SALOME’S DANCE – Machaerus, Perea
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fixed Cornelius’ attention was the second part, found in the middle of the manuscript; the beginning of which was a historical reference of the Assyrian invasion of Judah during the reign of King Hezekiah.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.”
The story continues on in my next post a week from now.
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