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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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch10 – part 3

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

Jesus raised his hand and everyone went silent. “Do you know what I see?” Everyone seemed to lean toward him in anticipation. In a quiet voice, he said, “Sheep with no shepherd.” Then he slowly walked back to the encampment.

The disciples were whispering among themselves as they followed Jesus back to the encampment. Then from the farthest group an excited buzz was quickly spreading among the followers. Cornelius started to hear snatches of what was being spread around: ‘Will he claim himself King of Israel?’

Cestus, who was looking somewhat confused, asked Jacob, “I do not understand the excitement? What is the meaning behind his words, ‘sheep with no shepherd’?”

Jacob explained, “In our holy Scriptures, it is written that when the nation of Israel was wandering the wilderness for forty years and the Prophet Moses who was very old went to God and pleaded that He appoint a man over the congregation, who will lead them to the promised land, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd. It is also written that the Prophet Micaiah, during the time when Israel was divided, spoke unto King Jehoshaphat that he saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd. He was speaking about the northern tribes of Israel who was then ruled by the apostate King Ahab.”

Cornelius interjected, “Do these people think that Jesus was making a claim to be king?”

“It is the hope that the Messiah would take up his rightful place as ruler. If he openly declares himself Messiah, then the people will rally around him.” Jacob paused in his thinking. “But I do not think he will make that claim and there are people here who know it! They are abiding their time. Waiting… for a sign… a big miracle…”

Cornelius finished his thought and said, “… for them to force the issue and declare him king whether he liked it or not. This is what I fear.”

For the rest of the afternoon, Jesus and his twelve disciples went among the people. He preached about the kingdom of heaven again in parables. As he moved among them, he would often pause to comfort the sick and the infirm. Most of that time, they were so happy to be just around him that when he walked away they were not even aware that they were healed. He laughed with them and cried with them. In a deep gully between two hills, Jesus came upon ten weary lepers who took refuge in it away from the taunts of the masses. The crowd was dismayed when he, closely followed by Peter, John and James went down into the gully to speak to them. He approached them until he was among them. Words could not be heard for Jesus was speaking to them quietly. When he climbed out of the gully what followed him were not ten decrepit men with skin eating disease but whole men.

The next day was pretty much the same.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch10 – part 2

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

The patchy sail was drawing well on a westerly breeze. The inland sea was not too choppy and the sky was slightly overcast. The boat was an old one and double the price of its original value. Cornelius was at first speculatively concerned about a growing pool of water along its transom even after Jacob’s assurance that all boats leak. But seeing that it was manageable with Trax bailing the water out every so often, Cornelius forgot his initial nervousness. Cestus was on the tiller and quite adept in handling a boat since he grew up in a fishing village. He chose two other men, Nacob, the Syrian and Lyca, the Cypran.

It was around noon when they reached the eastern shore. There were six other boats drawn up on the pebbly beach. Cornelius was amazed of what he could only describe as a multitude which has gathered with more still coming.

After working their way through the throng, Cornelius found Jesus on the tallest hill surrounded by his closest followers. As they came closer, it was Jesus who came forward to greet them. Though some faces showed disapproval.

“Welcome my friends.” Jesus said.

Cornelius took a step closer. “Teacher, I have grave news. John the Baptist is dead!”

“Yes, I know. His followers came to me yesterday. Be not concerned, Cornelius. His death was not in vain.”

“Teacher! All these people…?”

“Yes! I came here to be with my disciples in solitude and to ask of my Father in heaven of his will. When we arrived many have already gathered. I received my answer.”

Then Jacob asked, “Rabbi? What is the answer?”

Jesus turned to Jacob, “Do you not see?”

Jesus then beckoned them all to follow him to a ridge where they can see the hills and valleys covered with milling people. Cornelius calculated that there may be about eight even ten thousand people that have gathered.

“What do you see?”

A number of his followers called out their answers, “a multitude…”; “a nation…”; “followers of Jesus…”; and so on. Cornelius even heard someone, a Zealot, more than likely, call out “…an army for God!”

Jesus raised his hand and everyone went silent. “Do you know what I see?” Everyone seemed to lean toward him in anticipation. In a quiet voice, he said, “Sheep with no shepherd.” Then he slowly walked back to the encampment.

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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 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 3

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

The next day, Cornelius was at his desk writing his report when Cestus entered.

“Sir,” Cestus said. “One of our spies has reported that the Nazarene was not at the house of the fisherman. He was told He snuck out in the middle of the night. Even his followers were looking for him.”

“Very well. Have him go back to the house and follow the fisherman.”

“Yes, sir!”

Just as he was about to leave, Cornelius inquired, “Have you seen the lad? He does not seem to be out and about this morning.”

“He is down below, sick in bed again. He has been in and out of bed sick three times already this past month.”

“Send for the physician. I will be down in a while to see him.”

A few minutes later, He found Trax in bed being fed some broth by Jacob.

“Hello lad. How are you feeling?” He puts his hand on his head. His head was hot with fever.

Trax smiled up at him and then made a face at the taste of whatever Jacob was spooning into him.

“It is supposed to taste bad or else it would not be good for you.”

Trax gestured with his hands that he’d rather it be bad for him. Cornelius laughed out loud and tousled the boy’s curly hair. He was concerned for the boy but it seems like Trax will be fine in a day or so. Then he will be running around like himself.

Later that morning, Cestus told him that the spy he sent to watch Simon Peter reported that many people from the city including the one he was to follow were heading out to the hills about seven miles south-west of Capernaum over looking the inland sea.

“Get out of that armor, Cestus. Choose three men all in nondescript clothing and have them saddle six horses. We are going out there.”

Cornelius went back into the house to talk to Jacob.

“It looks like Jesus of Nazareth is out on the hills south-west of the city. As usual he has attracted a large crowd. Do you wish to come?” Jacob looked at him eagerly but then looked over at an already sleeping Trax. “Do not worry about Trax. The physician will be here later and Porcius will look after him. He is fond of him too.”

So, they rode out.

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