For all those people, skeptics, researchers and scholars interested in the Shroud of Turin– what is it, and what was the role of the Roman guards in the Crucifixion? The Shroud of Turin is the linen cloth referred to in the 4 Gospels, as the cloth in which Jesus was buried.
So while talking about the authenticity of the cloth which was called the Image of Edessa and now is known throughout the word as the Shroud of Turin, let’s go back to events which took place more than 2000 years ago on 3 April, AD 33.
The Passover was being celebrated in Judaea. This was the time when Rome ruled a major part of the then known Western World. That was because it had a very highly disciplined army led by strict and experienced generals. Judaea was a conquered Roman province.
Pontius Pilate was the Prefect governing Judaea in the name of Tiberius Caesar. The Roman army had generals, tribunes and Centurions. A Centurion was in charge of 100 soldiers who were trained to be emotionless killing machines. Their job was to keep the peace in the lands that they had conquered.
Their loyalty was to Rome, their Generals and to Tiberius. The soldiers were a superstitious lot worshipping Mars and other Roman Gods. They had no interest in the cultural heritage of the people among which they were living. According to them, the Jews were people who followed strange customs, worshipped Jehovah and followed the Laws brought to them by Moses.
Now imagine a guard of these ruthless soldiers which have been deputed to crucify 3 men. One of them is a preacher named Jesus of Nazareth. He has been accused by the Jewish priests of practicing idolatry, calling himself the Son of God and thus blaspheming against Jewish Teachings.
Pontius Pilate considers this man innocent. But he has to keep the peace in this turbulent province. So he gives up the man to the mob, and orders his execution. However, before he give the order, he washes his hands symbolically, signifying “The blood of this innocent man be upon thy heads. I wash my hands off this decision.”
The deputed soldiers followed by a blood thirsty mob (provoked by the priests) drag Jesus through the street towards Golgotha. There are 100 soldiers assigned to keep the mob under control at this time. The mob is also made up of women wailing against the flagrum being used freely by two Roman soldiers on this so called “criminal.”
Now, for people who consider this to be an act of inhuman cruelty let’s see some ground realities of that age and time. Jesus could have been rescued by the mob and taken away to safety. Nobody did that. Instead, they followed the soldiers who kept lashing him, reviling him and hitting him.
This passivity in itself shows us that no one really wanted Jesus to be saved. The priests wanted him dead. The priests of the Sanhedrin had cowed the people so much that they dared not speak up against such injustice, just in case they met the same fate as Jesus.
There were only 4 soldiers and a centurion there when Jesus was crucified. These men divided his clothes after gambling for them. They had done their work with precision and obeyed the orders of their Superiors. But the centurion said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
He had carried out his orders but he felt that he had been forced to execute a good and innocent man.
Jesus died on the Cross at 3 in the afternoon. His body was taken down and wrapped in the Shroud which is now known as the Shroud of Turin.
Why did no one say anything against the soldiers placing a bunch of thorns over the forehead of Jesus? They also wrote a sign in three languages and placed it on the Cross. The sign said “Behold the King of the Jews.” The priests objected immediately, “He calls himself the King of the Jews.” See the difference?
The Priests knew that they were accusing an innocent man who was a threat to their power. Jesus never said these words. He was asked by Annas. “Do you call yourself the King of the Jews, and the Son of God?” “You say that,” was his response. Jesus knew that the priests wanted to use any excuse to accuse him of blasphemy.
On the other hand, the Romans knew what they were doing. They were showing their contempt for such sly sophistry by declaring, “We have executed the King of the Jews.” In this manner, they were asserting their political strength.
The Romans were also not going to allow themselves to be manipulated into killing an innocent man on probable accusations of “He calls himself the King of the Jews. He calls himself the Son of God.” The underlying fear behind these accusations were “ He comes from a royal line so he is a possible threat to our priesthood. He is gathering up a really powerful following, which just might begin to question our religious power and political power. So he has to die, because we want him dead.”
And so Jesus died on the Cross and was buried in the Shroud of Turin. He was Resurrected after three days and walked among his disciples for 40 days after that, before he ascended to Heaven. This is a symbolic representation of Life conquering Death. But whatever you Believe, this information about the burial shroud and the Roman soldiers can allow you to visualize what happened on that fateful Friday, April 3,AD 33.