THE OPPOSITION – Jerusalem
At the gate, Cornelius was about to show his insignia to the gate guards when his name was called, “Hail, Cornelius!”
Cornelius turns to see a big man coming out of a single door built into the big gate. “Bragga! You old war horse”, he returned the greeting. They grasped their fore arms and gave each other a bear hug. “I would think that the Twenty fifth had retired your old hulking self by now?” He jokingly said.
“Tribune Marcianus would not have it so,” Bragga said laughingly. “The Twenty-fifth has been bolstered by mostly veterans from Gaul. Their many victories have made them complacent and unruly. He told me to put the fear of the gods in them.”
“Now, what brings you here?”
“I am on special assignment for Pilate. I have come to report to him since I found myself in the city.”
“Ah, yes! How is the spy work?” He laughed again. “Come! Let us go in.”
They followed Bragga through the gate portico into a small courtyard. There were three ramps before them, two narrow ones going down into the underground stables. They both flanked a wider ramp that went up to a bigger courtyard. The upper courtyard was busy with soldiers doing drill work.
Pointing at the far end of courtyard, he said, “Over there, you will find the baths. I am sure you would want to make yourself more presentable before you meet with the General.” He said this amusingly as he looked Cornelius up and down shaking his head. “For a Centurion Primus, you sure are a slovenly soldier.” He again laughed.
Cornelius realized that he was still dressed like a local and that he had not shaved for months.
“Fret not! I am sure we can scrounge around for something for you to wear.”
An hour later, scrubbed clean of the dirt of the road, Cornelius waited outside Pontus Pilate’s private office located on the fourth level of one of the towers. Bragga had found him a faded red soldier’s tunic and a studded leather belt to wear. He decided not to shave since the beard helps him blend in with the locals. The door opened and Cornelius was ordered to come in. Cornelius crisply marched in and stood at attention before Pilate’s desk which was thickly strewn with parchments. Pilate was busy reading dispatches from an outlying post. When he lifted his eyes to look at Cornelius, he stood up with an amused look on his face.
“Well… well, Centurion. I see that you have truly gone native on us.” Pilate chuckled as Tribune Marcianus looked on disapprovingly because he was unshaven.
“Sir, please forgive my appearance. Coming to Jerusalem was a last minute decision and we decided to travel light.”
“You need not apologize, Centurion. So, what brought you to Jerusalem? I had been informed that this Nazarene was suppose to be still in Galilee and was not expected to be here for the festivities. I heard that Caiaphas and members of their ruling class wanted to get their hands on him. But then, word came to me this morning that he snuck in under their noses and was openly preaching down there at the temple.”
Cornelius told them of Jesus’ earlier decision of not coming to Jerusalem. He also reported of his conversation with his brothers and his reason.
Tribune Marcianus had that suspicious look and said, “What did he mean, ‘it is not yet my time’? Sir, this man from Nazareth may still have plans to lead the populace to revolt against us! He is after all very popular.”
“That is true,” Pilate said contemplatively. “However, we have to ask why he refused the support of the Zealots? And then, considering the Centurion’s report, he is making enemies of the ruling class. No, it does not make sense. To claim the crown and lead a revolt with out the support of the ruling and religious class is political suicide.”
“Sir! He must be getting financial support for his activities.” Marcianus interjected, “Twice he fed thousands of people. I cannot believe it was a miracle of sorts or some kind of magic. The Centurion even reported that he did not actually see the food appear from thin air. It must be some trick and all that food to feed thousands mean ‘money’!”
“Well, Centurion,” Pilate asked, “what say you to this?”
“Sir, I admit that I did not see it happen because his disciples surrounded him both times. However, the food that was distributed was warm to the touch. When I broke the loaf, it was still steaming; the feel and taste suggest that it came straight from an oven. There was no oven, much more an even larger oven that can bake thousands of loaves. It would also be impossible for it to be underground because both times we were on solid rock. If, what the Tribune suggests is a trick, then the ability and organization to pull it through twice in different locations would be formidable indeed. But, sir, I have been with him for months. At no time have I observed him communicate nor received any financial support from any organization. He lives like a vagabond. He is always on the move. Any wealth he received, he freely gave away. When he preaches, not once have he ever cited the populace to raise up arms against us.”
Marcianus interrupts, “In one of your dispatches, you reported that he taught of an up and coming kingdom!”
“Yes sir! But I believe that the kingdom he spoke of was of a kingdom with no existing borders; where Jews and Romans can co-exist. The teacher spoke of loving ones enemies than hating them.”
“What non-sense is this?” Marcianus said angrily. “He is like all these Jewish dogs. Fanatics!”
“He is an idealist!” Pilate said. “He is not necessarily a fanatic. Whatever forces are working here, I believe he will be the center of it. Regardless, we must stay vigil. Centurion, you are in a unique position. Continue to keep me abreast. Dismissed!”
The story continues on in my next post.
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