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 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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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 2

SPYING IN A TREE – Roman fort 2 miles east of BethsaidaCG-book-cover-w

As they neared the fort, Cornelius noticed a different signus over the gate. It was the signus of Tribune Arturos.

“The Tribune is a day early,” exclaimed Flavius.

Upon entering the fort, Cornelius was summoned to the Tribune immediately.

As Cornelius and Flavius enter his office, Arturos turns to them and says, “The General has approved your plan! I myself do not like it. But I have to admit that to do your task, you have to get closer to the people. Very well! Flavius! You take command here. Let us get this over with. Assemble the cohort!”

“Is there no other way?” pleaded Flavius. “This may get you killed with a knife on your back!”

“I will be fine.” Turning to the Tribune, “Sir, I suggest we do this outside the west gate where the camp followers and those out working in the fields can better witness this.”

Trumpets blared throughout the fort. As the legionnaires assembled in formation, a crowd of field workers, some fishermen, a number of Arab traders and the camp followers gathered wondering what the commotion was. Some wondered if they were leaving for battle. Then the assembly stood at attention as Arturos rode slowly to the center followed by Cornelius and Flavius. Cornelius saw that Jacob and Trax were peering down from the fortress wall. The tribune then handed a scroll to Flavius to be read out loud. Showing a little reluctance, Flavius read out the reprimand and demotion orders. Cornelius heard Jacob’s gasp up in the wall. He expected that. But what he did not expect were the mutterings and disgruntled look on the assembly. Cornelius took a step forward and starting left to right he scanned the faces of the men with a disapproval glare written on his face. Slowly, the men’s muttering quieted down as Flavius finished reading the order. Then Arturos ordered Cornelius to surrender his helmet to him. Cornelius took off his helmet and presented to the tribune. Arturos then took out his dagger and stripped the white horse-hair plumes from the helmet. Then he dropped it on the ground making Cornelius pick up his plume less helmet. Cornelius placed his helmet back on and ceremoniously saluted him then marched back into the fort.

As Cornelius entered his quarters, Jacob and a teary eyed Trax were waiting. “How could they do this? The money came from your own strong box!” Exclaimed Jacob.

“What is done… is done,” smiled Cornelius. “Now, let us pack up and move my baggage to a room below. These quarters belong to Flavius now. Tomorrow, we go to Capernaum.”

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 1

SPYING IN A TREE – Roman fort 2 miles east of BethsaidaCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius can finally see the garrison about three miles away through the trees. He called a halt to the column of thirty tired soldiers he was leading. They have been on patrol for two hours with no incident and he didn’t like it. As the men rested under the cover of the trees, he goes to the edge of the tree line and climbed a tree with low hanging branches. He scanned his route to the fort but didn’t like that they were going to be in open country. He looked towards the shoreline which was only about a mile away. It would be a longer detour to the safety of the fort, but if the lake was on their left they only have to defend their right flank. When he returned to the men, he ordered them to form up into columns of four. At the edge of the tree line, looking around one last time, he ordered them into a quick march. A quick march meant that they have to jog without breaking formation. The men simultaneously hoisted their shields on their backs and grasped their swords on their sides to keep it from swinging between their legs when they jog.

They were about halfway to the lake when Cornelius heard one of the soldiers call out ‘cavalry!’ Cornelius was not too surprised to see a horse unit of twenty riding out from under the trees about a mile and half away from them. They quickly formed a charging line, then in a trot with lances pointing down they moved forward. Then, with a shouted command from the cavalry officer, they charged at full gallop screaming and shouting. Cornelius shouted to pick up the pace. But instead of chasing his unit down, they suddenly stopped in a single line facing them about a hundred yards from them. He thought they were going to make it to the shoreline until he looked forward and shouted an abrupt halt. Suddenly his route to the lake shore was blocked by a phalanx formation of forty men. It was like they magically sprang up from the ground. But originally, they were hiding behind a seven foot deep gully.

The Phalanx was a classic Greek battle formation where six lines are formed. Every man in the phalanx brandished long spears three times the length of a man. The front three lines of the formation would hold their eighteen foot long spears forward. Any enemy confronting this formation will have to contend first with the deadly spears before they reach the line. The effectiveness of this formation was successfully used by Alexander the Great with deadly results when he confronted a Persian army three times his size.

Blocked on two fronts, Cornelius quickly commanded, “Form the square!”

Cornelius knew this was a senseless command for he only had thirty men. They quickly formed a rough square with only four men per side and with the rest of the men forming the second layer. Cornelius retreated into center. If only he brought another twenty men then they could have fought their way to safety.

As the cavalry unit and the phalanx came closer for the kill, Cornelius knew it was over. So, he pulled out his whistle and blew it three times consenting defeat and the exercise over. The attacking force cheered.

Flavius emerged from within the phalanx sporting a wide grin.

“How did you know I would head to the shoreline first?” asked Cornelius.

“Sir… You were my teacher in Spain.”

“Well, when I saw that old Greek formation spring out of the grass, I have to admit I was a little surprised. I take it that was for my benefit?”

“Knowing how you loved the Classics, I figured you’d appreciate it.”

“Flavius, you definitely deserved your promotion. I’m only too glad that Tribune Arturos does not arrive until tomorrow or else he would have seen this exercise and I would be relieved of my command.” They both laughed again as they head back to the fort.

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

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Johann Q

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 039

ELPIDA THE SYROPHOENICIAN
32 AD – Village of Cadasa, Sidon, Phoeniciafaithful-encounters-cover-w

They arrived at Cadasa just before the sunset. Elpida hopped off the cart she was riding on at the outskirts of the town. Saying a fond farewell to the old cart driver, she headed for a pathway that skirted the town’s perimeter wall. She came to a cluster of farm houses and went straight to the farthest house. As she came close, she can hear a little girl’s screaming. Elpida quickened her pace. Not hesitating, she didn’t bother knocking and pushed open the door to find a woman, her cousin, and a young lad struggling to calm a smaller child girl shaking and thrashing on the floor.

“I expected you four days ago,” said her cousin calmly and like she expected her. “I hope you were successful this time.

“No. I just missed him in Galilee. But now he is nowhere to be seen.”

“So, what is your next plan, cousin?”

“I intend to search for him closer to the source. You remember my friend, Demacli, the one who wrote and told me about the man of Nazareth who is performing God-like miracles throughout the lands of the Jews. He convinced me to move to his city at Hippus… the free cities of the Greeks. He said that this healer will again stop by to his city.”

“How does he know this and why would this Jew go there… a city not of his own?”

“Demacli was just like my Yllana, in fact, he was a lot worse. I would know, he came to me once, but I could not help him. This man…” she paused in thought and then said, “This God-man freed him from not just one or two evil spirits, but a legion of them. He is the one I have been searching for. Yllana and I will leave the end of the week.”
A few days later, Elpida had picked up some produce from the marketplace, when she spotted four men who were clearly Galileans by their clothing and their accents. This was not as unusual, for many Jews have dealings in this region, but she recognised one of them. Demacli had pointed him out to her once. The older of them was clearly the disciple called Matthew, a former tax collector. They purchased food and started to walk away. She decided to follow them.

They went to a neighborhood near the center of the town where the rich tradesmen have their homes. They headed to a tall house with a stone wall surrounding it. The double gates were open and the four men entered it. Elpida lingered outside looking through the gates. Inside was an courtyard and an overhanging pavillion that lead into the house. The four were greeted by another group of eleven who were lounging on the pavilion’s steps. One of them stood up to greet them. Somehow, she knew that this man was him. It is Jesus of Nazareth. With no hesitation, she rushed through the gates calling out, “Lord! Lord!”

The men stood, startled by the entry of this strange woman. She went to the man who she believed is Jesus of Nazareth. She pushed her way through some of them then fell on the ground at his feet. When some of the men tried to pull her away, she cried out, “Lord, Lord… have mercy on me!” When she felt them pulling her away even more, she looked up to find that he was not looking her way. She had to think quickly on what would make him look. Then she got it. She desperately called out, “Son of David!” When he turned to face her, there was a slight twinkle in his eye and hope sprang up in her. She felt the tugging stop.

“Son of David have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

Jesus stepped forward and his disciples stepped back. Some of them were whispering and visibly showing their disapproval. One of them said, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” Jesus came closer and pulled her up to stand. He gave just a slight smile, then he turned and faced the men.

“Let the children be satisfied first,” Jesus announced in a loud voice. “It is not good to take the children’s bread…” He paused, then said, “and throw it to the dogs.”

In a blink of an eye, she realized that Jesus’ proclamation was not more for her but for his disciples. But an answer from her was needed. She believed who he is and that he is kind and loving. She also realized that he is also just. “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Jesus turned around with a big smile. “Woman, you have great faith! Because of this answer go home, for the demon has gone out of your daughter.” [Matthew 15:21-28]

Jesus asked one of his followers, a foreigner, by the look of him, to escort her home. Twenty minutes later, they were just a stone’s throw away from her cousin’s house, she could hear the giggling voice of her daughter, sounding quite normal. She was about to sprint to the door, but the foreign man put his hand gently on her arm.

“The master wanted you to know that the one whom you sought for years since Greece is He.”

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 39th 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.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch3 – part 7

THE PLAN – Sea of Galilee shoreline, BethsaidaCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius slowed his pace, a little. After listening to Jacob explaining things to Cestus, he now felt that the urgency to return to the fort to send dispatches seem less urgent. When he heard the rabbi’s last parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat, he had an ominous feeling that the weeds were the Romans who will be uprooted and cast into the fires. But then Jacob did say that the rabbi’s true intent may be more spiritual than worldly. So, he had to rethink about what that parable really meant. He and Jacob will have to discuss this some time. For the meantime, he can slow down. Deep down, he would hate to think that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, as some kind of enemy. If this is the one that John the Baptist wanted him to seek out, then he may be the Savior of not just the Jews but all mankind. At that instance, he somehow realized that the parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat may be a spiritual description of the ultimate time of Judgment. Inside himself, he was elated that he may have figured out the parable. But then, how about others like the Zealots. There were probably a few of them among the crowd. What if they interpret his teachings as an opportunity to move the people into rebellion against Rome? They would do that.

His mind started racing again. He has to find a way to be even closer to him. He felt he needs protection not just from the schemes of men like the Zealots who won’t think twice of exploiting him but also from Rome, who would not consider his innocence if captured for being an unwitting figurehead of an insurrection. A plan started to develop in his mind. He again picked up his pace to get back to the fort. He had dispatches to write.
It was late in the evening. Cornelius had a long day of planning and doing the other duties of his command. He thought about his command. He is really going to miss it. But shaking his head, he sat at this desk, pulled in a blank parchment and started to write.

To General Gaius. Greetings and salutations.

Today, I am happy to report that I had personally sighted that wandering teacher that I have been tracking for the following week. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. I have observed him by the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There was a gathering of about three hundred people mostly peasantry. It was a peaceful gathering and his preaching was that of religious nature with no hint of rebellious talk. Since I have started my investigation of this man when I have first learned of him from Herod Antipas, he has gained in popularity. My estimation is that his increasing popularity would already attract the attention of insurgent groups like the Zealots.

Sir, I am requesting that you would approve a plan of my design that will enable me to embed myself deeper into the populace’s closed-in society and maybe even in this Jesus of Narareth’s circle of followers. I already have a good relationship with the villagers of Bethsaida because of my aid in the rebuild of their Synagogue. However, I cannot continue to effectively execute my assignment in my present situation as the active commander of this garrison. I believe I would do better being situated at a separate and private villa just outside the north end side of Capernaum. My agents there have found a trader deep in debt and is ready to depart from his estate. It is an ideal location to be my center of operation.

But changing of location is part of the plan. To the Jews, I must seem more than a Roman sympathizer. To them I must be a disgraced officer and a gentile who is willing to partake in a Jewish process of being an proselyte. It is the accepted practice for gentiles to become Jewish disciples. As a proselyte, I will have inside access into their Synagogues where I am sure I can learn the identities of the insurgents.

So, sir, I have to be publicly demoted and disgraced as soon as possible. I think being re-assigned to procurement and provisions will make an excellent cover for what I need to do.

I shall eagerly await your reply.

Cornelius Metellus
Cornelius poured some red wax on the bottom of the sheet then he pressed his seal on it. He folded the letter and again used his waxed seal to seal it. He put this letter with the other dispatches. In the morning, a rider will bring it north. He could not sleep. So, he climbed to the top floor. The guard there quickly stood to attention. He told him to be at ease and stepped over to the north-side. He could just make out the shaded outline of the highlands. Everything was dark except for a distant pinpoint of light high on the hillsides. It was probably a campfire. He wondered if maybe Jesus of Nazareth is sitting around that campfire with his followers.

“Are you the one?” He whispered to the distant light. “I will know soon.”
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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch3 – part 6

THE PLAN – Sea of Galilee shoreline, BethsaidaCG-book-cover-w

While the boat was being launched to deeper water, Cornelius was already walking briskly on the bank of the beach heading back to the fort with Jacob and Cestus trying to catch up. When they were farther down the shore, Cestus was attracted by an excited commotion out on the water.

“Look!” Cestus was pointing.

Cornelius saw that the same boat the rabbi was on was listing heavily with all three occupants straining to pull the nets in. Another boat frantically rowed up to give them a hand. Soon there was whooping and cheering as both boats started to scoop in a great many fish. Then Cornelius could just make out the big fisherman bowing to the rabbi. He then turned away and continued his brisk walk. His mind was racing with what he thinks is a dangerous implication hidden in the last parable.

“Tell me again about how these parables work?” Cestus asked Jacob.

“Well, the teacher is using parables as a way of imparting important and meaningful truths on a simple minded people by using everyday stories that they can relate to. For instant, the rabbi gave a story about sowing and planting to a crowd of people made up mostly of farmers. They understand what happens to seed that are casted unto a hard packed path, rocky soil or even among weeds. What they have to reason out is, what is the lesson that the teacher was imparting? Even now, the actual meaning of this parable still eludes even me, a scholar and teacher. But I will figure it out sooner or later.”

“But why teach with parables? Why not tell them straight on what to do?”

“Well, it’s not a new way of teaching. Many rabbis have used parables in the past. But I believe our young rabbi want people to think for themselves. Do you recall what he said after he ends a parable? He said,’He who has ears, let him hear.’ This tells me that everyone is capable of figuring this parables out.”

“So, how do I work it out?”

“Very well, Cestus,” Jacob said. “Let us look at the first parable of the sower. The main focus of the story are the seeds. The seeds have to represent something important in our lives that we want to multiply a hundredfold.”

“What would that be? …wealth, treasure, money?”

Jacob chuckled. “No, I don’t think that was what the teacher meant. I believe that the teacher’s intent is more spiritual than on the things of this world. Let us assume first that the sower represents my people’s God. So, what would He sow? …impart that He would want to be very fruitful? If I was to venture a guess, I would say that the seeds must represent God’s wisdom. In this case, the four different type of soils represents four types of recipients. The first part is the hard pathway representing those with very closed ears. Knowledge goes in one ear then out the other. The second one is the rocky soil representing those who have shallow values. That would mean they like what they heard but do not take it seriously enough for God’s wisdom to bear fruit in their lives. The third, the soil with thorns can only be those who hear the word of God but the thorns may represent the worries of this world which would choke the value of its wisdom so there is no fruit. Finally, we come to the good soil which was prepared to receive the seeds. Clearly, these are the ones who are really ready to receive God’s word and apply it to fruitfulness. There! What do you think, Cestus?”

“I don’t rightly know. I’m just a simple soldier. What you say is a little too deep for me.”

“Of course, Cestus, fret not. These things take time and a great deal of personal meditation. Besides, I could be wrong with my impressions. But again, I have hopes.”

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

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch3 – part 5

THE PLAN – Roman Fort 2 miles east of Bethsaida
– Sea of Galilee shoreline, BethsaidaCG-book-cover-w

Then the crowd started looking down the shoreline attracted by the sound of celebratory clapping and the high pitch ululating sound that women make with their tongues. They could not make out what was happening from their spot on the beach. So, they moved through the crowd up the bank and worked their way to the building. There they climbed up unto an already crowded platform. From that vantage point, Cornelius could just make out a circle of men surrounding a single man keeping the crowd from overwhelming him. The rabbi was not too tall. His hair was brownish and shoulder length. He sported a short clean cut beard and mustache. His face was a little long and his nose was a little aquiline. At first impression, Cornelius was disappointingly not impressed. He looked ordinary. If the crowd did not cheer for him, he would walk by him paying him no heed.

Then people started to call out to him. There were a mixture of supplications from the crowd. They wanted to be healed. They wanted their lives to be good. Some asked if he was the one. Cornelius could not tell if he could not hear them or he was ignoring them. He continued on smiling, shaking their hands and occasionally picking up a child, laughing with them. The crowd started to press around some more until he could not progress further. The rabbi then worked his way toward one of the beached boats. Next to it was a burly fisherman washing his nets.

The rabbi asked something of him gesturing to his boat. The large fisherman nodded his ascent, put down his nets and walked over to the bow of his boat. As the rabbi climbed aboard alone, the fisherman pushed the boat out onto the water and let it float out about ten feet. Then he tied it off. The rabbi called for the people to quiet down and gestured those in the front to sit down on the beach. Then he sat at the edge of the bow and in a very clear voice, he began to teach. The first thing that Cornelius noticed was the clarity of his words. The boat was ten feet from the shore. His own vantage point was at least another hundred feet with a score of people between them.

“Behold, a sower went out to sow and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” [Luke 8:4-8 NASB]

The crowd was mumbling. It was clear that there was confusion. Cornelius himself was not sure what he meant.

“He is speaking in a parable.” It was Jacob whispering to Cestus. “Oh, I wish I had parchment and pen.”

The rabbi gave two other parables about how the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man finding treasure in a field and a valuable pearl. Cornelius figured he can analyze them with Jacob later since he deemed them unimportant for the moment.

Then the rabbi spoke again. “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ” [Matthew 13:24-31 NASB]

The mumbling in the crowd became louder. The rabbi stood and called to the burly fisherman. The fisherman waded over and whispered to his ear while gesturing out onto the lake. The fisherman spoke back shaking his head but then he ended up shrugging his shoulder. He called to his fishing partner and together they gathered their nets. They climbed into the boat and they started to row out onto deeper water. They were not too far out when they casted their nets. Cornelius was sure that they will not be successful fishing at midday. But that was not what concerned him.
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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

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch3 – part 4

THE PLAN – Roman Fort 2 miles east of Bethsaida
                     – Sea of Galilee shoreline, BethsaidaCG-book-cover-w

“But because he is from Nazareth, you do not believe that this young rabbi is him.”

“Well, I’m not so sure. I have been hearing incredible stories of him transforming water into wine, healing of a demon possessed woman, and of a boy who was lame but can now walk. Then, my brother told me of a commotion he caused in the Temple last Passover.” Jacob chuckled and said, “Apparently, he was not very pleased with the corrupt practices of the money changers of the Temple.”

“Money changers?”

“Oh, of course, you don’t know of their scrupulous practices of cheating Temple worshipers who come to purchase animals for sacrifice but find out that their money have to be exchanged for Temple coinage. Added to the exchange rates and the cost of the sacrificial animals is the questionable Temple taxes. So, my brother said that this Jesus came and turned over their tables almost causing a riot. But it is what he said is what caught my attention. He said, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations. Take these things away. Stop making My Father’s house into a den of thieves.’ He spoke with such authority and zeal, I had to wonder. So, it is clear to me that you and I need to get closer to him. Fortunately for us, the young rabbi will be at Bethsaida tomorrow morning.”
Early the next day, Cestus knocks on Cornelius’ door. He was dressed like a local.

“Sir? Do we take horses?” he asked.

“No. We’ll walk.” Cornelius said. He too was dressed in nondescript clothing. “How about Trax?”

“No problem, sir. I’ve got him on stable duty. That should keep him busy until we return. Jacob is down below waiting.”

“Cestus, make sure you cover your face when we get there. Your clean shaven face is a dead give away. You’ll have to grow your beard. I’m thinking we’ll be doing more of these excursions.”

“Ay sir,” Cestus said as he left the room. Cornelius heard him mumbling as he walked the hallway to the stairs. “But them things will just make my chin itch for weeks.”

As the three of them left the fort, Cornelius decided not to go down the road but instead followed a goat track that led to the lake. When they reached the shoreline, they saw a lot of people on the beach heading for the fishing village part of Bethsaida. They discretely tagged along with a family group with children. It was not long until they approached the crude shacks of the fishing folk about a mile or so outside Bethsaida’s walls. They were built in loose clusters about a hundred feet from the lake shoreline. There was one solid structure built right on the waterline. Jacob said that was where the fish mongers would inspect the fisherman’s catch and deals are made. A fair size crowd had already gathered in and around the building. Nearby, four long boats were beached and the fishermen busy doing a variety of chores.

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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

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch3 – part 2

THE PLAN – Roman Fort 2 miles east of BethsaidaCG-book-cover-w

For the next three weeks, Cornelius and Jacob poured over the Scriptures. As agreed upon, Cornelius would breakdown the scroll of Isaiah into chapters and sub-sections as he meticulously read through it. When he identified a section of the Isaiah scroll as a chapter, he would carefully tag the margins of the Isaiah scroll by pasting a small piece of parchment paper written with the sequential chapter number. Then, with the help of Jacob, he’d write in the codex the chapter number with the appropriate chapter title and any commentary notes. He especially noted any scriptures that identified any messianic references. So far, they both collated thirteen chapters with more than three quarters of the large scroll to go.

Meanwhile, through the information that Jacob gleaned from family and friends, he found out about a young rabbi roaming the Galilee district, preaching in the villages and gaining popularity. Cornelius asked him to find out more about him and see if he was the one that he overheard Herod talking about. Jacob left two days ago to interview someone in the nearby city of Capernaum about a strange story he heard that is related to this wandering rabbi.

As to his special assignment, he is finding it difficult to organizing a network of local spies while he is based at the fort. He was hoping for friendlier relations with the local Jews since he provided funds to rebuild their demolished synagogue. But because he resided in the fort, no Jew, with the exception of Jacob, will ever step on what they consider is unclean soil. Cestus, on the other hand, who always manage to anticipate his needs, brought to him, two Legionaries who can pass as locals. One of them, Nacob, was of Syrian descent. His brown skin, short stature and short beard made him look like the Asiatics of this region. The other, Lyca, is Cypran. He can easily pass as the many Eastern Europeans trading between the free Greek cities and Galilee. He gave them extensive instructions to reconnoiter the Jewish sector of Capernaum and gather information on the leadership structure. They especially were to report on any leads to any hidden members of the Zealots. At the same time, they are to keep their eyes open for any criminal elements that he can turn into informants. Unfortunately, all they could do was still observe from the outside. Except for business, the Jews are fairly tight knit people. He needs someone inside. He thought of Jacob but knew he would make a bad spy.

Cornelius put down the report he was reading and went up the stairs to top level of his building to get some air. It was late in the afternoon and the clashing sounds around the fort had lessened significantly. As he got onto the third level of his building, he walked over to the western side and leaned onto the railings to casually check out what was happening around the fort. Soldiers were meandering back to their tents after a full day of drills. A group of them wearing just their red tunics and leggings were laughing and joking among themselves as they eagerly walked towards the north gate which would lead them to the camp-followers’ camp who were about half a mile north. He then looks up and beyond the walls and see a few field-workers among a nearby field of wheat. On the road that led to Bethsaida, he noticed an old man walking as fast as he could towards the fort. Though he could not see a face, he knew it was Jacob rushing back with news.
By the time Jacob returned, Cornelius was back at his desk writing his reports for the governor and the general.

“I have news,” his old tutor said tiredly.

“Jacob, sit down and rest.” Cornelius poured him a drink.

“Ah, thank you.” Jacob gulped down the whole glass. “I did walk a long way but anyway, I said I had news about the young rabbi. At first, I did not think he was the Messiah.”

“Why do you say that?”

“His name is Jesus, son of Joseph. He is from… Nazareth!”

“Nazareth? I’m not sure I get you. Where is Nazareth?”

Jacob pulled out the map from under a pile of scrolls and laid it out. He pointed on a spot west of the Sea of Galilee. Cornelius then realized what he meant.

“Ah good, by the way you look, you remember where the Messiah is supposed to be born.”

“Yes… according to the Prophet Micah, the Messiah is supposed to be born in Bethlehem.”

“No, not suppose,” Jacob said quietly. “Now, I know that the Messiah is truly walking amongst us. Some thirty years or so ago, I was a young scribe when from the East came a caravan of Persian magi to the palace of the old Herod. They sought the newly born, King of the Jews. Herod called for my master. I was there when he told them of Micah’s prophecy. Three days later, I heard from the other scribes and priests of the senseless slaughter of all male infants of the Bethlehem and the surrounding district. I was so disillusioned then, that I took an assignment to bring a complete copy set of Scriptures to the Synagogue leader of Athens and left Judea for good. Of course, my faith, at that time, was very low. I thought the Messiah was killed but I should have known that nothing can thwart the will of the Almighty God.”

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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