FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 068

DEMACLI THE LEGION DEMONIAC
33 AD – The Last Supper – Jerusalem, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

This was his first time in Jerusalem. The city was larger than any in the Decapolis. Demacli and his newlywed bride, Elpida were captivated by this sprawling metropolis. He, Elpida and four others traveled here from their own city of Hippus, southeast of the Sea of Galilee. It took them three days to cross the great lake, traverse through Galilee, the Samaritan territory, the northern escarpments of the Judean highlands until eventually they crested over a hill and there was Jerusalem. They came to find Jesus of Nazareth. But they were strangers in the city and knew not where to find him.

“I did not expect this many people,” Demacli said. “How will we find him in this bustling city?”

“It is their most important holy feasts,” Elpida explained. “I have been here before. Every year, Hebrews from all over come here to congregate up there.” She pointed up to the Temple Mount which towered over the city. “If we are to find the Son of David, we surely will find him there.”

After they settled in a house of a Greek trader, an associate of Demacli’s father, they went up to the Temple Mount. They went in through the western gates. If Demacli was impressed about the size of the city, he was even more impressed when they entered the Temple court.

“This is the Court of Nations,” Elpida said.

“And you said we are only allowed here?” asked one of their companions.

“Yes,” she acknowledged. Then she pointed to the tall gleaming structure at the center of the vast courtyard. “That is the Temple where the sacrifices are offered. Only Jews are allowed in.”

“What is this Passover celebration all about?” asked Demacli.

“It’s in their history, back when they were under the enslavement of Egypt,” Elpida said. “It was more than a thousand years ago. According to what I heard, their God sent a man named Moses to go to Pharaoh and demanded their freedom. When the Pharaoh refused, God sent ten plagues to change his mind. The tenth plague was so devastating, that Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go.”

“But why is it called the Passover?”

“Well, you see, the tenth plague was that death will come upon all the first born of Egypt. But to protect the first born of Israel, God commanded that every family kill a male lamb and put its blood on the door frame.”

“Why?”

“So that, when the Angel of Death came upon Egypt and found a door smeared with the blood of a lamb, he passed over that house, sparing the first born of that house. The Angel of Death took a great toll of Egypt that distant night and only Israel was saved. To commemorate it, God commanded the people to celebrate annually the Passover Feast.”

“You know wife, your stories of the history of these people are opening my eyes even more. What I always appreciate more is how much you know about them,” Demacli said to his wife who smiled back warmly.

Looking at her fondly, he considered himself quite lucky… no, he corrected himself… since he met Jesus, he stopped believing in luck. The word that came to mind is ‘blessed’… yes, that is the right word. Marrying Elpida was a gift that he knew he truly did not deserve. He faced the Temple, went down on his knees and bowed his head to the ground whispering, “Thank you, Lord God.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch9 – part 5

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

After the lavish food was served, the guest clustered themselves to their own private fellowship either in whispered conversations or laughing out loud merriments; at the same time, being entertained by two pairs of half naked black skin Nubians wildly dancing to rhythmic drum beats. Cornelius retreated to the open balcony where he continued to formulate his arguments to convince the governor.

“Ah! There you be, Centurion.”

Cornelius turned to find the Lady Procula approaching with that pretty young woman in tow.

“My Lady, how may I be of service to you?”

“Oh, no Centurion, it is I who is to be of service to you.” Turning to the young woman at her side, she exclaimed in mirth, “this lovely child had boldly requested to be reacquainted with yourself in regards to a marriage proposal promised her by you.”

Both women laughed mirthfully at the confused expression of Cornelius’ face.

“Be at peace, Centurion, for I am in jest… though I fear that there may be some truth in this marriage proposal. I will let this child explain. Mmmm?” She walks away chuckling.

Still confused and somewhat perplexed, Cornelius and young woman stood there watching each other. Uncomfortably, Cornelius broke the silence.

“I am afraid I am in a disadvantage, my lady. You seem to know me but I…”

“Ah, Cornelius, since you seem to have forgotten me, then I should not rely on you remembering your promise to marry me either, now that we are older!”

Amused by Cornelius’ confusion, she goes on teasingly, “Maybe, this will help… in a garden, under an old willow tree at my father’s estate in Athens.”

Recognition lit up Cornelius’ eyes, as he grasped her hand, “Pheobe!? Is it really you? You must forgive an old friend for not recognizing you immediately when my last memory of you was that of a mischievous little girl who helped me steal sweets from the kitchen.”

“So you remember me after all,” laughed Pheobe.

“How is your father?” asked Cornelius.

“He is well. And your father?”

“He, too, is in good health, thank the… the Lord. He still keeps up with news in the Senate, despite having retired from being magistrate. How do you come to be here in Palestine?”

“My father is a distant cousin of the Lady Procula, and he thought it would be a good idea for me to learn the basics of managing a household from her. So I accompanied her and her husband here as a companion,” replied Pheobe. “Congratulations on your various victories abroad. I… that is, my father has followed your career as best he could,” she said shyly. “Is Jacob still with you? I remember he had the most wonderful stories about his god,” asked Pheobe.

“Yes, he is still with me, especially now that he has a chance to come back to his homeland after all these years,” answered Cornelius.

Their conversation went on about family and the past. Then they were interrupted by a sudden loud cheering in the main room.

“The entertainment seems to have livened up,” murmured Cornelius. “Shall we go in to watch?”
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch9 – part 4

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

Cornelius rushed back up two levels and when he reached the gate yard, he took his place by Tribune Arturos. He saw that Herod Antipas and his court waiting somewhat impatiently at the top of the stairs before the large palace doors. Then the trumpets on the gate towers blared out again just as the governor rode in on a majestic white steed in full regalia. Cornelius noted that instead of wearing the traditional helmet with its golden feathered plumes, Pontus Pilate wore golden laurels like that of the Greeks. He suspects that this was meant to remind Herod of who were the conquerors. And by the look of Herod’s face, he got the message. But he quickly put a smile on his face and went down the steps as Pontus Pilate was dismounting.

“Hail, Pontus Pilate! You honor my house.”

“Hail, Tetrarch! It is I who is honored by your invitation to this celebration of your birth. Ah, here is my wife.” Pilate walked over to one of the covered carriages that followed the entourage in. A servant opened the door revealing a tall woman elegantly waiting for Pilate to help her down. “My wife, Procula,” he introduced as he helped her down.

The pleasantries continued as Herod lead them up to where the rest of his court awaited. But Cornelius paid no more attention to them for his gaze fell upon a young woman who alighted from the carriage just after the governor’s wife. Her hair was auburn which flowed down to her shoulders. Her face was elfin with deep brown eyes and rosy cheeks. She briefly gazed his way and ever so slightly awarded him with a knowing smile. He felt that he should know her but could not recall where or when. As the whole entourage entered the palace, Arturos had to nudge Cornelius to follow him in.

They entered through the palace doors following the entourage through the grand foyer into the great hall where the rest of Herod’s guests awaited them. Cornelius noted that except for some of Herod’s court, there were few Jews among the guests. Herod led Pilate and his wife to the head table. Cornelius and Arturos moved to one of the open porticoes that led to a balcony overlooking the city. After they were served drinks, Cornelius told him his plan to approach Pilate to request for the Baptist’s release.

“Now, that is interesting,” mused Arturos, “for the Lady Procula had also shown interest in his release. She, like yourself, is very much interested in the mysticism of the Jewish religion. As I heard, the governor general was not too pleased on her request to have him seek a favor of the Tetrarch. It may not be a wise thing to ask him of this at this time.”

“Tribune, I have to try.”

Arturos sighed dramatically, “How is it that I knew you were going to insist? I hope you can provide the governor with a legitimate and profitable reason to ask for this boon.”

“Well, I was going to convince him that the release of the Baptist would greatly benefit the governor’s standing to the populace. Also because I have developed a rapport with the Baptist, he would be a valuable intelligence asset to a tight group of Jewish fanatics who habituate the Dead Sea wilderness region. They are the ones that call themselves the Essenes. These religious fanatics has a clear mandate that when the right spiritual leader rises, they will be the tinder that light up the brand of all out revolution.”

“We will have to see.”

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 067

SIMON THE LEPER
33 AD – The Day of the Lord – Mount of Olives, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

“There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

Then Jesus’ face turned somber.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Simon felt disturbed and by the expressions on the disciples’ faces, they were feeling it too. Then Jesus stood and looked toward that Temple and said, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ as spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak.”

He sat again and his eyes were teary.

“How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.

“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

“Immediately after the distress of those days ‘ the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. ‘

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” [Matthew 24:4-35]

Then Jesus stood, as well as everyone else and started the long trek back to Bethany. When they reached Simon’s house, it was an hour past sunset. After the evening meal, it was Philipp again who broached the question that was in their minds.

“Master, when the end comes, will we know or recognize that time?”

“About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [Matthew 24:36-51]

When Simon retired to bed, the Lord’s words weighed heavily in his mind. Just as his eyes closed, he knew that much preparations for the future required his attention.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 066

SIMON THE LEPER
33 AD – The Day of the Lord – Mount of Olives, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Simon thought they were going to follow the road back to Bethany, but then Jesus led them off the road unto a path that went even higher up the mountain. The path led them through a large orchard of olive trees and an out-building where olives are pressed for its oil. When they reached the top of the Mount of Olives, one of the disciples gestured towards the city. From their vantage point, they can see above Eastern ramparts of the Temple Mount into the Court of Nations and the Temple Complex in the center. The Temple itself rose high up with its massive doors overlaid with gold flanked by two tall bronze pillars were very visible from where they stood. A thick column of smoke rose from within the Temple complex.

“Master, see how magnificent the Temple and the other buildings are.”

When Simon looked at Jesus to see his reaction, he was weeping.

Jesus cried out, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ ” [Matthew 23:37-39]

“If only you had known on this day what would bring you peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” [Luke 19:42-44]

Simon heard stories from his grand father that were handed down by generations of how the Babylonians encircled this ancient city and eventually subdued it and then stone by stone, tore it down. And now he was disturbed to think this will happen again. He wondered when this will happen. He was about to ask but Philip beat him to it.

Philip asked, “Master, tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

Seeing a granite rock sticking out of a patch of grass, Jesus went to it and sat down. He invited everyone to sit before him.

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”                  [Matthew 24:4-8]
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch9 – part 3

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

The prison guard opened the cell door and Cornelius found John as before calmly waiting for him.

“Peace be with you, Cornelius. It is good to see you again.”

“I must beg your forgiveness. For I have sought the one of whom we spoke and neglected to see to your release.”

“That as it should be,” smiled the Baptist.

Then there was a knock at the door and one of his disciples peered in and said, “Your messenger has returned, master.”

“Let him enter.” Seeing that the messenger hesitated when he saw Cornelius, John said, “Do not fear. What did he say?”

“He said, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.’ ” [Luke 7:22]
Clearly, Cornelius knew who sent the message. John the Baptist bowed his head in a moment of silence and then lifted his head high with a knowing smile. Then he looked at Cornelius and said, “Again, that is as it should be. My task is done. Soon, I shall go to be with my fathers.”

“What talk is this? I have come to secure your release. This night during the celebration I shall persuade the governor to request a boon from Herod Antipas of which he cannot refuse.”

“Nay, Centurion. My task is completed. I must diminish so as not to take away what is rightfully his.”

Then Cornelius could hear faint trumpets blaring through the small dungeon windows.

“The governor is arriving. I must go. When we next see each other you will be free.”

“You will see me, but not as you expect. Farewell!”
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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

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