THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch16 – part 1

SPEARS AND SHIELDS – Gadara, Region of PereaCG-book-cover-w

Two months have past since the confrontation at the Temple. Jesus wanted an expedient route back to Galilee, so, to the quiet displeasure of Simon, Judas Iscariot and a few of the others, they journeyed back through Samaritan country. One of the villages they visited, Sychar, greeted them with open arms. Cornelius was later told by Andrew, Peter’s brother that Jesus and a few of them then, came through Sychar only to purchase food for the trip back to Capernaum. They ended up spending almost four days with Jesus preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven and that salvation was nearby. And according to Andrew it all started when Jesus talked to a woman by the well. The villagers wanted to stay longer but Jesus told them that they had to go. Other villages they went through, some were welcoming some were not. In fact, there was one particular Samaritan village that ejected them that on a hill overlooking that village, James and John plucked up their chest and requested of Jesus that they may ask God to righteously rain fire upon that sinful village.

At first everyone was quiet. The fire that came from heaven, as Cornelius recalled only occurred in the stories of the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah, when Elijah asked God to send fire down to first burn up his oxen sacrifice against four hundred Baal priests and then when he was being arrested fire consumed the soldiers sent three times. Cornelius, who have seen much death, cringed at the thought of such power that can destroy an entire city being unleashed upon that village or onto anyone. Jesus turned and rebuked them. Both brothers bowed their heads in shame. Andrew, the jester among the group whispered a little too loudly, “Sons of thunder.” Laughter broke out among the men, so much so, that even Jesus was laughing when he went to the brother and embraced them both.

An early winter seem to have set in. Large patches of snow dotted the hillsides around Capernaum. Jesus had mainly focused most of his time in teaching his closest disciples. Twice Cornelius was ordered to report to Pilate at his winter residence in the port city of Caesarea where the Mediterranean climate was more to his liking. The first meeting was on Zealot activities in the south which was deemed insignificant enough for any action to be taken at this time. The second meeting was an alert tactical meeting for all officers. The meeting was made up of five Tribunes and fifteen Senior Centurions including Cornelius.

He was quietly talking with Arturos and Flavius when Pilate entered the room followed by General Gaius Alto, his second in command, and Tribune Marcianus. Everyone there snapped to attention.

“At ease, gentlemen,” Pilate said. “The Emperor saw fit to intervene between the conflict between the Arab king, Aretas IV of the Nabataeans, and our friend, ahem… Herod Antipas.”

The men chuckled knowing what Pilate really thought of Herod.

“I need not remind you the reason behind this conflict.^ This region is volatile enough. The Emperor had tasked me to commit our forces. Understand this, gentlemen, we are not at war with Aretas. We are only there as a reminder of Roman interests in the region.” Turning to Gaius Alto, “General Alto, the floor is yours.” The room again came to attention as Pilate left the room followed by Marcianus.

[^ The cause of the conflict between these two kings started when Herod Antipas divorced his wife Phasaelis who was the daughter of Aretas IV and had shamefully sent her away.]

Alto gestured for all of them to gather around a large table with several large maps on it. The map of Palestine, which was intricately drawn in great detail on a tanned hide was on top.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch13 – part 3

TO JERUSALEM – Magdala to JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

The Festival of Tabernacle is only a few days away. Jesus again received a message from his brothers that he should go to the festival. But he again declined. Instead, Jesus, the Twelve, Cornelius and others crossed the Sea of Galilee to the region of Decapolis. There, they went up to the top of a small mount. As always it was not long before a large crowd gathered and, of course, they brought their lame, crippled, blind, dumb, and many others, and they laid them down at his feet; and He healed them. It was also here that Jesus again challenged the disciples to feed the multitude. To Cornelius’ surprise, the disciples gave the same excuse of how. Doing the same way that Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand several months ago, he again broke bread and giving thanks to God, then starting passing bread and fish to his disciples who in turn distributed them to the multitude. Over Four thousand men with their respective families were fed that day.

They returned to the boats and again crossed the sea to the region of Magadan. Jesus was again approached by another group of Pharisees and Sadducees^^ who wanted to test him. This time they came demanding for a sign from heaven.
[^^ The Sadducees believed in almost the opposite issues from the Pharisees. They were the liberals of their day.]

Jesus then sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” Then they went back to the boats.

As they worked their way up the coast, Jesus told them, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

Andrew whispered to his brother, Peter, pointing at an empty basket which was held by Thaddeus. It was the basket that usually carried bread in. A few of them started to discuss among themselves occasionally pointing at it. It occurred to Cornelius that they think that what Jesus said was because they have forgotten to bring bread.

It too occurred to Jesus, for he rebuked them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? ‘Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?’ And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?”

They answered him, “Twelve.”

“When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?”

And they sheepishly answered Him, “Seven.”

“Do you not yet understand?” [Mark 8:11-21 NASB]

They sailed to Bethsaida where he healed a blind man. After which they returned to Capernaum.

“The festival is at hand. Tonight we leave for Jerusalem. Speak to no one of our departure.”
For three days, they followed the pilgrimage route on foot trailing two donkeys that carried their supplies. Traditionally, pilgrims mostly from Galilee who annually partake of the three major festivals in Jerusalem would travel to the southern end of the inland sea. There the waters flow into several small rivers that snake their way through a swampy delta until they all eventually cascade into the beginning of the Jordan River. The pilgrims would ford the river there then follow a well used southerly caravan trail that ran the length of a barren escarpment which took two days to travel by foot.

It was when they were about a day on the trail and the heat was unbearably hot, that Cestus asked why they were traveling such a strenuous route. “We could have easily gone by the King’s Road near the Mediterranean to the Judean highlands where the climate is comfortable.”

Jacob explained that the King’s Road, though it would have been a shorter route, went through Samaritan country which the Jews would take great strides to avoid. Cornelius knew the reason why.

Jacob continued, “You see the Samaritans today are descendants of the Israelites who intermarried themselves with Gentiles. This was way back when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was finally conquered by the Assyrian Empire some six hundred years ago. They exiled most of the Israelites and those that were left which were few, were forced to intermarry with a foreign people, dregs mostly, imported from through out their empire. About two hundred years later or so, the southern Judean kingdom who were also exiled, but this time by the Babylonians, returned to Jerusalem after seventy years. They rebuilt the Temple which was destroyed. At the time of the Temple’s re-dedication, all the Jews gathered including those who considered themselves Jews. They were mostly the Samaritans who kept up some of the Jewish traditions. But because the Samaritans could not prove their Jewish heritage by genealogical account, they were out right ejected from the holy assembly. The Samaritans returned to their country hating the Jews. To spite them, they continued to practice their version of our religion on their holy mountain even up to today; hence the animosity between our people and theirs.”

Simon, who was walking close enough to listen to Jacob’s explanation, also said, “Hear this. I, a Jew and a former Zealot, would rather invite you, a Roman, to my home than any of them.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch12 – part 6

THE MISSION – Capernaum, Nazareth, SidonCG-book-cover-w

When they returned to the encampment near Capernaum, many of the seventy men have returned including Jacob. There was joyous laughter throughout the camp. Jacob was recalling his week long adventure with the young John Mark, who was also recounting his own version to Peter. He spoke excitedly of preaching to an assembled crowd in every village they went.

“I cast out an evil spirit!” He blurted out excitedly. “At first, I was afraid for he was a mad man that dogged us with wild screeching and hysterical laughter. Finally, I pointed at him and commanded the demon in him to come out in the Master’s name… and it worked!”

Before Jacob could finish his story, Jesus called them all to gather around him.

“I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning,” He said. “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”

Then he raised his hands high up and with a joyous voice he called out, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.”

The people joined him in praise. Cornelius, who was much more reserved, closed his eyes and thanked Him silently.

Then Jesus announced to them, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

He then went into the tent as the camp celebrated and privately spoke to the Twelve and Cornelius who was also invited. “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.” [Luke 10:21-24 NASB]

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch12 – part 2

THE MISSION – Capernaum, Nazareth, SidonCG-book-cover-w

“Cornelius,” he says breathlessly. “He calls the disciples together!”

About an hour later, after they ascertained the location, Cornelius, Jacob, and Cestus rode to the same encampment south of Capernaum where Jesus gave his sermon. Cornelius saw that there were about seventy plus men milling around the tent waiting. As they dismounted, Jesus emerged from inside the tent accompanied by Matthew, Simeon and two of the Synagogue’s elders both recent followers. He called all the men together and started to organize them into thirty five pairs including Jacob who was paired with a young man from Judea called John Mark. Seventy men were chosen.

Jesus led them up to the top of a mount with a panoramic view of the whole area. Jesus gestured for all of them to look all around. The view to the other side of the great lake was clear, free of its usual misty haze. Just north of them, nearby, lies Capernaum with Chorazin just a little beyond. To the northeast, Cornelius could just make out Bethsaida. Looking south, he could see Magdala by the shore. More villages can be found among the ridges of Galilee in the west.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” He said quietly to Matthew and Simon who were close to him. The he gazed at Cornelius and said with that knowing smile of his, “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Then in a commanding voice, “Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” They gathered around him to listen to his instructions. “Carry no money belt, no bag, no extra shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’  I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.”

Jesus then moved to the edge of the ridge and turned to the north. “Woe to you, Chorazin!” He declared loudly. He turned north east and also loudly said, “Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you.” Then his focus shifted to down toward Capernaum. “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!”

Then he looked at the men and said, “The one who listens to you listens to me, and the one who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects me rejects the One who sent me.” [Luke 10:1-16 NASB]

Minutes after, down at the camp, most of the men have already left on their mission. Cornelius watched Jacob and a very enthusiastic John Mark take the north road toward Magdala. He fondly noted that Jacob too had a spring in his walk.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch12 – part 1

THE MISSION – Capernaum, Nazareth, SidonCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius awoke on his desk again; this time with a sore neck. For the past few nights, he had been staying up late studying the Isaiah manuscript in his continued search for Jesus’ mission of which he in turn would determine his own task. Since that last Sabbath, Jesus had tasked his twelve disciples to go in pairs throughout the Galilean region all the way to the Mediterranean coast. They were to preach the message that was taught to them and given supernatural authority to heal and cast out demons by Jesus’ name. This gave Cornelius a number of rare opportunities to what he hoped would be answers to many questions that have dogged him. But Jesus had not been as forthcoming and their time together always ended with instruction to seek understanding in the Scriptures especially that of Isaiah.

He looked over his notes from last night. He shook his head as he noted that there were more questions than answers. He wanted to discuss some points with Jacob but remembered that he with Trax in tow went to the market. Feeling hungry, he went down to get some bread, fruits and a warm cup of wine and brought them back to his desk. While chewing on some bread, he picked up another sheet of parchment which had a table of content, a working progress, of what he and Jacob had determined is the second division of Isaiah’s thick manuscript. Jacob had organized it in chapters and sub-chapters. He ran his finger down the list until he came upon the Roman numeral XLII (42) which Jacob had sub-titled ‘Comfort because of God’s Servant’. He opened the Isaiah codex to the matching reference. In the preceding chapters, he had learned more of God’s character and his promise of Israel’s deliverance. By the way of the wording, it is still prophetical and unfulfilled. In those chapters, he did note several obscure references that may point to Jesus but disappointingly inconclusive.

As he read through this chapter, he perks up, for here are passages, though short as it is, that speak of the Messiah of whom God calls ‘My Servant’ and his mission. Again, Cornelius felt justified to find more proof that the Messiah was not just for the deliverance of only the Jews.

He reads, ‘Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.’

In another passage, he finds, ‘I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness. I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You. And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people and as a light to the nations…’

The next three lines, ‘To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.’ [Isaiah 42:1,6,7 NASB]

Cornelius recognized the seventh passage as the same message that Jesus sent to John the Baptist when he inquired to see if Jesus was the ONE. The rest of the chapter spoke of praise to God and again a hint of an establishment of a new covenant, abolishing the old.

He has no doubt that the Messiah’s mission is not just for the Jews but for all people. But the same question comes back to Cornelius’ mind, ‘How? How is Jesus going to bring true justice to the nations? What task awaits him for all of this to come about? And finally, what is his own task to help him?’

As the question popped into his mind, he looks at the thirteenth passage of this chapter and reads, ‘The LORD will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies.’ [Isaiah 42:13 NASB]

At first, the image of Jesus leading a conquering army disturbed him for that was how Rome forced its will to expand its empire. Does this mean that in the near future, he, a Roman Centurion of the highest rank and a Roman citizen as well, will change allegiance to follow him? Maybe even lead his army? It would make sense especially since he of Jesus’ disciples has military command ability. But he shook his head in disbelief. From what he have seen and heard and what he knows of Jesus, so far, does not make sense.

Then he remembered what John the Baptist said in the first time he met him, “This kingdom will not be won by the edge of the sword. No! It will be won by the love of one.”

Cornelius’ analytical mind made him take another closer look at this chapter but this time he pleaded to the one God… a God he had never prayed to before… for understanding. To him, it was the logical thing to do. It was his words after all.

Then another picture of Jesus started to develop in his mind. He is a warrior! But not like Cornelius’ warrior heroes of old like Alexander the Great, Achilles or Hector of Troy. And dare he say, even greater than Tiberius Caesar himself, Emperor of the empire that spans from the isles of Briton, most of Europe, North Africa and up to the eastern borders of Asia.

Cornelius had witnessed great power in him and yet, as it is written in Isaiah, “A bruised reed he will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.” [Isaiah 42:3 NASB]
He knows a leader like this will harbor great enemies from both within and without. “Jesus needs protection!” He conclusively whispers to himself.

Jacob enters in a rush. “Cornelius,” he says breathlessly. “He calls the disciples together!”

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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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