THE PLAN – Roman Fort 2 miles east of Bethsaida
For the next three weeks, Cornelius and Jacob poured over the Scriptures. As agreed upon, Cornelius would breakdown the scroll of Isaiah into chapters and sub-sections as he meticulously read through it. When he identified a section of the Isaiah scroll as a chapter, he would carefully tag the margins of the Isaiah scroll by pasting a small piece of parchment paper written with the sequential chapter number. Then, with the help of Jacob, he’d write in the codex the chapter number with the appropriate chapter title and any commentary notes. He especially noted any scriptures that identified any messianic references. So far, they both collated thirteen chapters with more than three quarters of the large scroll to go.
Meanwhile, through the information that Jacob gleaned from family and friends, he found out about a young rabbi roaming the Galilee district, preaching in the villages and gaining popularity. Cornelius asked him to find out more about him and see if he was the one that he overheard Herod talking about. Jacob left two days ago to interview someone in the nearby city of Capernaum about a strange story he heard that is related to this wandering rabbi.
As to his special assignment, he is finding it difficult to organizing a network of local spies while he is based at the fort. He was hoping for friendlier relations with the local Jews since he provided funds to rebuild their demolished synagogue. But because he resided in the fort, no Jew, with the exception of Jacob, will ever step on what they consider is unclean soil. Cestus, on the other hand, who always manage to anticipate his needs, brought to him, two Legionaries who can pass as locals. One of them, Nacob, was of Syrian descent. His brown skin, short stature and short beard made him look like the Asiatics of this region. The other, Lyca, is Cypran. He can easily pass as the many Eastern Europeans trading between the free Greek cities and Galilee. He gave them extensive instructions to reconnoiter the Jewish sector of Capernaum and gather information on the leadership structure. They especially were to report on any leads to any hidden members of the Zealots. At the same time, they are to keep their eyes open for any criminal elements that he can turn into informants. Unfortunately, all they could do was still observe from the outside. Except for business, the Jews are fairly tight knit people. He needs someone inside. He thought of Jacob but knew he would make a bad spy.
Cornelius put down the report he was reading and went up the stairs to top level of his building to get some air. It was late in the afternoon and the clashing sounds around the fort had lessened significantly. As he got onto the third level of his building, he walked over to the western side and leaned onto the railings to casually check out what was happening around the fort. Soldiers were meandering back to their tents after a full day of drills. A group of them wearing just their red tunics and leggings were laughing and joking among themselves as they eagerly walked towards the north gate which would lead them to the camp-followers’ camp who were about half a mile north. He then looks up and beyond the walls and see a few field-workers among a nearby field of wheat. On the road that led to Bethsaida, he noticed an old man walking as fast as he could towards the fort. Though he could not see a face, he knew it was Jacob rushing back with news.
By the time Jacob returned, Cornelius was back at his desk writing his reports for the governor and the general.
“I have news,” his old tutor said tiredly.
“Jacob, sit down and rest.” Cornelius poured him a drink.
“Ah, thank you.” Jacob gulped down the whole glass. “I did walk a long way but anyway, I said I had news about the young rabbi. At first, I did not think he was the Messiah.”
“Why do you say that?”
“His name is Jesus, son of Joseph. He is from… Nazareth!”
“Nazareth? I’m not sure I get you. Where is Nazareth?”
Jacob pulled out the map from under a pile of scrolls and laid it out. He pointed on a spot west of the Sea of Galilee. Cornelius then realized what he meant.
“Ah good, by the way you look, you remember where the Messiah is supposed to be born.”
“Yes… according to the Prophet Micah, the Messiah is supposed to be born in Bethlehem.”
“No, not suppose,” Jacob said quietly. “Now, I know that the Messiah is truly walking amongst us. Some thirty years or so ago, I was a young scribe when from the East came a caravan of Persian magi to the palace of the old Herod. They sought the newly born, King of the Jews. Herod called for my master. I was there when he told them of Micah’s prophecy. Three days later, I heard from the other scribes and priests of the senseless slaughter of all male infants of the Bethlehem and the surrounding district. I was so disillusioned then, that I took an assignment to bring a complete copy set of Scriptures to the Synagogue leader of Athens and left Judea for good. Of course, my faith, at that time, was very low. I thought the Messiah was killed but I should have known that nothing can thwart the will of the Almighty God.”
The story continues on in my next post a week from now.
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