THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 4

SPYING IN A TREE – Capernaum, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Then Jacob tiredly walked in. “I think I have found another part of the puzzle concerning the Nazarene.”

Cornelius noticed that Jacob was breathing heavy and streams of sweat were rolling down into his beard. He was also massaging his right shoulder down to his arm. “What is wrong? Do you feel ill?”

“No! It is just the heat.” He wearily lowered himself into a chair. “I’ll be fine.”

“Do you want to rest? We can certainly talk later on.”

“No, no. I just exerted myself a little to rush back here to tell you what I discovered.” After Cornelius gave him a drink, he continued, “Do you recall how I questioned that this young rabbi could not be the promised one because according to the Scriptures that the messiah was to come from Bethlehem not from Nazareth? Well, I met with a woman who is a second cousin to the Nazarene’s mother. This Jesus was not born in Nazareth. Though his family was a permanent resident there, his parents, Joseph and Mary, went to Bethlehem in compliance with an edict by the Emperor Augustus to return to the town of their ancestry for the census. I remembered that census. That was about thirty years ago, just before I left for Athens where I eventually worked for your father. Anyway, a few months later, this Jesus was born in Bethlehem.”

Cornelius picked up a sheet from the notes that he was compiling and pointed at it. “This complies with Micah’s prophecy that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem. But then there must have been other infants born in that town that same year.”

“Yes but then, the old Herod ordered the slaughter of all male infants up to the age of two in Bethlehem and its surrounding villages.”

“There were already rumors of a promised Messiah going around in Herod’s kingdom. Herod was afraid that another king will take his place. Then came a group of magi from the East and it was from them that he discovered that the awaited king and descendant of King David was an infant. Herod probably tasked the magicians to reveal who the infant was. But when they didn’t return, he couldn’t take the chance and had them all slaughtered.”

“Except that if this Jesus was born there, his parents obviously escaped the carnage,”whispered Cornelius.

“Yes, Cornelius! You have it right, I think. For the woman said that months after Herod’s death, they showed up in Nazareth; Joseph, Mary and a four year old Jesus, her son.”

Cornelius picked up his pen and started writing down more notes.

“There is something else.”

Cornelius heard something in his voice enough to pause. He put his pen down.

“Do you recall when we discussed about the sign of a virgin birth? How we both surmised that it may be figurative?”

Cornelius nodded in agreement.

“I now believe that God intended that passage to be literal. It was the way that she worded ‘Jesus, her son’ was what peaked my curiosity. Why not ‘their son’? I asked myself. So I pressed this woman for more information. Apparently, this Jesus may not be of Joseph’s seed.”

“What do you mean?”

“His true father may be another! She, apparently over heard her parents say that Joseph wanted to divorce Mary quietly. In our tradition, there is only one reason why a man would do this. If she had been unfaithful! After which Mary went to some relatives in Judea. But then he later changed his mind, followed her and married her.”

“I know what you’re thinking Jacob,” exclaimed Cornelius. “This Jesus could just be the son of another man. It is not uncommon.”

“True. But then my cousin told me later that there was a rumor that a young woman in Nazareth was visited by an angel of the Lord. And that she claimed that it was the Holy Spirit who caused her to be pregnant. Rumor or not, it is too much of a coincidence. I believe that the prophecy of the coming Messiah is at hand and so far it points to the man from Nazareth!”

Cornelius contemplated what Jacob claimed. “I have to see this man again. Do you know where he is?”

“I hear that he is somewhere in the up-lands near Cana moving from one village to another.”

“Well, we can’t traipse around the highlands blindly. So, we wait until he returns to Capernaum.”

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 042

ZACCHAEUS THE LITTLE PUBLICAN
32 AD – Guess Who’s Coming For Lunch – Jericho, Jordan River Valleyfaithful-encounters-cover-w

Zacchaeus saw that the crowd was working their way away from the north gate. Apparently, Jesus and his followers decided not to enter Jericho and instead go around it. He so wanted to get a closer look at him. He had an idea. He with his bodyguard sprinted back into the city. He ran straight to the city’s western gate where he hoped to get ahead of the procession. Fortunately, he got there before Jesus got there. However, there was even a larger crowd waiting for him. There was no way he’d be able to look over the crowd’s shoulders. Then he spotted a sycamore-fig tree where it overlooked the road. He quickly went over to it. With a leg up by his companion, Zacchaeus managed to climb up to a large branch where he had a good vantage point over the road and an ever growing crowd.

As his feet dangled, he realized that he probably looked ridiculous and by the snickering glances of many of those that recognized him, they were thinking it too. He heard a few snide remarks but then their attention was diverted by the shouts of excitement coming their way. Zacchaeus saw a large body of people coming from the north. People were jumping up and had their hands up in the air clapping to celebratious music. Then, he saw him and knew right away that it was Jesus. He was in the middle of twelve or so men keeping the crowd from swamping him. Many of the crowd were gleefully shouting to him and many were calling him, ‘Son of David’. It was so catching, that even Zacchaeus was chanting the Messiah title at the top of his voice.

When Jesus and his companions were just below him, he stopped quite abruptly so much so that those behind him were bumping to each other. Zacchaeus then stopped his chanting guiltily thinking that he did something wrong.

He started whispering to himself, “Please don’t look up! Please don’t look up!”

Then, to his shock, Jesus turned to look straight up at him and laughed. But it was not a laugh of cruelty and ridicule, but instead like someone laughing with a long lost friend. Then Jesus happily called up to him by name.

“Zacchaeus,” laughed Jesus. “Come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” [Luke 19:5]

Zacchaeus’ heart burst with joy. With the help of Jesus’ followers, he scrambled down the tree as quick as he could, jumping the last three feet. Jesus greeted him with a fond hand on his shoulder.

“Come, my friend, show us the way to your home,” said Jesus smiling.

“Gladly… Lord,” Zacchaeus said gratefully.
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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 42th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 041

ZACCHAEUS THE LITTLE PUBLICAN
32 AD – Guess Who’s Coming For Lunch – Jericho, Jordan River Valleyfaithful-encounters-cover-w

At the banks of the Jordan River, the Baptist spoke of the Messiah and the promise of forgiveness. After the reported death of the Baptist, stories of a wandering rabbi and healer trickled down from the north. A particular story of a tax collector becoming one of the rabbi’s closest disciples, intrigued Zacchaeus to a point that he almost went to Galilee himself. But his business life kept delaying his departure until it finally drove it out of his mind.

Zacchaeus’ carriage entered through the gates of his home, one of three villas on a small hill of several hills within the city. There were two other carriages and their slaves lounging around the outer courtyard. He cringed a little for he knew he had visitors.
The next day, the city was awake early with the buzz of news that Jesus of Nazareth, the healing rabbi from the north was close to the city. Even in the aloof neighborhood of the rich, the news had stirred interest. Zacchaeus was so elated, he left his villa in a rush and on foot with only one bodyguard to accompany him. He quickly worked his way through the rich neighborhood until he saw a small crowd and followed them to the city square where they joined an even larger throng of milling city folk. His bodyguard was concerned that the people would recognize Zacchaeus and turn on them. He was noticed many times but the people were so focused at the imminent closeness of the miracle worker, they paid him no mind, at least, for the moment.

Then, there was excitement coming from outside the city. Zacchaeus and some of crowd worked their way out the gates. The crowd outside was watching something happening, but he could not see over the shoulders of the people. Then he heard some of the people calling over the crowd.

“What is happening? What is going on?”

“The Nazarene… he called over a beggar to him.”

“It’s Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus!”

“Who is he?”

“It’s the blind beggar that always sat by the north road.”

“What was the shouting?”

“It was Bartimaeus… he was calling out to the Nazarene. He was shouting, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ He kept shouting it over and over until the Nazarene called him over.” [Mark 10:46-52]

Then there were shouts of excitement.

“He can see! The blind man can see. He healed him!” The story was spreading like wild fire and speculations of who he is was spreading even more.

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 41th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

PS… If you want to support my writing, please purchase my ebook, THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL, in Amazon.com for only $1.99. The Centurion’s Gospel is the story of Cornelius Metellus, the Roman Centurion who almost saved Jesus Christ from the cross. Just click the link below.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 3

SPYING IN A TREE – Capernaum, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius was awakened by the baying of many of sheep under his window. Upon opening the window, he received a gust of chilled air. A mild winter had set in and he can just make out flecks of snow on the distant hillsides. Below, the courtyard was wall to wall filled with fleece. Trax was gleefully trying to ride a ram while Cestus was working his way to the house entrance.

“Cestus! What is going on here?”

Cestus looked up helplessly, “Sir, Kepto, the Arab merchant, delivered two flocks of sheep.”

“I can see that! He was instructed to deliver them to the fort tomorrow!” All Cestus could do was shrug but then was knock down by the bucking ram with Trax holding on tight. Trying not to laugh, Cornelius ordered, “Have Porcius report to me in an hour!”

An hour and half later, Cornelius was going over his intelligence report when Porcius entered without knocking. Porcius was portly and bald. Though he also held the rank of centurion, he was no soldier. His job was to supply the eight Roman forts of this region. When Cornelius arrived two weeks earlier, he kept Porcius and his twelve men on to continue to do what they were doing. With Jacob and Trax, he also brought Cestus and five others.

“You are late again, Porcius!”

“Well, you had to get the farthest house on the outskirts of Capernaum. I’m not as young and fit as I used to be when I first came out here eight years ago.”

“What are these sheep doing in my place?”

“Ah, yes! Kepto’s shepherds are Jews! They arrived a day earlier and would not be able to move the sheep until after this ridiculous Sabbath ritual. And since you have this nice large courtyard, I figured that many of the sheep will survive the evening.”

“Very well. Ask me the next time.”

“As you wish.”

“Now, the Governor General will be going to Jerusalem this early spring. That is about two months from now. Tribune Atesca will be sending his wagons prior to the Governor’s travel. He has sent a list of his provisions.” He handed him the list.

“Ah,” Porcius shook his head in disgust, “Does he not know that it is winter here too? He wants to take our stored grain that was supposed to last until harvest. Our men at the forts will have meager meals, I’m afraid.”

“And I am sure your pockets will be as light, as well?”

“Ah, yes! There is that too!” he chuckled as he exited.

Cornelius set the reports to the side and went up to his upper room. On a table stacked with scrolls and books, he had the Isaiah manuscript opened. His eyes locked on the same particular passage which he kept rereading.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the Lord Almighty will guarantee this! [Isaiah 9:6 NASB]

Cornelius was not sure how to take in the implication of the Messiah’s title. ‘Mighty God?’ He thought. ‘Everlasting Father?’ This passage is implying that the Messiah and the God of all creation are One!

Cornelius reeled at the thought of this and yet he can accept this concept. After all, the kings of Egypt and even Caesar himself were considered gods. There were tales of Greek gods, though I do not really believe in their existence, were known to walk the earth as men. But then, he recalled when he first saw Jesus of Nazareth, it was inconceivable that this simple looking man can be the God of eternity. However, there are still those stories of the sick being healed when he touches them or men able to see again after being blind for years. There was even one story that he changed water into wine. The skeptic in him told him that he has not witnessed to any of that. He needs to watch this man closer but he was not seen in Capernaum at all since he moved here.

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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

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 2

SPYING IN A TREE – Roman fort 2 miles east of BethsaidaCG-book-cover-w

As they neared the fort, Cornelius noticed a different signus over the gate. It was the signus of Tribune Arturos.

“The Tribune is a day early,” exclaimed Flavius.

Upon entering the fort, Cornelius was summoned to the Tribune immediately.

As Cornelius and Flavius enter his office, Arturos turns to them and says, “The General has approved your plan! I myself do not like it. But I have to admit that to do your task, you have to get closer to the people. Very well! Flavius! You take command here. Let us get this over with. Assemble the cohort!”

“Is there no other way?” pleaded Flavius. “This may get you killed with a knife on your back!”

“I will be fine.” Turning to the Tribune, “Sir, I suggest we do this outside the west gate where the camp followers and those out working in the fields can better witness this.”

Trumpets blared throughout the fort. As the legionnaires assembled in formation, a crowd of field workers, some fishermen, a number of Arab traders and the camp followers gathered wondering what the commotion was. Some wondered if they were leaving for battle. Then the assembly stood at attention as Arturos rode slowly to the center followed by Cornelius and Flavius. Cornelius saw that Jacob and Trax were peering down from the fortress wall. The tribune then handed a scroll to Flavius to be read out loud. Showing a little reluctance, Flavius read out the reprimand and demotion orders. Cornelius heard Jacob’s gasp up in the wall. He expected that. But what he did not expect were the mutterings and disgruntled look on the assembly. Cornelius took a step forward and starting left to right he scanned the faces of the men with a disapproval glare written on his face. Slowly, the men’s muttering quieted down as Flavius finished reading the order. Then Arturos ordered Cornelius to surrender his helmet to him. Cornelius took off his helmet and presented to the tribune. Arturos then took out his dagger and stripped the white horse-hair plumes from the helmet. Then he dropped it on the ground making Cornelius pick up his plume less helmet. Cornelius placed his helmet back on and ceremoniously saluted him then marched back into the fort.

As Cornelius entered his quarters, Jacob and a teary eyed Trax were waiting. “How could they do this? The money came from your own strong box!” Exclaimed Jacob.

“What is done… is done,” smiled Cornelius. “Now, let us pack up and move my baggage to a room below. These quarters belong to Flavius now. Tomorrow, we go to Capernaum.”

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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

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 1

SPYING IN A TREE – Roman fort 2 miles east of BethsaidaCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius can finally see the garrison about three miles away through the trees. He called a halt to the column of thirty tired soldiers he was leading. They have been on patrol for two hours with no incident and he didn’t like it. As the men rested under the cover of the trees, he goes to the edge of the tree line and climbed a tree with low hanging branches. He scanned his route to the fort but didn’t like that they were going to be in open country. He looked towards the shoreline which was only about a mile away. It would be a longer detour to the safety of the fort, but if the lake was on their left they only have to defend their right flank. When he returned to the men, he ordered them to form up into columns of four. At the edge of the tree line, looking around one last time, he ordered them into a quick march. A quick march meant that they have to jog without breaking formation. The men simultaneously hoisted their shields on their backs and grasped their swords on their sides to keep it from swinging between their legs when they jog.

They were about halfway to the lake when Cornelius heard one of the soldiers call out ‘cavalry!’ Cornelius was not too surprised to see a horse unit of twenty riding out from under the trees about a mile and half away from them. They quickly formed a charging line, then in a trot with lances pointing down they moved forward. Then, with a shouted command from the cavalry officer, they charged at full gallop screaming and shouting. Cornelius shouted to pick up the pace. But instead of chasing his unit down, they suddenly stopped in a single line facing them about a hundred yards from them. He thought they were going to make it to the shoreline until he looked forward and shouted an abrupt halt. Suddenly his route to the lake shore was blocked by a phalanx formation of forty men. It was like they magically sprang up from the ground. But originally, they were hiding behind a seven foot deep gully.

The Phalanx was a classic Greek battle formation where six lines are formed. Every man in the phalanx brandished long spears three times the length of a man. The front three lines of the formation would hold their eighteen foot long spears forward. Any enemy confronting this formation will have to contend first with the deadly spears before they reach the line. The effectiveness of this formation was successfully used by Alexander the Great with deadly results when he confronted a Persian army three times his size.

Blocked on two fronts, Cornelius quickly commanded, “Form the square!”

Cornelius knew this was a senseless command for he only had thirty men. They quickly formed a rough square with only four men per side and with the rest of the men forming the second layer. Cornelius retreated into center. If only he brought another twenty men then they could have fought their way to safety.

As the cavalry unit and the phalanx came closer for the kill, Cornelius knew it was over. So, he pulled out his whistle and blew it three times consenting defeat and the exercise over. The attacking force cheered.

Flavius emerged from within the phalanx sporting a wide grin.

“How did you know I would head to the shoreline first?” asked Cornelius.

“Sir… You were my teacher in Spain.”

“Well, when I saw that old Greek formation spring out of the grass, I have to admit I was a little surprised. I take it that was for my benefit?”

“Knowing how you loved the Classics, I figured you’d appreciate it.”

“Flavius, you definitely deserved your promotion. I’m only too glad that Tribune Arturos does not arrive until tomorrow or else he would have seen this exercise and I would be relieved of my command.” They both laughed again as they head back to the fort.

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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.

Thank you

Johann Q