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 3

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

“Cornelius?” Jesus approached him. “I have matters that need attending at Nazareth. Do you wish to accompany us and be welcomed in my mother’s house?” Cornelius nodded his ascent. “Good! Matthew will wait for Peter and the others to return sometime tomorrow. They will meet us there.” Jesus looked at where Cestus waited by the picketed horses. “I suggest that you send your horses back. The trail we take will not be easy for them.”

“Are we going to walk to Nazareth?” He was not looking forward trekking through the Galilean range just by foot.

“No. We have these.” Jesus pointed amusingly to where Simon was leading three gray donkeys from behind the thickets.

“Very well,” Cornelius said laughingly. “I will send Cestus back with the horses.”
Nine hours later, Cornelius’ bottom was sore. Riding this small donkey was a challenge. At first, he rode it like his horse, but without a saddle and only a woolen blanket to separate him from the animal’s ridged backbone, he regretted it. Besides which his feet was hanging very close to the ground and managed to stub his toes on every boulder on the narrow trail. After an hour and much chiding from a laughing Simon, Cornelius relented and shifted his sitting position so that both legs were on one side with one knee resting on the base of the ass’ neck. He slipped off a couple of times but after a while he got the hang of it. Though Cornelius missed riding his horse, he had to grudgingly admit that they did good time. For these small animals were better suited for these rocky terrains.

They traveled mostly southwest from the Capernaum basin over the Galilean Range. By early night fall, they skirted around the north base of Mount Tabor and finally came upon the Old King’s Road which would take them to Nazareth. Cornelius recalled that this road, which was rebuilt by Roman standards, was as old as the time when the ancient Chaldeans raided the independent city states of this region. It was one of a network of established caravan routes as far as the great cities of Babylon and of Nineveh which was no more. This particular route led south through Gaza all the way into Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest king of Babylon, led his vast armies down this road vanquishing what was left of the Philistines, all of Egypt and eventually Judah and Jerusalem. When they arrived at the house of where Jesus grew up, Mariam, his mother, was there waiting expectantly.

Cornelius was awakened by heated voices coming from the outside. By the angle of the sunlight streaming through the window, he surmised that the sun had been up for about two hours. He overslept. He groaned as he lifted his aching body off the sleeping palette. He and Simon slept in the wood crafting workshop. Simon, who was already up and about, left food for him on the worktable. Hearing the raised voices again, he goes out to investigate and found Jesus sitting on a pile of roughly hewn logs confronted by his brothers. Simon was standing slightly behind Jesus with his arms crossed and a stern expression.

“In three weeks is the Festival. You must go to the Festival, brother!” exclaimed James. “Many have already left you here but in Jerusalem, there are many there that are awaiting for you to perform your miraculous act. Think of what you can achieve.” As he was saying this, he was gesturing with wriggling fingers above his head.

“It is not yet my time,” Jesus responded quietly.

“Brother, it was you that chose this road. You openly proclaimed yourself to the public. What talk is this that it is not yet your time? Are you afraid that the Pharisees are out to get you? Then how much more should you go down to Jerusalem and show yourself to the people? After all, no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly.”

So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune.”

“What are you saying?”

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” The brothers were about to object but he raised his hand up for silence and said, “Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because my time has not yet fully come. But soon it will be and you will understand.” [John 7:7-8 NASB]

Cornelius stood aside as the brothers, shaking their heads, went into the workshop.

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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 2

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

“The wind on the sea is coming from the northwest. It will be a hard pull to Capernaum. The sails will not help us. My brother, Andrew, knows these waters, he and Simon will help your men row.” Peter gestured for the women to come closer. “Our boat is full. May these women take passage with you under your protection? This is Mary of Magdala and her cousin Elizabeth.”

“Of course, they can ride with us.”

“Many thanks. Come, we must go. It will be a hard pull in this wind.”

They have been rowing against the wind for two hours. Cornelius relieved Simon on the oar and already his arms felt rubbery after half an hour of pulling. Cornelius peered toward the shore that they came from, though it was still three hours until sunrise, he could still make out distinctive markings of the beach and the hills behind it. He determined that they were less than two miles from the same eastern shore. The north shore, on the other hand, cannot be seen, so that means the wind had been pushing them south. Cestus and Simon were exhausted and resting in the stern. The women, Jacob and Trax were huddled together low at the bow trying to stay out of the wind and spray. As Cornelius looked around, he could just make out the other boat some twenty yards from them. Seeing that he and the others needed rest, he stood up and called out to the other boat. He signaled them to come closer so that they will not be separated. After a while both boats were tied together.

“We are all exhausted,” he spoke to Peter. “Let us rest for about an hour.”

“Yes, I agree. This northwesterly wind seems to be picking up even more. I fear we may have to ride this wind to the south and hopefully we could use the sails in the morning.”

But then about half an hour later, the wind and the choppy water calmed down around them. For Cornelius, it was uncanny. He could hear the wind howling above him but all he can feel is a slight breeze. He could tell that the inland sea was choppy but the boats felt like they were riding on gentle rollers. Peter roused the men to man the oars and take advantage of the lull. They were about to untie the boats from each other, when one of the other women in Peter’s boat screamed out in fear. Cornelius looked over to see what is the matter. Some of the disciples started to point toward the east shore. As he looked, he could not see a thing. Then from behind a high rolling wave, he could just make out something glowing. At first, he thought it was something floating in the water but then it was upright and heading towards them.

As it came closer, Cornelius could feel the hairs on the back of his neck standing, as he looked at what can only be a glowing apparition walking slowly on the surface of the water. Nothing in all his experience prepared him for this. He stood there frozen as both men and women called out in fear.

Then the apparition spoke in a quiet voice, “Do not be afraid! It is I.”

No more did Cornelius see a ghost but Jesus himself calmly and casually walking on the rolling waves. Cornelius burst out in joyous laughter at this incredible sight.

Peter called out, “Master, if it is you, command me to walk on the water to you.”

Jesus stopped and said, “Come!”

Then Peter, with no hesitation, jump out of the boat but instead of going under both his feet landed like as if it were on solid ground. Jesus was about ten yards out. Incredibly, Peter was walking towards him on the water. He was about half way there when spray from a breaking wave touched his face. He started to frantically look around in panic at the rough sea and wind. Then, like someone falling through a thin layer of ice, Peter plunged into the churning sea yelling to be saved. Jesus quickly pulled him out and steadied him as he was standing again on the water. He and a grateful soaking wet Peter climbed back into the boat.

Jesus then said to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Jesus calmed the sea. The winds have blown both boats so far south that Jesus allowed them to row to a beach in the vicinity of one of the Decapolis cities named Hippos.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch10 – part 7

THE SIGN – Wilderness East of the Lake of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

“What you have heard this night, keep it guarded only among yourselves. The time is not yet right. But it will soon be.” Jesus paused and closed his eyes in contemplation for a long minute. Then he opened his eyes and said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

The men began murmuring among themselves. Peter stood up and requested Jesus if he could talk to him privately. Cornelius watched them walk not too far, just at the edge of the light of the camp fire. At first, the big man was calmly whispering things to him. But then he started gesturing angrily. After awhile, Peter was heard angrily saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” The men went silent. Jesus was walking back with Peter wanting to talk some more. Then Jesus angrily pushed Peter back, turned his back to him and said, “Get behind me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind in God’s interests, but man’s.” [Matthew 16:22,23 NASB]

Peter’s face first showed shock and anger, and then realization on the implication of Jesus’ words. Shock was soon replaced by shame. The once big proud man who was minutes earlier praised for his faith stood there humbled with his head down in dejection.

This is the first time that Cornelius has seen Jesus angry. But as quick as it came, Jesus’ face was composed. He went up to Peter and placed his hand on his shoulder and guided him back to the circle of men. He looked at each face and said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it.”

Jesus sat and everyone else followed suit. Then he said, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” [Matthew 16:24-28 NASB]
Cornelius returned to his own campsite. Jacob, Trax and Cestus were already sound asleep. As he wrapped himself in his blanket, looking up onto the starry sky, he tried to think about Jesus’ parting words. But to no avail. He finally gave in to sleep with one question lingering in his mind, ‘Why the cross?’

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