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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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch7 – part 1

THE HEALING – Capernaum, GalileeCG-book-cover-w
For the next two hours, Jesus expounded on this same theme by presenting what the people already knew through their traditions and everyday beliefs then elevated their point of focus to go beyond from what they normally do to that of what would truly please God. There were a lot of hard lessons to swallow in that sermon on the mount. Cornelius was not sure that much of what Jesus exhorted is attainable. In one part, he talked about loving the enemy and pray for those that persecute you. Cornelius could not help but look at the face of Simon the Zealot. He was almost sure that he would reject this teaching off hand and walk away. At first, Simon gave the teacher a questionable look. Then he looked down as if to contemplate on it. With his eyes closed, he subtly shook his head. Cornelius wondered if that was regret written on his face. Then Simon lifted his head determined to hear more. Jesus was truly a master teacher.

When Jesus finished with sermon, the hillside again erupted with people talking in amazement. As Jesus and the twelve made their way through the praising crowd, Cornelius motioned to Jacob and Cestus that they should return to their horses. As they were climbing the hill, it was Cestus who broke the silence.

“Never in my whole life, have I ever heard anything like that before. I do not know what to make of what I am feeling. On one hand, I feel a sense that everything I have done was wrong. While on the other, I sense there is hope for me yet. I… I cannot explain it.”

Then a noise of shouting people behind them made them turn around. They saw on the opposite hill from them a man fighting his way through the crowd. He was screaming something but it could not be heard from where they stood. The crowded parted avoiding to be near him. Cornelius saw that he was making a beeline towards Jesus who was already crossing the small stream in the bottom of the hill. Cornelius’ first thought was that this was an assassination attempt against the rabbi. So, Cornelius and Cestus raced back down the hill to get between Jesus and this man. They plowed through the crowd, jumped the stream then stopped where Cornelius gauged where the assassin was heading. Then he heard the man’s croaking shout, “Make way! Unclean! Make way!”

Cornelius and Cestus were both aghast when they saw that the would be assassin was a leper heading their way. They quickly jumped out of the way as he painfully hobbled through. Cornelius gagged at the passing smell of sweat, unbathed odor and rotting flesh. The people were cursing him, throwing stones and hitting his back with long sticks. Soon, he crumpled to the ground under the barage. The leper was decrepitedly thin and bony. He noticed that the rags that clung to his tortured body were once the clothing worn by a rich man. A thrown stick snagged the cloth that covered his face revealing it filled with bloody festering sores and a nose that had rotted away. The anger and shouting increased and so did the bombardment. They were going to kill this man. Cornelius was about to intervene when a large burly shape came roaring in and swinging his staff in a mad violent circle. The people stopped their beating and backed away, forming a circular clearing, from this bear of a man. It was Simon Peter, the fisherman. Then behind him the crowd parted to let another man through. It was Jesus.

He calmly walked 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. Jesus smiled shaking his head and then turned his attention to the leper who slowly and painfully got up.

He 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.”

The crowd simultaneously gasped as Jesus did the unthinkable. He unhesitatingly reached down to help him up and softly said, “I am willing; be cleansed.”

What Cornelius witnessed was beyond anything he had ever experienced. What at first was a leprous creature lying on the ground with a flesh eating disease was now a whole man standing before Jesus restored to full health. This was no trick. The process of the healing took place as Jesus touched him until he straightened up. The disciples surrounded the man, removed the rags that he wore, and covered him with a robe. Jesus and the disciples led him to a large tent among a copse of trees a short distant away. The people were in a festive mood. There was dancing and singing.
It was late in the afternoon when they returned to the house. Porcius and Flavius were there waiting for them.

“Where have you been? I have sent some men to look for you.”

“What is wrong?”

“It’s the boy! He is dying.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch6 – part 6

SERMON ON THE MOUNT – Hills South of CapernaumCG-book-cover-w

So, another question rose in his mind, “Who are the recipients of God’s blessing in Jesus’ sermon?”

Again systematically, Cornelius went down the list: the poor in spirit; those who mourn; the meek; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the merciful and the pure in heart; the peacemakers; and the persecuted for the sake of righteousness.

What amazed him was that Jesus revealed a concept within a series of riddles that just turned his sense of reality upside down. Jesus’ ten riddles expound on who truly are the recipients of God’s blessing and Cornelius does not fit with any of them. He came from a world that does not consider them successful. As a Roman, with the expanse of the empire covering most of Europe, Africa and Asia as a testimony, he was brought up to make something of himself not value meekness or to be poor in spirit. He was taught to push himself to the front of others, to promote oneself, and climb the ladder to success even over the bodies of his fellows. For him, the way to inherit the earth is to get ahead. Yet, herein lay the paradox. In the eyes of God, it is the meek, not the proud, who will inherit the earth. It is the poor in spirit, not those who are self-sufficient, who are in the kingdom of heaven.

Cornelius always knew that there was something lacking in his life but he could not put his finger on it. The words of Jesus may be what he sought especially the last riddle that appealed to him in some way but even that he could not peg down. The last riddle calls one to rejoice and be glad, not when things are going good, but quite the opposite. In fact, it challenges the one who is being persecuted to be happy regardless the pain they are feeling and knowing full well that he will not taste the rewards in this lifetime. He would have loved to meditate on this concept some more but then he heard Jesus’ voice again.

He opened his eyes and saw that Jesus was again addressing the crowd to listen. He spoke to them of how, as the chosen people of God, they should boldly shine out to the world and be that beacon to bring people to Him. A number of people called out to him asking who he was. His response to them was…
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” [Matt 5:17-18 NASB]

Cornelius found it interesting that as the people clamored for him to identify himself as the Messiah, he would not entertain them with a direct answer. The people, who were probably cajoled by the zealots, desire a fighting leader like in the days of the Judges. But Jesus emphasized that the Scriptures must be fulfilled. If Jesus is the promised Messiah, then there are things based in the Law that he has to accomplish first. In many ways, this is how the true Messiah would be revealed.

“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”   [Matthew 5:19-20 NASB]

This declaration surprised Cornelius even more. Though it mirrored the riddles that Jesus started with, he openly emphasized that the best of them, the teachers and lawyers of the Law, failed to live up to it. And he challenged the people to live better than them if they want to enter the kingdom of heaven. Cornelius felt both relieved and concerned at the same time. He was relieved because these were not the words of a man who would ally himself with the shortsightedness of the zealots. Jesus wanted to bring change to the people but it was clear to him that Jesus will do this from the inside out. The concern was that Cornelius want him to succeed but his last statement polarized him from the religious leadership. Sure enough, as he searched the crowd, he saw them gathered together whispering to each other casting angry glances at the teacher on the rock.

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