Jesus was arrested by a company of soldiers called a “speira,” a Greek word denoting 600 men. John tells us that while Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, “Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers (speira)” (John 18:3). Mark tells us that after Jesus’ trial, “The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers (speira)” (Mark 15:16).
The soldiers flogged Jesus with a whip, then put a purple robe and a crown of thorns on him. They taunted him as the king of the Jews, struck him with a staff and spit on him. Then they forced him to carry a wooden cross as far as he was physically able. Finally, they nailed his hands and feet to the cross and lifted Jesus up to hang until he died. His death was confirmed by a centurion who speared Jesus in the side.
But something amazing took place before these soldiers. They saw the sky grow dark in the middle of the day, felt an earthquake under their feet, heard Jesus offer hope to one crucified beside him, heard Jesus ask God to forgive those who were crucifying him, and then heard Jesus shout, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Then they heard one of their own soldiers speak. “The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely he was the Son of God”’ (Matthew 27:54; Luke 23;47). Then three days later, some soldiers were guarding Jesus’ tomb when he resurrected. “The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4). What do you suppose the speira were discussing in the barracks that night?