THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch9 – part 1

SALOME’S DANCE – Machaerus, PereaCG-book-cover-w

It had been several weeks since Cornelius had his late night meeting with Jesus. He had been informed that Jesus had again gone through out the villages in Galilee preaching. He even heard a story in the synagogue that he and his disciples were seen getting into a boat and headed for the eastern shore of the inland sea probably towards the Decapolis, the ten cities of Greek descent since the time of Alexander the Great. It was night fall and the winds from the north picked up making the sea dangerously choppy. Cornelius could well imagine the dangers of going out on the lake in a boat, though sturdy, was overloaded with men under those conditions. They would have to fight strong winds with oars rigged for only two men to use at a time; any sail they put up would be ripped to shreds. Navigating in the darkness would be next to impossible. They could be rowing in circles and not know it. But the greatest danger is being swamped by ten to fifteen feet swells compounded by the rain storm that tend to follow the northerly winds. Bailing water would be an exercise of futility. As the story went, the storm was incredible as it raged across the inland sea. No boat could stay afloat out there. The witnesses expected to find dead floating bodies by morning. Those that saw Jesus get into that boat despaired, but then as quickly as the storm rolled in, it all suddenly subsided. It was something that they have never seen. A few days later, Jesus and his disciples were at the market square of Capernaum where he cast out a demon from a man who could not speak. That was three weeks ago.

Since that meeting with Jesus, Cornelius had read and re-read the Prophet Isaiah’s thick manuscript searching what the Messiah’s task was to be. With the help of Jacob, they have managed to divide the manuscript into three parts. The first part which consisted of the first half of Isaiah was mostly prophecies of condemnation against Judah and of the surrounding nations. The third part, which was almost as thick as the first part, were mostly prophecies depicting Israel’s glorious future. What fixed Cornelius’ attention was the second part, found in the middle of the manuscript; the beginning of which was a historical reference of the Assyrian invasion of Judah during the reign of King Hezekiah. This was what Jesus was referring to when he said, ‘Seek out the answer in the one who was my Father’s mouth in the last days of Hezekiah.’ Cornelius compared it to the collected chronicles of the kings of Judah where he found the last accounts of King Hezekiah. Word for word both passages in Isaiah and the chronicles were almost the same. It was like the prophet had intentionally put these passages in as a red flag wanting the reader to pause and slow down to pay attention to what came next.

Sure enough, early in the passages, Cornelius found the verse that John the Baptist used to describe himself as the forerunner for the Messiah.

“A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.’ ”

Cornelius made a mental note to see him as soon as possible. Cornelius felt guilty that he has yet made an attempt to have the Baptist released from Herod Antipas’ dungeons. He had received a message from Tribune Arturos yesterday to expect his arrival today. This may be his opportunity to ask him for his help. Then he heard a shout down at the courtyard, “riders approaching!” Closing his books, he went down the stairs and out the door just as Arturos rode into the courtyard. A contingent of cavalrymen waited outside still mounted.

“Hail Tribune!” greeted Cornelius.

“Greetings, Cornelius!” Arturos dismounted. “As of now, your… ahem… demotion had been rescinded by order of the Governing General, Pontus Pilate.” Before Cornelius could respond, Arturos hurriedly ushered him back inside. “Come! You have fifteen minutes to change for we only have a long ride ahead to Machaerus in Perea where we are to greet the Governor who is to attend a celebration of Herod Antipas. Pilate has asked for you to attend. Now, you go up there and change, I’ll take care of things down here.”

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 062

NAHAN THE PRIEST
33 AD – Enter the King – Kidron Valley, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Nahan had been visiting a rich friend who had set up an encampment on the north side of the Kidron Valley just at the foot of the Mount of Olives. The campsite was situated higher on the slope overlooking the entire valley which was packed with multicolored tents, hazy from thousands of cook fires. Even the Kidron river which flowed down the center of the valley was hardly distinguishable. The valley was a sloped shallow crevasse between the Mount of Olives in the east, the towering Temple Mount and the City of David in the west.

He had spent a profitable night with his friend, whom he only gets to see once or twice a year. Besides being a priest, Nahan is also a vineyard owner of which his friend is managing for him. As he was making his way back to the Temple, he was quite happy that his business was doing quite well. Then, he noticed that there was a crescendo in the general ambiance sound of thousands of people in the valley below. He paused in his stride just upon entering the eastern lower gate at the base of the mount. Curious, he took one step back to see what was in the air.

The people below the ledge where he stood were also aware that there was something happening but were confused of what. But then others coming from the midst of the city of tents started to point to the east. From where he stood, Nahan looked east and saw where the road from Jericho wound over the south-lower ridge of the Mount of Olives. The road itself could not be seen because of all the people there. Then he saw the waving of the palms and he knew who was coming. He smiled.

Nahan checked himself to see if he was wearing anything that might reveal he was a priest. He then took the short flight of steps down unto the bridge that span over the ravine. He worked his way through the crowd to the end of the bridge where the Jericho road ends. Temple guards posted there recognized him. He told them to pretend that they do not see him. But he took advantage of the two-level platform that they usually use. From there, he could clearly see throngs of palm-waving people lining the road. Then the cheers got louder and he saw him riding on a led donkey followed by a colt that skittishly hugged it’s mother. It almost looked like the Nazarene was astride on both animal.

Nahan almost laughed out loud in amusement. He knew that Jesus of Nazareth have not made any claim of kingship but there he is riding into the city from the east like the kings of old. He knew this was clearly a statement. He turned around and craned his head up to look up the sheer cliff and walls of the Temple Mount. He peered against the glare of the sky at the battlements and saw no one yet looking down.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 061

ANDREW THE FIRST DISCIPLE
33 AD – Enter the King – Jericho Road, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

It was a celebratory day. As soon as they went through the gates of Bethany, they were surrounded by a crowd of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the annual Passover Feast. The people were singing a Psalm.

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
[Psalm 95:1-7]

Andrew recognized it as one of the psalms of Moses traditionally sung by pilgrims.

When many recognized Jesus they began clapping their hands and calling out praise. About a mile from the city, Jesus halted his approach. The people were wondering why he stopped. Some surmised that maybe he may not enter the city after all because they knew the leadership wanted him arrested.

Jesus called Andrew to him.

“Andrew, take a companion and go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” [Matthew 21:2-3]

So, Andrew and Philip went down a track just off the main road. They followed the narrow winding foot path through a grove of olive trees until they came upon a small walled-in village. They spotted the donkey and it’s frolicking colt tied to a tree just outside a shack.

With no hesitation, Andrew started to untie the donkey. He noticed that Philip was fidgeting.

“What is bothering you, Philip?”

“Well… when I saw this donkey and it’s foal, something jumped to mind but I cannot recall exactly what. This is going to drive me crazy.”

“Stop!” called a man who came from behind the shack. “Why are you untying my animals?”

“The Lord needs them,” Andrew said.

The man was about to say something but paused with his mouth still open. Then, he nodded his assent and followed them back to the main road where Jesus waited patiently.

Andrew anticipated what Jesus intended. He unrolled the cloth material that was slung over his shoulder and wrapped around his waist which he usually utilized it as a blanket or veil to protect him from the sun. He then spread it on the back of the donkey. Peter and James also placed their robes on the animal and helped Jesus to get on. They then took the reigns and led the donkey back on the road. The people roared in approval. The men in the crowd took their own robes off and laid them on the road while the women and children tore fronds of palm branches off and waved them at him as he rode by. They called out to him and called him king.

Andrew felt a tug on his sleeve. It was Philip saying excitedly, “Andrew, I now know what this all means. It is prophecy coming to life. I remember now the Scripture that was quoted to be by my Rabbi when I was a boy. It is from the words of Zecharia the prophet. ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” [Zecharia 9:9]

Andrew’s mind raced with the thought that Jesus will, this day, usher in his kingdom and claim kingship. He felt elated, yet still a little apprehensive, but he wasn’t sure why.

It was not long until they crested a ridge and looked upon the city of Jerusalem. Just below was the Kidron Valley where there was a massive encampment. Then they were greeted with an uproar of thousands of voice.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch8 – part 2

MEETING FACE TO FACE – Hills South of CapernaumCG-book-cover-w

It wasn’t so dark because of the stars and moon. Surefooted, Jesus confidently led him up to the top of the hill. Cornelius looked all around. The lake was shimmering at the East. Some miles North, Capernaum and Chorazin were clearly lit as cities should at this time of the night. The ragged outline of the highlands West and South are quite distinct against the night sky. Jesus went over to a lean-to and gestured for him join him.

“I come up here as often as I can to commune with my Father in Heaven.”

Cornelius had so much to ask but somehow he just did not know where to begin. He again thought how plainly he looked but yet there was a presence about him. Then, like he knew what was on his mind, Jesus spoke first.

“Yes… I am the one that John told you to seek. Not much to look at, am I?”

“Well, now that the subject was broached. I half expected you to look more kingly in appearance.”

“So did many of the chosen. They expected a King David or King Solomon, regaled in majestic glory. How easily they forget. Do you know the story of how David was chosen to be king?”

“Yes… of course, I do recall. I should have known.” Cornelius chided himself because the whole story of David had always been his favorite. This part of the story went like this.

King Saul had disappointed God again. So, God sent the Prophet Samuel, to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse to choose from his sons to be anointed king. When the eldest was presented, he was tall, handsome and an accomplished soldier. Even to Samuel, the eldest would make an ideal king. He would have anointed him right there and then, but God stayed his hand. In Samuel’s ear he was told that ‘God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’ [1 Samuel 16:7] Six more sons were brought before him by Jesse, all were rejected. When asked if there was another son, Jesse sent for his youngest who was out in the fields with the sheep. When he came before the prophet, he was but a youth with a face that showed the red glow of good health and was handsome. By all common sense, this was not a lad that would be entrusted with ruling the land. But God chose him.

“And what a king he became, so much so that my Father in Heaven made an eternal promise that his line will rule forever.”

“They say the Messiah will come as a conqueror bringing justice and freedom.”

“There will be a time when all things will be judged then cast into the fire. And yes, the Messiah will be there with sword in hand.” Then Jesus saw the concern in Cornelius’ face. “I know you must report what you heard to your superiors. Do not fret, Cornelius, it is not what you fear. I have not come to condemn but to save.”

“I have surmised what you are saving us from, my question is how are you going to save mankind? What exactly are you going to do? And what can I do to be part of it?”

“You and my disciples will have tasks but what I have to do only I can do.”

“What is it exactly you have to do?”

“The task that I do is written. John had set you in the path of Isaiah. I urge you to continue down that path. Seek out the answer in the one who was my Father’s mouth in the last days of Hezekiah. Then you have a choice to make.”

“You could not just tell me straight, could you?”

“You have strong faith like I told the people. But your faith came to you because of a process of how you gained knowledge. That process started when you listened to your tutor’s first story of the Scriptures. My Father in Heaven once told Joshua before he brought all of Israel across the Jordan after forty years wandering in the wilderness, ‘This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.’ [Joshua 1:8] Follow this same path, Cornelius.”
Cornelius and Jesus spoke late into the night until the pale morning light came creeping over the horizon. They both went down the hill together. Simon Peter and the rest of the Twelve were waiting for them. They broke bread together and then Cornelius said his farewells. He started to ride away, but then he pulled his horse’s rein to a stop and slowly turned. Jesus and his companions were still there watching him. Jesus raised his hand real high. Cornelius too raised his hand and he felt elated inside. He wheeled his horse around and rode at a trot. He was eager to get home and open those books.
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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 060

MARY, THE FAITHFUL ONE
33 AD – Sabbath Anointment – Bethany, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Late in the afternoon, Simon’s household and guests gathered again for the final meal of the Sabbath. As Mary watched Jesus conversing and laughing with her father, brother and the others around their table, she longed to do something special for him.

“Mary, you are in love with him,” whispered Mariam. “I see it every time you watch my son.”

“I do love him, Mariam. But I know he has a task to do and that I… ah, I…” She could not finish her thought. She sighed inside. “What can I do for him?”

“Let the Lord Almighty guide you, Mary.”

Mary closed her eyes and before she could phrase a petition, the image of the alabaster perfume vial popped into her mind. She wasn’t sure what to make of it until the story of Samuel anointing David with essence oil also came to mind. Her eyes opened wide with understanding. She sprung up to her feet, surprising the women of her table. She quickly dashed out of the dining room followed by some of her companions who were confused by her abrupt action.

“Where are you going, Mary?” Joanne asked.

Mary explained what she intended. Joanne and the others nodded with enthusiasm. Mary went in and retrieved the bottle. When she returned to the dining room, she found that Jesus was lounging on his side talking to her father, Simon and Lazarus. She paused just at the threshold hesitating. She looks down at her hands, at the slender white alabaster jar with the golden stopper. Taking a deep breath, she then walked over to Jesus caressing the jar over her heart.

The whole room quieted down as she nervously approached where Jesus lounged. She looks down and no words were exchanged. Jesus nodded ever so slightly to her. She was encouraged. She gracefully knelt and unstoppered the jar. The aromatic perfume filled the room. It had that distinctive aroma of pure nard. She poured some on his head and her fingers gently combed it into his hair. The other women then sounded a wavering, high-pitched tongue sound which they do as a sign of honor and celebration. Mary then poured some on Jesus’ feet and used her long hair to gently wipe them.

Abruptly, Judas Iscariot stood up quite indignantly speaking out loud.

“What is this waste? We could have sold this perfume for three hundred denarii and used the money to feed a multitude of poor.”

“Let her alone. Why do you bother her so?” Jesus said calmly. “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. Mary has done a good deed to me. For when she poured this perfume on me, she was preparing me for burial. I tell you all the truth that wherever this gospel is preached in the world, what she did for me will be spoken of in memory of her.” [Matthew 26:8-13; John 12:4-8]

That night, Mary and some of the women were summoned to meet him at roof deck. He asked them to join him next to a hot brazier to fend off the chill in the air.

“My sisters, in the morn, I will go to the Temple for the week long Passover Feast. Much will happen that will cause much tears. You must hold on to your faith.”

The women wanted to ask more but Jesus would not say more. They spent the next hour in prayer and singing some Psalms. When they were leaving, Jesus asked Mary to stay.

“Mary, I have a favor to ask. I would appreciate it, if you would stay with my mother during this week. She will be staying with kin in the old part of the city. She will need your strength.”

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 059

MARY, THE FAITHFUL ONE
33 AD – Sabbath Anointment – Bethany, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

The next day, Mary found Jesus happily telling stories to a group of laughing children of the neighbors. He was relating to them a tale of a proud camel trying to squeeze through an eye of an needle at the end of which, Mary could not help but join them in both gleeful laughter and applause. Then, Simon Peter entered with Judas Iscariot in tow.

“Master, there are guests waiting for you,” said Judas. By his tone, Mary heard a little irritation. In her heart, she knows she should not judge, however there is something about Judas that makes her wary. But then again, Jesus chose him to be one of the Twelve… so, what does she know.

“Lord, I know you love children, but I have to agree with Judas.” It was Peter speaking this time, a little sheepishly. Mary smiled inside and knew what was coming.

Jesus was smiling as well. He called for a young boy to stand by his side. He then tilted his face up at the hulking figure of Peter. He got the hint.

“Yes, Lord, I remember the lesson,” Peter said quietly. But when he saw that Jesus was waiting for more, he continued on like a school boy made to give a recital. ‘Unless we change and become like little children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in your name welcomes you, Lord.’ ” [Matthew 18:1–5]

Jesus smiled some more but gestured that there was more.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in you—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” [Matthew 18:6–7]

Mary was trying not to smile too widely.

Jesus fondly sent the children away. Then he followed Peter and Judas in.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch8 – part 1

MEETING FACE TO FACE – Hills South of CapernaumCG-book-cover-w

It was night when he rode up into their camp under the same copse of trees. The men around the fire all stood up but none walked over. Cornelius slowly dismounted and raised his hands up to show that he came in peace. He called out the traditional greeting of offering peace.

“Peace be also with you, Centurion.”

Cornelius turned to see the big fisherman and Levi, the former tax collector, emerge from the tent.

“I am pleased to see you again, Centurion.”

“Likewise, Levi.”

“Oh no… my friend. I am now called Matthew. The master named me so.”

Peter reached out his big hand and they shook hands. “I am Peter. The Master had chosen to meet you up there.” He gestured toward the same hill where Jesus gave his sermon. He calls to the tent, “Simon!”

Simon came out of the tent obviously livid.

“Simon here will be your guide.” Simon Peter faced the Zealot and said, “The Master suggested it.”

Simon reluctantly went to the fire and picked up a fiery brand. “Come Roman, follow me.”

They had to cross the creek with the limited light of the torch but Cornelius managed it with just wetting one of his sandaled foot. The Zealot lead him to a foot path which they followed up the hill. For a long while they did not talk. When they reached a level spot, the Zealot suddenly turned around to confront him.

“What do you want with the master, Roman? You are not wanted here!”

Cornelius was not caught unaware. He expected it. Though he had no weapon, he knew Simon could not best him in close quarter fighting alone. But there could be others nearby in the dark. Cornelius started moving slowly to the right forcing Simon to go right as well; circling each other.

“It was he that called me, Zealot. Now, tell me this. What are the Zealots intention with the rabbi? Do you think you can make him king to rally the people?”

That touched a nerve with Simon, he crouched like was ready to pounce.

“How did you do it, Zealot? How did you get the rabbi to choose you to be one of the Twelve?”

The Zealot stopped circling and then stood straight. “I did not! When Jesus called me, I was so proud but then deep down, I really knew there was nothing to be proud of. But yet he chose me. I will not betray him.”

“Peace,” said a voice in the darkness. Then Jesus walked into the light. “Greetings, Cornelius. It is a good night to be about. Is it not?”

“Good evening, Lord. It is truly a very good night.”

Jesus placed a hand onto Simon’s arm. “Thank you, Simon. I will take it from here. Come, Cornelius. Let us walk up in the dark.”

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

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Johann Q