47 • Now when the centurion saw what had taken place,
he praised God,
saying, "Certainly this man was innocent!"
48 • And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle,
when they saw what had taken place,
returned home beating their breasts.
49 • And all his acquaintances
and the women who had followed him from Galilee
stood at a distance watching these things.
It is much more likely that it was the sun's darkening that provoked the confession of Christ's innocence from the watching centurion than either that this centurion was the 'say-but-the-word' centurion whose servant Jesus had healed without even coming to his house (the Hollywood version) or that he had been able from where he stood to see the temple curtain tear (the new-site-for-Golgotha on the Mount of Olives version.)
Even a normal eclipse of the sun has extraordinary effects on people who witness it, so, given the heightened emotions that this crowd were displaying earlier, their powerful reaction and display of more than normal grief is not entirely unexplainable. This had, though, been more than just a rent-a-mob gathering so we must see more significance in their breast beating than mere recreational grief.
It was surely an extraordinary turnaround for the man in charge of an execution to declare the innocence of the victim as soon as that victim was dead. No less amazing was the action of the crowd, beating themselves up over a man they'd just been taunting as he died. It was as though the cruel skills of the soldiers and the antagonism of the people had just been necessary tools to get the job done so that as soon as Christ had made atonement on the cross the anger disappeared and the very coalition that crucified him were at a loss as to why they had done it.
It is consistent with these changed attitudes being down to the restoration of normality that the sheep, which had been scattered at the beginning of Christ's trial, were gathered together as one flock, admittedly standing at a distance, by the time his suffering was ended.