THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 5

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

The winter was mild and spring came early in the Galilean hillsides. Capernaum was again busy with commerce. Five large caravans arrived laden with spices and other exotic food stuff from Persia, India and even from the fabled lands of the Far East. The fishermen were out on the lake in force taking advantage of the calm waters and had returned with a rich bounty. Though there was still a chill in the air, the market square was busy with merchants. Cornelius and Porcius went from one stall to the other haggling with the merchants; though Porcius did most of the haggling. When they neared the Jewish sector of the city, Cornelius separated from Porcius and headed down a side alley toward where he knew where the synagogue was located. Though Cornelius was dressed like the locals, he could not hide that he was a foreigner. This fact was not lost on him as he passed some people who were obviously wary of him. But yet, many knew him. During the winter months, Jacob had petitioned the head of the synagogue to allow Cornelius to enter as a proselyte. At first, the synagogue leader and members of the council were doubtful because Cornelius is a Roman soldier. But when they were eventually told of his demotion and the reason, they relented and allowed him access. Many were surprised to find that Cornelius was well versed in the books of Moses and the prophets. This and occasional contributions to the synagogue’s coffers helped ease the tension considerably.

As he turned a corner, he saw Jacob talking to one of the rabbi. So, he held his position, not wanting to intrude, but Jacob beckoned him to approach. When he came close, he bowed to the rabbi and offered the traditional greeting. The rabbi returned the greeting and then whispered something in Jacob’s ear. Then he went into the synagogue. Cornelius sensed something wrong.

“Why are we not entering?” He asked.

“A number of young men arrived from Jerusalem. They are questioning your admission into the synagogue because you are Roman!” Jacob answered angrily. “They are zealots! …fanatics! They hate everything that is foreign, especially the Romans! I am afraid that we will not be able to join the brethren this evening. But the rabbi and the council will meet with a few of these young noblemen tonight at the house of Elan, the synagogue leader, on your behalf.”

Jacob continued on another subject but Cornelius had not heard what he was talking about. His mind was on the fact that zealots can be found in the synagogue leader’s house tonight. He debated in his mind if a squad of legionnaires should surround the house and set a trap for them. But he threw that idea out. He needed information. He needed names! A plan was forming in his mind.

“Cornelius?” He shook himself back to awareness and looked at a concerned Jacob. “You were not listening. Are you disappointed?”

Shaking his head, he said, “It is of no consequence.” Not wanting to explain further, he asks, “Where is Trax?”

“The boy is sick again. I told him to stay in bed.”

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 044

MARY, THE FAITHFUL ONE
32 AD – Meaning of True Love – Bethany, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Mary had managed to escape again from Martha. Martha had given her much to do again. She was preparing the house for, what Mary considered another frivolous party for another unknown visitor who had sent word the day before of their arrival. Martha loves to play hostess to many of their father’s business acquaintances and even to quite a few of her suitors. Traditionally, husbands were already chosen by the parents even when their daughters were young. But since Mary’s mother had passed away when she was very young, her father, Simon, had forwent tradition and told that they are free to choose a partner for themselves. Martha is closed to eighteen but no man had interest her yet. Mary suspects that her father may have to secure her a husband soon if he ever want to see grandchildren. Lazarus who is about twenty would be expected to wed when he reach his thirties. As for herself, her father had not spoken to her about love or marriage at all. She thinks that her father is trying to keep her as his little girl for as long it took. But Mary had her own ideas about romance and escaping from Martha gave her opportunity to daydream more about it under her favorite tree.

She went to her tree about two hours after the noon meal living out her romantic fantasy until sleep took her into slumber land. In her dreams, she was looking up to the man of her dreams except that she could not make out his face which was in dark deep shadows because the sun was at his back. Then he extended his hand down to help her up when she noticed that his wrist had a cruel scar on it. Then an echoey voice was calling her name repeatedly.

“Ma… ry… Ma… ry… Mary… Mary!”

Suddenly, her eyes snapped open and there before her was a hand just like her dream except there was no scar.

“Mary, wake up!” It was the laughing voice of her brother. When her eyes focused, she realized that it was nearly dusk. She saw her grinning brother and a group of men looking up from the road. She looked at the hand that awaited to help her up. She followed the arm up to a smiling face of someone she did not recognize. He had a short beard and his hair came down to his shoulders. But it was his eyes that fascinated her. It’s like they can see deep into her very soul. As he helped her to her feet, she felt herself blush.

When they joined her brother and the others on the road, Lazarus introduced her to the man.

“Mary, this is Jesus. He was the one that healed father.”

Mary did not hesitate to gleefully throw her arms around Jesus’ neck which caused the disciples to laugh in approval.
The next day, Jesus was teaching in an enclosed garden. The Twelve disciples were there with Simon and his son, Lazarus. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet. One or two of the disciples probably noticed that as she attentively looked up at Jesus she was obviously glassy eyed. Even Lazarus was amused with the wideness of her eyes. But as to Mary, she was joyously oblivious to her surrounding. All she saw and heard was only him.

“If anyone wishes to follow me as my disciple,” Jesus teaches. “He must deny himself. That is, set aside selfish interests, and take up your cross.”

“Master?” asked Simon Peter. “What did you mean ‘take up our cross’?”

“A time will soon come when all these things will become clear. For now, you must learn to develop the willingness to endure whatever may come and follow me. This mean believing in me, conforming to my example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in me.

“For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find life with me for all eternity. Consider this, for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world… wealth, fame, success, but forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory and majesty of His Father with His angels, and then He will repay each one in accordance with what he has done. And I assure you and most solemnly say to you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” [Matthew 16:24-28 Amplified Bible]

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 44th 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, there are two options:

1. Donate $2-$5 to my PAYPAL account [click below]

DONATE TO MY PAYPAL

2. 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.

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 043

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

The luncheon was a grand one. Food and drinks were served in every open courtyard of Zacchaeus’ vast villa. Though his house had the distinction of being the home of the hated tax collector, it did not deter many of the town folk to eat his food which was openly provided. Jesus and his entourage with their host had finished their meal under a covered raised pavillion facing the already overcrowded courtyard. Zacchaeus, Jesus and three others were huddled together listening to a confessed story told by their host.

When Jesus smiled and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, the people began to mutter among themselves. Then a young Pharisee among the crowd, spoke out loud, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” [Luke 19:7]

Zacchaeus stood up looking at the grumbling crowd, then he looked down at Jesus who was smiling encouragingly. He came to a decision that had suddenly unburdened his heart.

“Look, Lord!,” He excitedly announced. “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor.”

The people were stunned to silence. But Zacchaeus felt that he had to do more. He saw among the crowd the man that had bullied him and he took revenge on him by cheating him greatly out of his land. Zacchaeus went to him and said out loud, “If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” [Luke 19:8] Then he reached out a hand. The man’s lofty demeanor softened and slowly he took his hand and shook it.

There was a smatter of clapping among the crowd still stunned by the tax collector’s declaration. But the clapping increased as Jesus himself came down happily laughing and clapping.

Jesus said out loud, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” [Luke 19:9,10]

But then the young Pharisee who boldly stood up among his peers challenged Jesus by saying, “Teacher, your teachings are inconsistent!”

Jesus faced him calmly. Emboldened, the Pharisee continued. “I heard you speak to a young rich man. He came to you and asked if he could enter eternal life. You replied to him, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ He declared he had kept them all since he was a boy. Then you said that he lacked one thing; told him to go sell everything and give to the poor; and then follow you. After which he walked away sad. You concluded with, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’ Such were your words.” [Mark 10:17-23]

“It is not my teaching that is inconsistent. It is your conclusion that is in error.” Jesus offers no other explanation to the Pharisee who returned to his companions unsatisfied.

Jesus led Zacchaeus into the house with the disciples close behind.

“Master?” It was the disciple Philip asking, “What is the difference between the young rich man and our friend, Zacchaeus?”

“The young rich man’s problem was always his riches. His money was his idol… his god. And most importantly, he was without faith.” Then Jesus took Zacchaeus to the side.

“Zacchaeus, my friend, I must go,” Jesus said.

“Lord, I will follow you,” Zacchaeus begged.

“A time will come when you will. Stay here and be strong in your faith. Soon all things will be made clear.”

“Where will you go, Lord?”

“To see a young girl under a tree.”

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 43rd 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, there are two options:

1. Donate $2-$5 to my PAYPAL account [click below]

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2. 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 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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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

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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.

PS… If you want to support my writing, there are two options:

1. Donate $2-$5 to my PAYPAL account [click on icon below]

paypal-logo-e1492096727260-862x528

2. 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.

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.

Thank you

Johann Q