THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 6

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

That night, wearing nondescript clothing, Cornelius and Cestus went back into the city. Cornelius recalled that Elan’s house was located near the western edge of the Jewish sector of the city. As soon as they reached the Jewish sector, they became even more careful traversing the almost empty streets and alleys. As much as possible they walked within the dark shadows. It took them forty minutes when they finally reached the house. The house was in a corner of a block of houses. From the shadows across the street, they quietly watched a few men entering through the gate leaving two guards outside. Cornelius and Cestus went back down the alley they were on, careful to stay always in the shadows. They had to circle three blocks before they finally arrived at the back side of Elan’s house. Fortunately, it was not guarded. Cestus tiptoed to the corner and took a peak at the guards who were content to stay by the gate. The wall was about the height of two tall men, but Cornelius saw that a big branch of a tree from inside the courtyard broke through the wall a quarter of a way down from the top. Cornelius motioned Cestus to give him a lift up so he can stand on his shoulders which was just good enough for him to get a hand hold on the thick branch. He pulled himself up into the tree and got his first view of the courtyard. Through the branches of the tree, he could just make out about forty or so men gathered around a blazing fire in the middle of the courtyard. They seem to be finishing up a meal that would be traditionally served before they conducted this meeting. Knowing that all these men would lose their night vision because of the fire, Cornelius confidently climbed down to the lower branches so he would be able to listen to the meeting.

The meeting started with the old rabbi from this afternoon offering a prayer, then Elan stepped forward to speak about some synagogue business. The older men were content to listen to all that Elan was reading. But Cornelius noticed a group of ten young men grumbling among themselves.

“Elan! Stop with this babble!” Stood one of the young men. “We are here to demand why you allowed this foreigner… This Roman oppressor into our holy place.”

The old rabbi stood up and calmly said, “Simon, son of Nissim of Cana. Have you forgotten about Antonitus, a proselyte from Greece who joined us last year? This man Cornelius is no different.” Many of the old men were nodding.

“But this one is a Roman!”

Another older man stood up. Cornelius recognized him as Jacob’s cousin. “This man is different. He is well versed in the Torah as well as the prophets. He had learned this under the tutelage of my cousin, Jacob, who has returned from a distant land. And he has a love for our people. It was he that rebuilt the synagogue in Bethsaida after it was torn down by the soldiers. And he was punished for it. I was there! I saw this!”

Another man stood up and joined in, “Let us not forget that he has shown generosity among us as well.” More of the older men also gave their support. Cornelius could not help feeling a little touched, but he also felt guilt. The young men including Simon of Cana started to argue with the older men. It was not long that they started to cast insults as well. Then Elan raised his voice.

“Enough! This matter had been settled by the council. This man is welcomed in our community as is written in laws of our father.” Then he pointed at the group of young men. “I know your ways, Zealots! You will in no way harm him.”

Grumbling among themselves, the men made their way out to leave. Cornelius quickly climbed back up the tree till he came to the wall. He had to wait a moment for his night sight to return. Then he saw Cestus coming out of the shadows, cross the narrow street to the wall and helped Cornelius down. They both rushed to the corner in time to see the group of young men walking their way. The group paused and called out, “Who’s there?”

They quickly retreated back into the narrow street and ran. Hearing running footsteps behind them, Cornelius could just make out the glow of torches behind him. Fortunately, they already traversed this part of the city and were confident they would not be cornered. After running down several streets and always in the shadows, he finally motioned a halt.

“How far back do you think they are?” Cornelius asked.

“Not too far.” Cestus back tracked a little ways and peered down a street that they turned left from. When he came back, he said, “I can hear some dogs barking about two blocks down but I saw no lights.”

“Very well,” commented Cornelius. “Let us go home.”

Cornelius was hoping to follow the zealots back to their lair. But he was satisfied that he has a name to go with a face. Simon the Zealot.

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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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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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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.

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Johann Q

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 024

SIMON THE LEPER
31 AD – Cleansed – Galileefaithful-encounters-cover-w

Then, the pounding stopped and he heard like a long roaring sound. When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw were beefy legs. He looked up in wonder to find what he thought was a giant of a man swinging his staff in a wide circle driving the angry attackers back. Then, the angry voices quieted down.

He slowly and painfully stood up amazed as he watched the Nazarene calmly walking over to the giant and placed his hand on his arm. He looked up at him half-scoldingly and said, “Peter…” He didn’t have to finish the sentence. The big man returned a half grin and a shrug. He smiled shaking his head and then turned his attention to Simon.

Simon took two steps forward and then like he realized who he was facing threw himself on the ground and asked, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

“I am willing; be cleansed.”

Then the Nazarene started to reach down and was actually going to touch him. The crowd simultaneously gasped and Simon flinched back. But the Nazarene was quicker. Before Simon could back away, his right hand was on his back, his left was gently grasping his arm and helping him up.

Simon felt a warm sensation through out his body. Then the first thing he noticed was that he had feelings in his feet. He actually could feel the grass under his toes. Even his fingertips were tingling. He looked at his arms to find normal skin color rather than the expected sickly white flakes and bleeding sores.

“Look at his face!” exclaimed an awed voice from the crowd.

Simon hesitated for just a moment, then lifted trembling hands to his face. What his probing fingers revealed was a whole nose restored and no sign of sores.

Then, the valley was filled with celebratory singing and dancing. Lazarus, who had witnessed everything from among the crowd, went directly to his father and embrace him. They both wept.

“Come, follow me,” said the Nazarene.

Simon, still hugging his son, followed the rabbi to a nomad tent under the trees.

“Please, sit down,” the rabbi gestured to a matt on the ground. He went over to a low table and poured water into three clay bowls. He served the two bowls first to them, took the third bowl and joined them on the matt. “Drink first, then we talk.”

A woman brought in a large plate of flat breads, fruits, some meats and placed it in the middle of them. After they ate, the rabbi called for the men that were just outside the tent. Twelve men entered including the big man called Peter.

“Andrew, please take a couple of men and follow this young man to their camp and bring everything back here.”

“Yes, master.”

When they left, the rabbi gestured for the big man and two others to sit down with them while the others sat in other parts of the tent.

“Lord, what is your name? I only know of you as the Nazarene.”

“I am Jesus.”

 

In the morning, Simon came out of his tent feeling invigorated. They were planning to pull up stakes and make the return trip to Bethany.

“Well, father, when we get home, we have to tell as many people that we found the Messiah… and show them how you were healed… and then…”

“No, I will not.”

“What! What are you saying, father? People must be told.”

“I agree, but it will not come from me.”

“Why, father?”

“Because the master asked me,” Simon said solemnly. “His words to me last night were ‘Tell not anyone about this. Go, instead to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering as is according to the law passed down by Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. It is most important that this will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.’ ”

“We cannot even tell the girls?”

“Of course, we can.”

“Good. I cannot wait to see Mary’s face when you get home.”

 

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 24th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS. We will take a pause on Simon the Leper’s story and visit him again some 20 years later. Our next story is about young Mary, daughter of Simon the Leper.

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.

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 020

SIMON THE LEPERfaithful-encounters-cover-w
31 AD – The Sermon – Judean Wilderness to Galilee

The next day, they reached the southern end of the sea of Galilee. Because there were many boats available for hire, many of the people decided to make their way to Capernaum by the sea. However, because Simon is a leper, no boats would take them. Instead, they forded the Jordan River and continued on by land. This added another day and a half to the journey. They found themselves north of the village of Gennessaret just a few miles from the city of Capernaum. Lazarus spoke to a few people from a group of villagers heading north. He found out that they were heading to a meeting to listen to a very charismatic rabbi in the hillsides near the city. So, they followed those people from a discrete distance.

The sun was just rising to its zenith, when the group turned off the road to join an even larger group that came from the city. From what Simon could see, the people were gathering in a dale between three hills. He knew that the people would become very violent if they found a leper in their midst. So, he and his son, instead found a goat’s trail that went up the slope of the hill on their left. When they climbed about halfway, Simon saw that they had a good vantage point to overlook the whole valley. The valley was actually a small hollow, a shallow basin with a winding stream down its middle. Except for a copse of trees, the valley floor up to the foot of the hills were blanketed with a dull yellowish brown grass.

Simon and Lazarus dismounted and tied their animals to a short stunted tree. As Lazarus set up camp, Simon watched the people below. From what he can see, there must’ve been about two thousand people. At first, he thought that the people were just idly standing on both sides of the stream. Then, he realized that they were all looking up toward the hill that was opposite from where they were. Simon followed the direction of their gaze up the hill to an outcrop of rocks sticking out of the yellowish grass. Some of the people started to climb the hill and gathered around the outcrop. Then, a group of men, about twelve of them, were coaxing people to sit on the grass. At the top of the outcrop, a man appeared. Simon knew he must be the Nazarene, but whether he was the miracle worker, he saw no sign of any miracles.

31 AD – The Sermon – Galilee

The Nazarene started to look at the people. His head turned to scan those who sat nearby, then to the people in the valley. Then, Simon saw that the Nazarene was looking at his direction for the longest time, or at least, he thought. His followers finally got the majority of the people seated. The Nazarene himself sat down on a rock and began to teach. For Simon, he was not sure what to expect. Then when the Nazarene spoke, he was surprised that his voice carried across quite clearly.

He gave nine proverb-like proclamations starting with the word, “Blessed.” The first set of blessings were adressed to an unusual group of unfortunates; the lowly, the mourners, the meek and those desperate for righteousness. Then, he realized that he himself is one of those unfortunates. Is the Nazarene saying that the kingdom of heaven is his for the taking? Simon was really listening to every word uttered.

The other set of blessings were adressed to the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and then a twice mention to the persecuted. When he ended that the latter was to rejoice and be glad, because great is their reward in heaven, Simon was flabbergasted.

“Lazarus!” Simon called out.

His son walked over from setting up the camp. “Have I missed anything? What is all that noise coming from the valley?”

“Oh that. The Nazarene instructed the people to discuss among themselves about a marvelous declaration that he just spoke about.”

Simon retold his son about the Nazarene’s ‘blessing’ dissertation.

“I tell you my son, never have I heard any man offer such hope to the hopeless. And he speaks with such authority,” Simon said amazed. Lazarus was about to talk… “Wait! He is speaking again.”

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 20th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 015

faithful-encounters-cover-w

ANDREW THE FIRST DISCIPLE
30 AD – Capernaum, Sea of Galilee

The next day, Andrew took the boat by himself and sailed to Capernaum. When he landed at the city, he went to the house of his brother, Simon.

“Andrew! At last,” said Simon. “I thought you and John were going to stay down south following that desert fanatic all through winter time. I’m glad you are back.” Simon was a large bulk of a man with brawn sholders and thick neck. He stood about four inches taller than Andrew. His head of hair and thick beard were curly and was somewhat redish brown. He was sometimes mistaken for a foreigner.

Simon hastily came out of the house, picked up a large bundle of nets and rested them on his shoulders and started to head for the shoreline.

“It is a good thing you came along today,” said Simon. “If I had to stay with the in-laws a day longer, I think I’d tear my beard off.”

Meanwhile, while trying to keep up with his brother, he was trying to say something to him. “Simon… Ah Simon… I need to tell you… something… important.”

“Later! Let us get into the boat first,” Simon ordered.

When they reached the boat, Simon easily unburdened himself of the bundled nets which was quite heavy then jumped in. Andrew untied the anchor line, took hold of the bow of the boat and pushed it out on the water while Simon was in the process of erecting the mast. As soon as Andrew was waist deep, he climbed in and took up the oars. He didn’t have to row too far, for Simon had the sail up.

A mile out on the lake, Andrew tried again to talk to him.

“Simon… I have news!”

“Mmmm? What, what?”

“Simon, we found him!”

“Who?”

“We have found the Messiah!”

Simon was staring at him for awhile, then he broke out into hilarious laughter.

“Simon, listen!” Andrew said a little intensely. “We really have found the Messiah! He awaits to meet you at our father’s house.”

Simon was still laughing as they sailed back to their hometown of Bethsaida.

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 15th 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.

If you want to support my writing, please use my Go-Fund-Me site below.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.
Please help me go mobile, donate at or share this link to others: https://www.gofundme.com/quadriplegic-needs-mobility