THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch11 – part 5

THE FALLING OUT – Sea of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Then, he stood and walked to where his disciples were and said, “This is the will of Him who sent me, that of all that He has given me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Cornelius noted that the Pharisees were agitated and were talking among themselves. Elan, who was seated on his customary bench at the front, was visibly and uncomfortably worried. Some men near him were questioning, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?”

Jesus then stood before the Pharisees who did not even notice him approach. He said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”

Then he got on the platform and loudly enunciated each word slowly and purposely, “I… am… the… bread… of… life!” The whole room was quiet. “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The whole room erupted! There were voices of elation but many more were angry. They began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” As Elan and the other elders tried to bring the assembly to order, Cornelius watched Jesus in amazement as he just calmly stood there, with no hint of nervousness of how this crowd may react next. Then their eyes met and Cornelius knew that Jesus was not done. Jesus was purposely goading them.

As the room was settling down, Jesus finally said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” [John 6:34-58 NASB]
As Jesus was saying these last words, the Pharisees and their followers angrily pushed their way out of the synagogue. Others followed suit until only about a hundred not counting the women in the galleries were left on the main floor. Jesus said his farewell to Elan and some of the elders who were only too eager to show them all out. As they were heading back to Peter’s house, Cornelius could not help but sense that many of those that were following were still baffled and were grumbling among themselves. It was no surprise for Cornelius that Jesus, who would be conscious of their feelings, called all of them to come close.

“Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe. For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

Then, he continued on walking with the Twelve and few others behind them. Everyone else with their heads shaking dispersed and did not follow.

You do not want to go away also, do you?” Jesus asked Peter.

Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

“Did I myself not choose you, the twelve,” Jesus paused, “and yet one of you is a devil?” [John 6:61-70 NASB]

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch11 – part 4

THE FALLING OUT – Sea of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

The next day was the Sabbath and as Cornelius predicted, Jesus’ open declaration was on everyone’s mouth. Cornelius sat among ten other non-Jews, all proselytes, on seven tiered steps against the western wall of the synagogue. There were another set of steps at the opposite wall. Capernaum’s synagogue was large and able to hold hundreds at a time. The whole assembly faced the south wall mainly because that was the direction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. At that wall, on a raised platform, Elan, the synagogue leader, had reverently brought out The Torah, the holy scrolls, from an ornately decorated cabinet also called the Ark built into an alcove. John, the brother of James, was called to read from the scrolls. With his shawl over his head, he read a passage from the Prophet Jeremiah after which Elan lead the congregation in a chant-like prayer.

The synagogue was filled to capacity. The main floor area with its row upon row of wooden benches was occupied only by the men sitting shoulder to shoulder. The women and children were always relegated in the upper galleries in the back. Cornelius finally spotted Jesus seated near the front row surrounded by the Twelve and other disciples. Seated on the opposite side were a group of men in more elegant clothing. He knew some of them to be local Pharisees but there were a number of new faces that Cornelius did not know.

When the prayer finished, Elan, the synagogue leader, returned the Talmud back into the Ark and then opened the floor for discussion. At once, one of the local Pharisees stood up and called out to Jesus challengingly, “Rabbi, we have heard that you claim to be our promised messiah! And that you are the bread of life and we have to believe in you! What is this talk? If what you say is true, what then do you do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform?”

Others stood calling out, “Yes! Give us a sign!”

“After all, our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness,” the same Pharisee said somewhat mockingly, “as it written, ‘MOSES GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ “

Jesus then stood and calmly said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven…” [John 6:31-32 NASB]

Against Peter’s whispered objections, Jesus walked out of the protective circle of his disciples to the front and sat down on the raised platform. Elan seeing that he had taken the posture of the teacher called for the house to be silent and gestured them to sit.

“Truly, I say again, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”

From the back of the synagogue, some called out, “Lord, always give us this bread.” From among the Pharisees, there were a few chuckles.

Jesus again repeated to them that he was the bread of life, then he said, “he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

Then, he stood and walked to where his disciples were and said, “This is the will of Him who sent me, that of all that He has given me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I myself will raise him up on the last day.” [John 6:34-… NASB]

Cornelius noted that the Pharisees were agitated and were talking among themselves. Elan, who was seated on his customary bench at the front, was visibly and uncomfortably worried.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch11 – part 3

THE FALLING OUT – Sea of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

An hour just before sunrise, the boats were broached securely on the beach with everyone sound asleep in their blankets. By sunrise, a passing herdsman recognized Jesus and went and spread the news. Two hours into the morning, a crowd of a hundred people with many that were sick and impaired were gathered around the encampment. Jesus and the disciples ministered to them for four hours after which they got back into the boats and sailed back to Capernaum.

That night, a number of men sought out Jesus after they arrived from where the multitude was fed. When they found out that Jesus was already at the house of Peter they rushed over and found him seated on the front porch teaching to a small crowd. Cornelius noted them approaching. They were about twenty of them. He noted that three of them were zealots, former companions of Simon. Simon also noticed them as well and whispered into Peter’s ear. Peter then moved ever so slowly and positioned himself slightly behind Jesus watching them. Cornelius and Cestus also subtlety positioned themselves so that they can intervene between Jesus and them if need be. But the men stopped at the edge of the seated crowd.

One of them asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus looked at them for a long while. Most of them started to look uncomfortable like they knew that he could see right through them. He slowly stood and took a couple of steps toward them. Then he answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” He started to look at everybody else and said, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

Then they asked Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”

He again sat and told them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Jesus then spent about twenty minutes or so in a dissertation that even to Cornelius was both incredible and yet profoundly disturbing. For months, Jesus had not openly declared who he was except to his closest disciples; but even to them he mostly referred to himself in the third person. But now Jesus have openly declared, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.” [John 6:25-29,35 NASB]

For Cornelius, this was an incredible statement of which he has no doubt will keep his mind busy through out the night. But what was foremost on his mind was ‘why now?’ He must know that his statement will spread like wildfire. But to what end? Cornelius scanned the faces around him. His disciples showed confusion and concern. To the group of twenty men including the zealots among them, what he saw was disgust. Some of them have left even before Jesus finished. Others including a number of followers have left as well murmuring among themselves.

When Jesus had finished, only the twelve, a few others and Cornelius were left. No other words were spoken. All that Jesus did was smile and then went into the house.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch8 – part 2

MEETING FACE TO FACE – Hills South of CapernaumCG-book-cover-w

It wasn’t so dark because of the stars and moon. Surefooted, Jesus confidently led him up to the top of the hill. Cornelius looked all around. The lake was shimmering at the East. Some miles North, Capernaum and Chorazin were clearly lit as cities should at this time of the night. The ragged outline of the highlands West and South are quite distinct against the night sky. Jesus went over to a lean-to and gestured for him join him.

“I come up here as often as I can to commune with my Father in Heaven.”

Cornelius had so much to ask but somehow he just did not know where to begin. He again thought how plainly he looked but yet there was a presence about him. Then, like he knew what was on his mind, Jesus spoke first.

“Yes… I am the one that John told you to seek. Not much to look at, am I?”

“Well, now that the subject was broached. I half expected you to look more kingly in appearance.”

“So did many of the chosen. They expected a King David or King Solomon, regaled in majestic glory. How easily they forget. Do you know the story of how David was chosen to be king?”

“Yes… of course, I do recall. I should have known.” Cornelius chided himself because the whole story of David had always been his favorite. This part of the story went like this.

King Saul had disappointed God again. So, God sent the Prophet Samuel, to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse to choose from his sons to be anointed king. When the eldest was presented, he was tall, handsome and an accomplished soldier. Even to Samuel, the eldest would make an ideal king. He would have anointed him right there and then, but God stayed his hand. In Samuel’s ear he was told that ‘God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’ [1 Samuel 16:7] Six more sons were brought before him by Jesse, all were rejected. When asked if there was another son, Jesse sent for his youngest who was out in the fields with the sheep. When he came before the prophet, he was but a youth with a face that showed the red glow of good health and was handsome. By all common sense, this was not a lad that would be entrusted with ruling the land. But God chose him.

“And what a king he became, so much so that my Father in Heaven made an eternal promise that his line will rule forever.”

“They say the Messiah will come as a conqueror bringing justice and freedom.”

“There will be a time when all things will be judged then cast into the fire. And yes, the Messiah will be there with sword in hand.” Then Jesus saw the concern in Cornelius’ face. “I know you must report what you heard to your superiors. Do not fret, Cornelius, it is not what you fear. I have not come to condemn but to save.”

“I have surmised what you are saving us from, my question is how are you going to save mankind? What exactly are you going to do? And what can I do to be part of it?”

“You and my disciples will have tasks but what I have to do only I can do.”

“What is it exactly you have to do?”

“The task that I do is written. John had set you in the path of Isaiah. I urge you to continue down that path. Seek out the answer in the one who was my Father’s mouth in the last days of Hezekiah. Then you have a choice to make.”

“You could not just tell me straight, could you?”

“You have strong faith like I told the people. But your faith came to you because of a process of how you gained knowledge. That process started when you listened to your tutor’s first story of the Scriptures. My Father in Heaven once told Joshua before he brought all of Israel across the Jordan after forty years wandering in the wilderness, ‘This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.’ [Joshua 1:8] Follow this same path, Cornelius.”
Cornelius and Jesus spoke late into the night until the pale morning light came creeping over the horizon. They both went down the hill together. Simon Peter and the rest of the Twelve were waiting for them. They broke bread together and then Cornelius said his farewells. He started to ride away, but then he pulled his horse’s rein to a stop and slowly turned. Jesus and his companions were still there watching him. Jesus raised his hand real high. Cornelius too raised his hand and he felt elated inside. He wheeled his horse around and rode at a trot. He was eager to get home and open those books.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch8 – part 1

MEETING FACE TO FACE – Hills South of CapernaumCG-book-cover-w

It was night when he rode up into their camp under the same copse of trees. The men around the fire all stood up but none walked over. Cornelius slowly dismounted and raised his hands up to show that he came in peace. He called out the traditional greeting of offering peace.

“Peace be also with you, Centurion.”

Cornelius turned to see the big fisherman and Levi, the former tax collector, emerge from the tent.

“I am pleased to see you again, Centurion.”

“Likewise, Levi.”

“Oh no… my friend. I am now called Matthew. The master named me so.”

Peter reached out his big hand and they shook hands. “I am Peter. The Master had chosen to meet you up there.” He gestured toward the same hill where Jesus gave his sermon. He calls to the tent, “Simon!”

Simon came out of the tent obviously livid.

“Simon here will be your guide.” Simon Peter faced the Zealot and said, “The Master suggested it.”

Simon reluctantly went to the fire and picked up a fiery brand. “Come Roman, follow me.”

They had to cross the creek with the limited light of the torch but Cornelius managed it with just wetting one of his sandaled foot. The Zealot lead him to a foot path which they followed up the hill. For a long while they did not talk. When they reached a level spot, the Zealot suddenly turned around to confront him.

“What do you want with the master, Roman? You are not wanted here!”

Cornelius was not caught unaware. He expected it. Though he had no weapon, he knew Simon could not best him in close quarter fighting alone. But there could be others nearby in the dark. Cornelius started moving slowly to the right forcing Simon to go right as well; circling each other.

“It was he that called me, Zealot. Now, tell me this. What are the Zealots intention with the rabbi? Do you think you can make him king to rally the people?”

That touched a nerve with Simon, he crouched like was ready to pounce.

“How did you do it, Zealot? How did you get the rabbi to choose you to be one of the Twelve?”

The Zealot stopped circling and then stood straight. “I did not! When Jesus called me, I was so proud but then deep down, I really knew there was nothing to be proud of. But yet he chose me. I will not betray him.”

“Peace,” said a voice in the darkness. Then Jesus walked into the light. “Greetings, Cornelius. It is a good night to be about. Is it not?”

“Good evening, Lord. It is truly a very good night.”

Jesus placed a hand onto Simon’s arm. “Thank you, Simon. I will take it from here. Come, Cornelius. Let us walk up in the dark.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch7 – part 3

THE HEALING – Capernaum, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

“Sir, we found him! He was on the road returning to Capernaum. Jacob went to him and pleaded that he comes to heal Trax. There were some that was against it, saying that he must not enter the house of a gentile; whatever that means. But Jacob pleaded even more then other men including the synagogue leader came up and told the teacher about the things that you have done for the people. So, he agreed and they are on their way here.”

“Good!” He and Flavius were about to enter the house when he paused. A thought occurred to him.

“What is it?” asked Flavius.

“If he is who I believe he is. Then, he does not have to come all the way here to heal Trax. All he has to do is will it to go away.” He looked at Cestus and asked, “how long would it take you to ride back to him?”

“About twenty minutes, sir!”

“Then go back and tell him this. Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” ***
*** Luke 7:6-8 NASB

“Sir, I do not understand why you would do that,” asked a confused Flavius.

“The man is a holy man. If he comes to this house, the house of a non-Jew, he could be declared ‘ceremoniously un-clean’ which his enemies will use against him. I refuse to be the cause of that.”

Cornelius had another reason. He had no doubt in his mind that Trax will be healed. His mind was at peace with no fear at all. He could not explain it. But this test is for Flavius.

As he sat by Trax, looked at his pale figure, he asked Flavius to sit. “In about thirty minutes, Trax is going to get up from this bed well and healthy.” Before Flavius could say anything, Cornelius held up his hand. “I know you doubt. But I ask you to listen to what I have to say.”

So, Cornelius shared with him about his search to answers to his meaning of life questions. He confessed that the Roman religion that they both grew up with had never moved him like his belief in the one God of the Jews. Then he told him of what he had discovered from the Scriptures of this man Jesus that he is now convinced is from God.

“So, does this mean that he will move the people to go against us?”

“No! I truly believe not. I believe that whatever his task is, it is not just for the Jews but for the benefit of all mankind. The question is what that task is which I am even more determined to find out.”

Cornelius gauged that Cestus must have reached Jesus by now. He focused on Trax. The boy seemed hotter than before and the minutes ticked by. Then, just as Cornelius was about to doubt, Trax began to thrash violently. Cornelius had to pin his arms down while Flavius held his legs. And then, just as quickly it began, the thrashing stopped. There was no movement. Flavius asked if he was dead. But Cornelius saw that his breathing was getting stronger and the color was returning to his face. Then Trax opened his eyes and sat up. Cornelius helped him up from bed.

“You gave us a scare, lad. But it looks like you will be fine.”

Then, to the surprise of Cornelius and Flavius both, Trax opened his mouth and uttered, “Wha… what happened?”

Feeling tingly all over, Cornelius burst out with joyful mirth. Never had he heard Trax utter a sound. With tears in his eyes, he embraced him. Porcius and other men came dashing into the room to find a very much alive boy uttering that he was very thirsty.

Flavius turned to Porcius, “Break out the grog, you ol’ miser! This is the time to celebrate!”

Jacob and Cestus returned to find that the whole compound was celebrating. It was in the late hours of the night that Jacob entered the room where Cornelius was studying through Isaiah.

“Well, the lad is finally asleep. I will have to teach him his letters but I have no doubt that in a year he will be talking our ears off.”

“That would be something!”

Jacob came close and placed a hand on his shoulder and said, “The master wants to meet with you.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch7 – part 2

THE HEALING – Capernaum, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

“It’s the boy! He is dying.”

Cornelius and Jacob rushed into the house. They found the physician grinding some herbs for a potion he was preparing. He looked at them shaking his head.

“How long?”

“He will not survive the night.” He handed the potion to Jacob, “This will help him with the pain. I am sorry, Centurion. But this is as far as my skills can go.” Then he left the room.

Cornelius sat at the edge of the bed. Trax was unconscious and burning to the touch. He then took the cloth that was laying on Trax’s forehead and dunked it into a waiting basin of water and put it back on his feverish head. Cornelius have been on many deathbeds of comrades and friends before but watching Trax like this was heart wrenching for him.

Flavius entered the room, “I am sorry, sir. I know how fond you are of him.”

“He is like a son to me.” He whispered.

“Well, he is now in the hands of the gods.”

Then hope sprung up in him like he never felt before. “No, Flavius… not the gods, but one God!” He called out to Jacob and Cestus. “Take the horses, ride out to the teacher. Implore to him to heal the lad. Quickly now. Go!”

They did not hesitate. As Cornelius heard the horses galloping away, he again sat on the edge of the bed and offered up a pleading prayer to the God of Abraham for the very first time.

“Who is this teacher that you sent them to seek? And what can he do?”

Cornelius relayed to Flavius about Jesus and what he had witnessed. Flavius was understandably skeptical.

“And you think he will come and wave his hands over Trax… and then he will sit up like nothing happened?”

“Yes! I really do.”
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