buzz ceased as Peter spoke. Without warning, a rumble like a roaring lion shook the air, but none of us felt afraid. All around was radiant light. Suddenly no translators were needed. I felt connected with strangers. The room hummed with energy. We were overcome with peace.
The next few days were full. We soaked up Peter’s teachings and began the hard work of forming a community. Emotions would fluctuate, but we had our marching orders. This I understood.
Years have passed, and our Christian community flourishes. No longer a member of the Roman army, I share my faith as a deacon in our community.
“You met Peter, a man who ate with Jesus after he was raised from the dead?” a boy asked me recently. “That must’ve been the most exciting experience of your life.”
“No,” I said. “That was the day I first received God’s Holy Spirit.”
Image: Vision of Cornelius the Centurion by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, via the Walters Art Museum, under CC0 1.0