ARE YOU READY TO DIE?

Salvation Series by JQuisumbing

Death is a reality that we all have to face sooner or later. But the way folks live their lives, death seems so far away. Dying is not really forefront in most people’s minds, especially for the young. However, time does not stop and the young will soon become older.

Now, according to the United Nations, they have estimated that the global average life expectancy is around 70-80 years. For myself, I have already passed the halfway mark. If you asked me, ‘Am I ready to die?’, what would I say? I can truly and humbly say “YES!” In fact, at the tail end of 2015, I did face death. What I faced was an extremely risky surgery in my neck; specifically my cervical spine. My wife tearfully related to me that it would be a touch and go procedure where the outcome could easily go very bad.* Incredibly enough, I had no fear. You see, as a believer of Christ, I knew then and know now what awaits me after I cast off this mortal shell. I am ready but I know of others that are not.

(* This story, ‘Becoming Paralyzed’, can be found in my blog. Please use links below.)

I have relatives and friends who are literally at the doorsteps of death. I would love to share with them what the Lord had done for me, but yet they would not let me. So, I hope and pray that they would listen to the voice of one who had already crossed over, Billy Graham.

Billy Graham was an American evangelist and according to the Oxford University Press, he was “among the most influential Christian leaders” of the 20th century. In his final days, he had a deep desire to preach one more time. This is his last message—recorded in his North Carolina, mountaintop home. It is titled: Are you ready to die? I pray that you will be inspired and live with the Lord in eternal life.


Becoming Paralyzed” by JQuisumbing – links: Parts 1   2   3   4   5   6

Walking the footsteps of Jesus – Part 2

Module 5a – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by Johann Quisumbing

In module 5a, we will visit the Bible sites of where Jesus Christ walked during His last year of His ministry on Earth.

1 – Preparation

Jesus had done what He had to do in the north country. His final task was to happen in Jerusalem. But first, certain events needed to happen. So, our first stop is…

Click LINK 1 – BETHANY

This is a 360 aerial view of the southern side of the metropolitan city of Jerusalem. The drone that took this shot was hovering over the Mount of Olives. Look east. Then, look past the cluster of trees. Two thousand years ago, the village of Bethany was located there. And in that village was the home of some people that Jesus loved dearly.

Click LINK 2 – CHURCH of LAZARUS

You are inside the Church of St Lazarus. There are four frescoes painted under the four arches; north, west, east & south. Each of the frescoes represent a biblical scene of Jesus’ relations with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Let’s start with the western fresco.

WestLuke 10:38-42 – Jesus met the 2 sisters, Martha & Mary for the first time. Mary was intently listening to Jesus. Meanwhile, Martha was working frantically to prepare and serve the meal for her quests. Frustrated, she scolded Him, asking Him whether He cared that her sister had left her to fix the meal alone. Jesus, in-turn, pointed out in a calm voice, that her need was not to be a perfect hostess but instead, to be spiritually fed by Him which was her greatest need.

NorthJohn 11:1-34 – Lazarus had died and was buried. Jesus had purposely stayed away. On the 4th day, He returned. Martha went to meet Him first. Her words to Him may have sounded more like a reprimand for being late. Jesus consoled her that Lazarus will live again. She mistakenly thought He was referring to the final resurrection. Then Jesus said these crucial words: “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (v25,26) When Mary came to Him next, her words mirrored Martha but her tone was that of a grieving young girl. Jesus wept with her and went to the tomb.

EastJohn 11:38-45 – When they came to the tomb, Jesus again was deeply moved. He ordered the tomb to be opened but Martha tried to stop it. Jesus reminded her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (v40) This was His intent. After He prayed out loud, Lazarus came out of the tomb alive and many believed.

SouthMatthew 26:6-13 – Jesus’ final task was near. Jesus and all His followers were in Lazarus’ house for supper. Mary approached Jesus with a bottle of expensive aromatic oil which she lovingly dribbled on His head. Then, when Judas made a fuss about the perfume not being sold and given to the poor, Jesus acknowledged the righteousness of Mary’s deed and declared that what she did was to prepare Him for burial.

The next day, Jesus went to Jerusalem riding on a young donkey which was prophecy-come-to-life thing. The people lined the road waving palm fronds at Him. They recognized it as the coming of the King (Zechariah 9:9). When they went over the Mount of Olives, this was what was waiting for them.

2 – Jerusalem Ministry

Click LINK 3 – JERUSALEM MODEL

You are looking at a beautiful scale model of the ancient city of Jerusalem circa 63AD. The model is about 22,000 square feet and is located at the Israel Museum about 2 miles west from the Dome of the Rock. From this viewpoint on the observation deck, you are looking at the eastern side of the city. Note the image below of what you are looking at.

The scaled facsimile Temple you see was based on the Second Temple built by the returned Judean exiles, then opulently refurbished by Herod the Great. In Mark 13, when standing on the Mount of Olives, the disciples pointed out the lavishness of the Temple complex and was awed by it. But for Jesus, all it brought was tears to His eyes, for He saw its destruction (v2) which did occur 35 years from then. But we are getting ahead of the story. Let’s go to the…

Click LINK 4 – EASTERN WALL

You’re virtually standing on the eastern slope of Mt Moriah. Yes… the same mountain that Abraham almost sacrificed his son, Isaac (Genesis 22). What you are looking at, is the remnant of the east wall of the Temple Mount. Now, look east. That’s the Mount of Olives and that pyramid-topped monument is Zechariah’s Tomb, who was a priest whose stoning was recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:21. Below that is the Kidron Valley.

Imagine on that valley road, some 2000 years ago, hundreds of people waving palm fronds leading a man riding on a white donkey. The people were joyously shouting…

“Blessed is the King, the One who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38)

Among the crowd were Pharisees who were demanding that Jesus stop them of their praise. But Jesus came back with this, “I tell you, if these stop speaking, the stones will cry out!” (v40) Then, Jesus entered through the east gate which was also called the ‘Beautiful Gate’ into the Temple Complex. It was called the ‘Beautiful Gate’ in expectation of the arrival of the promised Messiah.

Click LINK 5 – TEMPLE MOUNT

Welcome to the southside of the Temple Mount. You are standing on what was once called the Court of the Gentiles. This courtyard was vast and was able to hold thousands of people. Now, what you see before you are the broken crowns of the columns that once surrounded the entire courtyard. They were called Solomon’s Colonnades.

When Jesus entered, it was during the beginning of the annual Passover Festival which was the celebration of what God did to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12). Jews from all over would congregate here to offer their sacrifices to the Lord and they would have to purchase the animals required. But here lied the situation, the money changers, with the blessings of the Temple establishment, would routinely cheat the people. Hence, whenever Jesus came to the Passover Festival, He would drive away the animals and turn over their tables, spilling their coins on the ground. Then, He declared, “My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” (Matthew 21:13)

As Passover approached, Jesus sent two of the disciples into the city to find a man carrying a pitcher of water and follow him. That man led them to our next site…

Click LINK 6 – THE UPPER ROOM

You are inside the Cenacle, also known as the Upper Room. It is located on Mount Zion, just outside the Old City walls, west of the City of David. The Upper Room was where Jesus held the Last Supper (John 13). Of course, this room is not the actual room. That room was destroyed with the city back in 70AD.

The original Upper Room had witnessed, on that same night, the Son of God wrapping a towel around His waist then proceeded to wash the disciples’ feet (13:5-12). Besides all the spiritual lessons for His disciples, Jesus revealed that He would be betrayed by one of the Twelve (vs21-25). Of course, that would be Judas Iscariot whom the Devil entered (v27). We’ll see him again at…

Click LINK 7 – GETHSEMANE

Gethsemane is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, east of the Temple Mount. Jesus went there after the Last Supper. It was a favorite place of His to pray as was His habit to seek isolated places for this purpose.

Going Through An Oil Press

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the BibleGethsemane is translated from the Greek to mean “an oil press.” Jesus going to Gethsemane to pray because of what awaited Him can be compared to Him going through an oil press… a spiritual and emotional press, that is.

Filled with anguish and deep dread over what He would soon experience, Jesus withdrew with His inner circle, the three disciples closest to Him, and took refuge here. Alone on His knees in the dark night beneath the shelter of olive trees, where He sweated blood, Jesus cried out to His Father God with these words.

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus passed the final test. The set for the final scene was staged.

Jesus woke up His companions to tell them that His betrayer was here and sure enough, Judas Iscariot arrived to betray Him with a kiss (26:49). After which, Jesus was arrested and brought to our next site.

3 – The Final Act

Click LINK 8 – HOUSE of CAIAPHAS

Before you is the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu which is a Roman Catholic church located on the eastern slope of Mount Zion, just outside the Old (walled) City of Jerusalem. According to tradition, this church was built over the ruins of Caiaphas’ house. Joseph ben Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest who, according to the gospels, organized a plot to kill Jesus. He famously presided over the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus.

Click LINK 8a – GALLICANTU

You are now standing in the church’s courtyard and are facing a sculpture of Peter. Interestingly enough, the church took its name from the Latin word “Gallicantu” which means a ‘cock’s-crow’. Take note the small statue of the rooster above Peter. The sculptures depict a servant recognizing Peter as Jesus’ follower but he denied knowing Him three times. Then, the cock crowed as prophesied by Jesus a few hours before.

Meanwhile, Jesus was standing beaten and spat on, before Caiaphas and his ‘kangaroo court’ which he secretly assembled for one purpose. He wanted to declare Him as a blasphemer and have Him killed. (Matthew 26:65-68) But they could not kill Jesus themselves, so they brought Him to the Romans.

Click LINK 9 – FORTRESS ANTONIA

You are standing on the west side of the Jerusalem model. Centered on your screen, left of the man in a suit, is the Fortress Antonia which was built by Herod the Great for Mark Anthony. It was built attached to the northwest corner of the Temple Mount as a constant reminder to the Jews that it was Rome that was in control. It is not clear if Pontus Pilate held residences here but according to tradition, Jesus’ public trial was conducted before the main entrance into the fortress which takes us to the…

Click LINK 10 – CHURCH of the FLAGELLATION

You’re in the courtyard of the Church of the Flagellation which is a Roman Catholic church and Christian pilgrimage site located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is part of the Franciscan Monastery of the Flagellation, which also includes the Church of the Condemnation and Imposition of the Cross. This church was built on the same site of the Roman fortress.

Imagine some 2000 years ago, Jesus stood before the Roman Governor awaiting the verdict of the highest judge of the land. And that verdict was ‘NOT guilty’! (John 18:38) But the High Priest and the worked-up crowd wanted Him dead. So, Pilate , trying to appease the mob, brought out a notorious criminal named Barabbas and had them choose between them for release. But the crowd chose Barabbas to be free. Pilate was still not willing, so he had Jesus cruelly flogged. After which, He was brought before the people again. He was bloodied from the scourging and cruelly imbedded on His head was a crown of thorns. But it did not appease the crowd which kept insisting for His blood. So, Pilate washed his hands on this affair and sent Him to His death. (John 19:1-16)

So, from here we go to…

Click LINK 11 – VIA DOLOROSA

This narrow bricked street is the Via Dolorosa which is Latin for the “Way of Suffering”. Every Holy Week, this street becomes the processional route of the cross in the Old City of Jerusalem. It represents the path that Jesus would have taken, forced by the Roman soldiers, on the way to His crucifixion. Pilgrims, some carrying heavy crosses, would work their way through this cr0wded and winding route, from where the former Antonia Fortress was, to the place that tradition say was the hill of Golgotha — a distance of about 2,000 feet. Along the way, they would pause at nine (9) ‘Stations of the Cross’, each one commemorating the events of Jesus as He carried the cross based on Luke 23. Below is 4 minute music video of the Via Dolorasa.

Then, after walking the Via Dolorosa, the procession would end at what… today, is the…

Click LINK 12 – CHURCH of the HOLY SEPULCHRE

This is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. According to traditions dating back to the fourth century, it contains the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site of Calvary or Golgotha, and the tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea which was supposedly be nearby.

Nailed to the Cross

As a prisoner, Jesus was stripped of His outer garments leaving just a loin cloth enough to cover Him. Then, He would have been roughly shoved down onto the cross. He would have winced as His bare torn back touched the rough surface of the cross. He braced himself with expectation as His arms were stretched out onto the cross beam. Strong calloused hands pinned His forearms down with his palms facing up. The executioners then simultaneously set the tips of nine inch iron spikes over the prisoners’ wrists. They then, simultaneously pounded those nails through his wrists, expertly missing the arteries with no bones broken. The pain would have been indescribable.

The executioners turned their attention to His feet. First, they tied His knees together. Then, they bent His legs a little to the left about a quarter of the way up. They rested His feet on an anchored triangle shaped wooden block. With one foot over another, they drove another long spike through, pinning them securely on the sloped block.

Just as He was bearing up to the pain of those spikes being driven into His skin, His own cross was lifted up and manhandled into position. The jarring effect brought even more excruciating pain bringing Him to tears and then blacked out.

[excerpt from His Voice from the Cross by JQuisumbing]

The Bible recorded Him giving 7 statements on the cross. For our purposes, we’ll focus on the two that best spoke of His character.

The Son of God spent almost 4 hours nailed to that cross but yet His voice reflected His heart – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

At the end of His final hour on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” [John 19:30] In Greek, it would say ‘tetelestai’. Jesus was declaring for all to know that the task He set out to do… that the reason of His birth… was completed! Our debt of SIN was paid for by His blood.

Then He died.

4 – The Resurrection

Click LINK 12a – EMPTY TOMB

You are standing under the big dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. When this part of the church was being built in the fourth century, the rock-slope that the empty tomb was under was mostly excavated. What was left was the chamber and it’s opening. Then, they built this shrine over the tomb.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead has been at the heart of the gospel message from the beginning. Paul expressed what most believe to have been a creed of the early church.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

The empty tomb tells us that the grave could not hold Jesus. That He bodily rose from the grave. Jesus demonstrated his mastery over death and it holds promise for believers as well; that we also will have victory over death. And it’s all because the tomb of Jesus is empty. [www.christianity.com]

For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time… (1 Corinthians 15:3-6)

Two of those, Jesus appeared on the road to…

Click LINK 13 – EMMAUS

You are just outside the Benedictine monastery in Abu Ghosh (a.k.a. St Mary of the Resurrection Abbey). Who was St Mary? In Matthew 28:1, when Mary Magdalene went to see the empty tomb, she was accompanied by another woman also named Mary. Mary was a very common name among the Jews. It had been determined though that this particular Mary was none other than Mary the mother of James and Joses (Matthew 10:3 and Luke 6:15).

This monastery is about 7 miles from Jerusalem. By the way, there are 3 other sites that is being considered as Emmaus. Whichever is the true destination, what was significant was what happened on the road to Emmaus.

Two disciples, downcast by the death of Jesus, and confused by reports that His body was missing, were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They encountered a stranger who listened to their concerns, then gave them a Scripture lesson that made their “hearts burn within them”. (Luke 24:32) That stranger was the risen Christ whom they failed to recognize. And He said to them…

“You foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to come into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the Prophets, He explained to them the things written about Himself in all the Scriptures. (24:25-27)

5 – Final Instructions

In John 14:19, Jesus told His disciples that the world no longer is going to see Him. What He meant was that He was going to return to His Father in Heaven. But first, instructions needed to be given. So, we head back north to…

Click LINK 14 – SEA OF GALILEE BEACH

You are standing on a beach at the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. Behind is the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter which is a Franciscan church located in Tabgha. Yes, we are very close to where Jesus fed 5000 men.

What was special about this place?

Look out at the water and go back in time about 2000 years. Peter and the other disciples went out fishing all night. It was almost morning and they hadn’t even caught a minnow. Suddenly, a man on the shore shouted to them to cast their nets on the right-hand side of the boat. Peter probably shrugged his shoulders but decided to do it anyway. To their surprise, the nets got heavy with fish. Then, John peered hard at the figure on the beach and his eyes went wide and he told Peter that the person was Jesus. Without hesitation, Peter jumped into the water and swam to the shore where Jesus had hot coals and fo0d waiting for them.

Now when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again, a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was hurt because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

 Essentially, Jesus had reinstated Peter as chief among the Apostles.

Matthew 28:16 …the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated to them. 

That designated mountain is our next stop.

Click LINK 15 – MT ARBEL

You are virtually walking on a hiking trail on top of Mt Arbel. Elevation is about 594 feet above sea level. That body of water is the Sea of Galilee. Just below this mount is the town of Migdol once known as Magdala (home to Mary Magdalene).

It was here that Jesus gave the Great Commission to His Apostles… and as you read this now, this is your marching orders now.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

There is still one last mountain we have to climb.

6 – Ascension

Click LINK 16 – MOUNT of OLIVES

Welcome to one of the most visited sites on the Mount of Olives, the Chapel of the Ascension. It was here that eleven men got the best news, not just for themselves, but for all of us who believe.

Acts 1:6-8 And after Jesus had said these things… What things?

Well, the disciples asked Him, “Lord, is it at this time that You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus told them, “It is not for you to know periods of time or appointed times which the Father has set by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.”

After saying this, Jesus was lifted up while they were watching, and a cloud took Him up, out of their sight. 

And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, then behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them, and they said… “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

Jesus Christ will return!

This ends our tour of Module 5a. Thank you for joining me in  Walking the footsteps of Jesus – Part 2.

Click here to go to MODULE 6: Trailing the Acts of the Holy Spirit



His Voice from the Cross #6

STORY HEARD & BELIEVED
by J. Quisumbing

Guard duty can be quite tedious at most times thought the Praetorian especially when he is tasked to watch over anyone who is not the emperor. However, for the past few days, he and his squad of men were ordered to guard a most unusual man who came from the farthest eastern part of the empire. This man is from a strange people that only had one god. There was a small population of them in the poorest quarter of the city of Rome. Except for this man, he had very little interaction with them.

What made this man interesting to the Praetorian was that though this man was scheduled to be executed, he chose to spend his last hours spinning an incredible tale to him. Chained to the Praetorian, he told him of how the son of this one God made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Then, how he purposely became a prisoner condemned to die on a cross.*

[* Philippians 2:6-8]

This man was a master storyteller. He captured the Praetorian’s imagination by transporting him back in time to that hill with three crosses. He watched the prisoner suffer cruelly more than any other condemned on a cross. He could see his battered body; his face swollen from a beating; his back shredded by a scourging; and a crown of inch-long thorns driven painfully into his scalp. With all that had happened to him, he glimpsed the true heart of the son of this one God when he pleaded for forgiveness even when those that caused him pain deserved divine punishment (Luke 23:34). Afterwhich, he learned a lesson of grace poured out through faith, when the prisoner reassured the thief who hung on another cross that he will be with him in paradise (Luke 23:43). The Praetorian was even touched by the prisoner’s concern for his mother’s earthly needs when he entrusted her well being to his disciple’s responsibility (John 19:26-27).

The storyteller then brings his tale to the final moments. In the darkest hours of his suffering, the prisoner cried out with a loud voice inquiring why God his father had forsaken him (Matthew 27:46). The Praetorian asked if the prisoner was regretting his choices and was casting blame to the one God. The storyteller explained that the words uttered was him calling out for all to hear that prophecy was being fulfilled here. He explained that everything that the prisoner went through was planned by the one God.

He thirsted and was given a vile drink of vinegar and gall. After which he declared that it was finished (John 19:30).

The Praetorian asked, “what did he mean?”

The storyteller explained that what was finished was not only the prisoner’s earthly life, not only his suffering and dying, not only the payment for sin and the redemption of the world—but the very reason and purpose he came to earth was finished. His final act of obedience was complete as is according to the Scriptures.

“Afterwhich,” said the storyteller, “the prisoner looked up at the sky, then said…

‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.’

Luke 23:46

…And with those words he breathed his last.”

The storyteller’s head slumped forward on his chest. The Praetorian thought he fell asleep. As he gazed at the storyteller’s slumped head, his mind raced. Somehow, he was not satisfied with what he thought was an unsatisfactory end of the story. How can a God of justice doom His son to death? It made no sense to him. Then the storyteller spoke while his head was still slumped.

“Praetorian, I can guess what you are thinking,” he said. “When the prisoner spoke his last words, he showed his complete trust in his Father. You see, he set foot into death in the same way he lived each day of his life, offering up his life as the perfect sacrifice and placing himself in God’s hands. He knew with certainty that he will not be left in the grave.”

“How?” asked the Praetorian.

The storyteller’s head came up smiling. “He knew it because it was written in our Scriptures. ‘For thou wilt not leave my soul in Sheol (hell); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.’** And sure enough, on the third day, He rose from the dead!”

[** Psalm 16:10]

“Three days! What happened to him during that time?”

“It is not easy to comprehend. Do you recall the story of Lazarus and the rich man? (Luke 16:19-31)”

The Praetorian nodded though he didn’t really understand its significance.

“That place where all dead go is called Sheol. You know it as Hades. It is written that during those three days, he went and released those who were in Abraham’s bossom. He called it paradise which was a place of comfort and rest for those that lived by faith in the old days since Adam to the thief who died on the cross beside him. After he resurrected, he eventually ascended to heaven and brought them (the ransomed dead) with him, so that now paradise is no longer down near the place of torment, but is up in the third heaven, the highest heaven, where God dwells. There, they wait and look forward to when he returns again not as Savior but as Judge to make the world right forever.” (2 Corinthians 12:2–4)

“Storyteller, I desire to be with him… with him who gave his life for me and for all of us. What do I need to do?”

He smiled and said, “You are already doing it. You have listened attentively to the story and already believed (Romans 10:17). And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Eternal life is yours because you believe.”

Then, they both heard voices approach the chamber they were in.

“Praetorian. My time is very close. Soon, I will be taken from here and my life will be poured out like a drink offering. You need more understanding. Go! Seek out other believers and learn from them God’s words and be blessed.”

The doors opened and other guards entered to lead the storyteller away. As they were almost out the door, the Praetorian asked, “Storyteller, what was the prisoner’s name?”

The storyteller smiled and said, “His name is…”

JESUS CHRIST

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved. [Acts 4:12]

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. [1 Timothy 2:6]


Author’s Note:

We finish my tale on His Voice from the Cross. This 6 part story, though creatively written, was based on the Bible accounts on Jesus Christ’s last few hours on the cross. The first 5 parts were from first hand perspectives but then I chose that the 6th part be from the perspective of a Roman guard hearing about Jesus’ story some 40-50 years after the crucifixion event.

The storyteller, by the way, is my imagined character of Paul who biblically shared the Gospel to his Praetorian guards even while chained to them.

I really hope we can have a conversation. Please contact me here at Facebook MESSENGER by audio from 3-5pm Monday to Friday. Scheduled small group chats can be organized as well. Or send me a message HERE.

OCEANUS ADVENTURE #1

A Fictional Series by J Quisumbing

CHAPTER 1

‘It is good to be home,’ thought Jona Quimby.

He had arrived from the states and had boarded a large chopper which was revving up it tandem rotors at a private hanger across from the domestic airport of Manila, Philippines.

The chopper is a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter formerly purchased from the United States Navy by his organization. The usually sparse interior was decked out with a number of comfortable airline seats good for 18 passengers leaving a large space at the rear for cargo which was being loaded with different sized crates.

“Jona? How the heck did you get this navy chopper?” asked his companion as he stowed his bags in an upper compartment.

His name is Tony Hallbright, a marine biologist Jona met at a scientific symposium he attended at Seattle, Washington. Tony was young and was only 2 years in his field. From out of more than twenty experienced marine biologists Jona met with, he chose Tony because he was the most eager and not hampered with the traditional habits.

Jona smiled at him and said, “I have a friend in congress, a retired admiral, who believes in our project.”

“So, where are we flying to now?”

“Well, we’ll fly for about 3 hours going southeast to the Pacific side of Luzon,” Jona said, “… to a protective bay called San Sebastian in the province of Bicol.”

Tony was speedily typing out San Sebastian Bay Bicol on his search engine of his smart phone.

“Aha, is this it?”

Tony showed him a Google map satelite image of the bay on his phone. Jona gave him the thumbs up.

“Relax for a while, Tony. I have to talk to the pilot.”

Jona entered the cockpit to where the pilot and the co-pilot were going over their checklist.

Maj. Jerome Roque was a retired pilot of the Philippine Air Force. Jona first met him some ten years ago during the Marawi City conflict. Jona was a marine officer on a reconnoiter mission about five blocks deep into the city. He and his six man squad were on top of a seven storey structure when he noticed an OV-10 Bronco, an airforce twin prop plane diving straight at them. Jona was rivetted as he traced the trajectory of a single bomb drop. He thought they were dead and he so wanted to punch out that pilot’s lights. But the bomb by passed the building they were in and impacted into a structure across the street from them which to his surprise flushed out a great number of insurgents. Weeks later, he met that same pilot, a Captain Roque at that time, and they became close friends after that.

“Hi Jer, kumusta?” (‘how are things?’)

“You sure took your time getting back,” said Jer as he turned to face him. “You were supposed to be back a month ago.”

“I had to stay a little bit longer,” said Jona. “Our backers wanted a more extensive report and they also took their time to put a delegation together.”

“Another inspection? Don’t they know we launch in a couple of days?”

“They wanted to be there for it. This deligation is going to be with us a long while.”

Jer rolled his eyes up, shaking his head. “Well, I pray they don’t turn this into some kind of publicized stunt.”

“Don’t worry, Jer. Our backers like ourselves do not want to attract too much attention.”

“So, Jona? Who are in this delegation? Is that young guy back there, one of them?”

“No,” Jona snickered. “He’s a young enthusiastic marine biologist I picked up at Seattle.”

“Young? How experienced is he?”

“Well, he’s a little green…”

“What?!” Jer smirked. “Oho ho ho ho… Mae is going to kill you. She is expecting a more experienced guy.”

Jona smiled impishly. Jer’s face lit up with understanding. Laughing out loud, he got up out of his seat. “I’m just going to have a peek.” He peered through the cockpit door at Tony Hallbright then quickly sat back down in his seat, chuckling. “She’s going to have him for breakfast. As for you… you better get off and catch a plane back to the states.”

“Ha ha ha! Very funny.”

(To be continued…)


Note from the author:
Oceanus Adventure is a fun effort on my part to enter the wonderful world of creative writing. It’s a story of a group of people who launched themselves into the Pacific Ocean on an artificial island to solve the Great Pacific garbage patch. My hopes is that this will end up into a TV series.

Comments and idea suggestions will be most welcomed. I hope you enjoy.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch24 – part 5

THE PROMISE OF LIFE – Site of the Tomb, Emmaus, Galilee

It had been twenty days now and yet no other word of Jesus had reached Cornelius. He had heard that Jesus made an appearance twice to the Eleven disciples. He also heard that they retreated to Galilee. So, Cornelius decided to ride to Galilee alone, while Cestus was to take Jacob and Trax to Bethany.

Cornelius went to the one place that he thought he would find Jesus. It was dark when rode to the same copse of trees which was the campsite they used when Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. But there was no campsite. There was no tent and camp fire. There was no one about. He sighed and walked up the hill to same place he and Jesus talked that first time. Under the stars, Cornelius stood on the top of that hill that overlooked the glistening water of the Sea of Galilee praying to see Jesus.

“Cornelius,” a voice said his name from behind.

He quickly turned around to find Jesus standing there. His face was not the same ordinary face. It was clean and had no marks or scars at all. His face looked majestic and there was a glow in it. In fact, his whole body emminated a soft glowing nimbus of light.

Cornelius went down on his knee and said, “My Lord.”

“Well met, Cornelius. My Father in Heaven is well pleased with you. Come, sit with me.”

When he sat by him there was no more glow about him.

“I know your heart’s desire, Cornelius. You wish to accompany me. I tell you that where I go, no man can come until I again return. For now, you must abide your time for a little while until you receive that I promised you. There are many things that must happen. The first of which will be unto those Chosen few who believed unto me. Then your time will come. For now, maintain your faith.

“One other favor, I ask. At the time of the Pentecost, send Jacob, your tutor, to be with my disciples and watch the will of my Father take fruit. Then you too will join in to reap the harvest.

“Fare well, Cornelius.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch24 – part 1

THE PROMISE OF LIFE – Site of the Tomb, Emmaus, Galilee

Waiting has always been nerve wracking for Cornelius especially when he knows that something fantastic is going to happen on the third day. He has been staying at Emmaus since they buried him. After the Sabbath, he heard news from one of the disciples named Cleopas who lived in the village of Emmaus. Cleopas had some news for him. He told him that Judas Iscariot was dead. The story is that he hung himself but the branch which held him broke and his body fell into a ravine and burst open. Cornelius was sorry to hear this.

Other news was at the time of that incredible downpour and lightning storm, something incredible occurred at the Temple. The Veil, the thick curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the other part of the Temple was torn from top to bottom. The High Priest and the other priests panicked into hysterics. Cornelius estimated that the Veil tearing occurred exactly at the same time Jesus died. In his mind, he knew the timing was no coincidence and also that this was no random event. No natural phenomenon could ever rip a three inch thick curtain from top to bottom. It was God who did it. The only question to consider is what does it mean? Something to talk about to Jacob on another time.

“I have word from Simon,” Cleopas said. “Those of us who scattered that night, have managed to get back together at the upper room where they had their last supper with him. Also Andrew and James found Peter at the banks of the Jordan not too far from Jericho. Simon said that the chief priests are still looking for them. But they have many friends who are willing to hide them. Simon said be wary of them. That is all there is.”

“Thank you, Cleopas. I was hungry for news.”

“Centurion? What is to become of us? We really thought he was the one.”

Cornelius sympathized with him. He would not know of the prophesy that Jesus will rise again. Jesus only revealed that to his closest companions.

“Have faith, Cleopas. Things have a way of turning good.”


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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch23 – part 2

THE HARDEST CHOICE – GolgothaCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius ordered his men to stay out of sight. He and Cestus took up positions where they have a clear sight of where the lane intersected the street. The street itself was a gradual slope going up. The street itself was not level but were actually steps. There were a number of people looking down hill that had their backs on them. By the sound of the crescendo of the people’s voices, they both could tell that the forward elements were close.

Cornelius was unusually anxious for some reason. Normally, when he makes a decision he focuses on the task. But right now, he is on edge. In his mind, memories of his time with Jesus would crawl its way up to the forefront of his thoughts.

He was back on the tall hill overlooking a moonlit glistening of the Sea of Galilee.

“When Moses told the people, ‘Thus saith the Lord, that if they want to live from the deadly snake bites, all they have to do was look at the bronze snake on a pole and they will live,’ what do you think was the real reason they lived? Was the idol of the bronze snake magical? Some would think so, but they will be surprised that believing that will not save them. So, tell me Cornelius, what really saved them?”

“They were saved because they believed the message… the promise of God… and they acted on it.”

“That Cornelius is faith.”

“Sir… the front guards,” whispered Cestus.

Cornelius came back to the present. He saw the crowd being pushed back by the front elements. Then when the the first prisoner came in sight. To Cornelius everything seem to slow down.

This time he found himself hearing Jesus saying to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind in God’s interests, but man’s.”

This is when Jesus revealed, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

Then the words of Isaiah came floating up.

But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief… [Isaiah 53:10a]
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. [Isaiah 53:6b]

It hit Cornelius like a splash of cold water to sober him up so that he can remember that God had intended this to happen to Jesus.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.     [Isaiah 53:5]

Jesus has given himself over to pay for our sins.

If he saved Jesus from the cross, would he not be, Jesus said, guilty of him not setting his mind in God’s interests, but man’s? He has to act in faith. But what is it that he putting his faith on? Then the words of Jesus came forefront again.

“The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

Then it hit him. Jesus will die but he will be resurrected on the third day. His task is to believe in this and let everything happen as God intended.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch23 – part 1

THE HARDEST CHOICE – GolgothaCG-book-cover-w

“What are your orders, sir?” Cestus asked with no hesitation.

“Thank you, Cestus. How many men can we count on?”

“Four, they were with us in Spain.”

“That makes six of us. That should be enough to hit the guards and pull Jesus away. We have to do this quick. By the looks of it down there, we have twenty minutes before they start the procession through the city. They will bring him through the city to the Northwest gate and crucify him on the hill of Golgotha. They will use the straightest way through. We have to hit them on the narrowest street on their route and I know where. You get the men and meet me at the portal gate that leads to the North wall. Now, go.”

Cornelius wished he had time to send word to Jacob or even to the Lady Pheobe who he so wanted to spend more time with. But then it would be better to stay far away, since he will soon be branded as mutineers and deserters.

When he and his men got onto the city wall, they watched as the procession was already on the move. Twenty Praetorian guards were assigned to this task. Ten lead the way, making a path through the compacted crowd. After them, two other prisoners were also driven by three guards. Each prisoner carried on their a thick length of plank lumber. Their hands bound tightly on the ends of the planks. The next was Jesus who was burdened under the weight of an entire cross. The length was a little less than double of his height. Jesus had to carry the crossed part on his shoulder as the tail end dragged behind. Cornelius eyes teared as he thought on how that righteous man would have to tortuously carry that roughly hewn cross on his already bloody torn back. Too add to the insult, two soldiers with whips stayed close to him to keep him moving. This gruesome scene drove Cornelius on, to do what he had to do. So, the six of them, armed only with swords jogged for about a mile and half of the city wall. The Roman soldiers that manned the walls and towers of the city did not suspect anything of what they intended and because of his rank they were not challenged.

When they reached the third watch tower, Cornelius led them down unto the city street. They then sprinted into a maze of tightly packed houses. Cornelius figured that they should take the narrow lanes that went West until they intercept the main route the procession is taking. As they sprinted through these lanes, any persons they ran into would quickly retreat back into their homes. Then Cornelius slowed down his men when he heard just ahead the noise of the crowd. The lane they were on had a bend that right. Cornelius halted his men and peered right on the bend. The lane they were intercepted the right street of the procession which have yet reach them. But he could hear by the crowd’s reaction that the forward guards clearing the way were close.

He turned to his men and said, “What we are about to do is mutiny. We will all be branded as deserters and traitors. That means death by hanging. If any of you want to back down, do so now. No shame will be placed upon you by me.”

The men responded by bringing their swords outs. They were with him. Cornelius nodded his gratitude. Then he laid out his plan for them. As soon as Jesus came into sight, they will strike the three or four guards guarding him. Two of them will have to carry Jesus to safety because of his weakened state. With the lane they were on was very narrow, two or three of them can delay any counter attack by the Praetorian who were no match against hardened veterans. The plan was to carry Jesus to the North tower which was currently garrisoned by Flavius and other veterans from the Spanish campaigns. Cornelius, the mutineers and Jesus will have to hide there until nightfall. Then they will try to find their way to the free cities.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 6

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius angrily shouted, “ENOUGH!” Then he and Cestus pushed and tossed those men away from him. “What is going on here?! This man was suppose to be flogged. Not maimed close to death!”

Bragga, who was in the shadows watching it all, came forward. “Cornelius… Cornelius, why are you upset? He is just another Jew. The men were just having a little fun.”

Cornelius was closely examining the crown of thorns and saw no way to just pull it off without causing more trauma.

“Well, bring the prisoner top side. The Governor is waiting,” Bragga ordered. As soldiers dragged Jesus to his feet, Cornelius was about to follow when Bragga stopped him. “You are ordered by Tribune Marcianus not to be present.”

Cornelius so wanted to be there and plead more with Governor. They instead raced to the Northwest tower where they can view the proceedings from a side narrow vertical aperture called an arrow slit. They arrived just they were bringing out Jesus and the other prisoner Barabbas. When Pilate saw Jesus’ grisly condition, he cast his eyes toward Bragga in disgust. All Bragga did was shrug.

The crowd was murmuring but Cornelius could not tell whether they were angry or not. Pilate stood and gestured to Jesus.

“You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. So, I had him flogged.”

The crowd, coaxed by the priests, were shouting back their protest. The High Priest shouted that this man declared himself king which is against Roman Law. Others chanted out that there is no other king but Caesar. Some shouted out, ‘If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.’ Some of the Jewish leadership started to threaten that the Senate will hear of this. Cornelius could tell that Pilate was wavering to their threats. He raised his hand for silence.

“It is in the tradition that a prisoner will be released on the Passover. Here is Jesus of Nazareth who you say called himself the King of the Jews. There is Barabbas, a known brigand and murderer…”

Before he could finish, the crowd started to chant, ‘crucify him and release Barabbas!’

Pilate pleaded, “But this man is with no guilt. I cannot have his blood on me.”

The priests and the crowd called out, ‘let his blood be on us… crucify him! crucify him!’

Pilate shook his head in resignation. His servant brought to him a basin and a decanter. The servant poured the water as Pilate washed his hands. He announces out to the crowd, “I wash my hands of this.” He gave orders to hand Jesus over for execution and have Barabbas released.

Cornelius softly said to Cestus, “I have made a decision… I am going to save him from the cross.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 5

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

As Cornelius grudgingly climbed the steps to his quarters, he saw Jesus being led underground. Cornelius, however, did not go to his quarters. He ended up knocking on Lady Pheobe’s door instead. It was Trax who answered.

“Hello boy. Is the Lady in?”

“Yes, sir. She’s been expecting you.”

Cornelius was led to where the Lady Pheobe was being served by Jacob.

“My Lady, forgive my intrusion.”

“No, Cornelius. Jacob, Trax and I were concerned for you. You must be tired.”

“My Lady, I am a little tired. But that is nothing with what Jesus is going through below. My Lady, I fear for his life. Can the Lady Procula intervene with the Governor?”

“She did try. Last night, she had a disturbing dream of him. She wrote a note to her husband to have nothing to do with that righteous man. She pleaded for his release.”

“That is something, anyway. I pray that all Jesus will get is just a flogging. He’ll heal from that. But I fear the Governor is being pressured to execute him because of the political weight the priesthood have with the Senate.”

He stayed with the Lady for about thirty minutes when there was desperate knocking on her doors. Cestus quickly entered with disgust written on his face.

“Sir, you must come down and stop those Praetorian scums before they kill him.”

Both men rushed down to the lower levels, where Cornelius was faced with a grisly sight. Jesus was sitting slightly bowed being mocked by a handful of men. The grisly part was that Jesus’ back was grossly torn to a bloody shreds. His face was swollen and bloody with a deep cut over his right brow. But that was not the worst part. Someone fashioned a crown of thorns that were about one inch long. The crown was probably pounded into his head because the thorns were dug in half way. Blood was gushing from his scalp down his face. His face was unrecognizable. The soldiers started to laugh wildly as one of them roughly placed Herod’s purple robe on him and started declaring “Hail, King of the Jews.”

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