THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch21 – part 1

A NIGHT OF REGRETS – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

It was late in the afternoon, Cornelius’ bottom was sore as he was driving the first wagon for hours on a bumpy road some twenty miles from the city. He was beginning to wonder if Barabbas was going to hit soon. Then Cornelius saw a signal on a ridge, a reflected light. That means Barabbas was spotted. He kicked the back of the bench.

“Get ready men.”

Groaning and metal scraping against metal was audible under the tarp. Cornelius signaled the other wagon which was driven by Lyca. They were coming around a bend and was rolling down a dip when about fifteen shouting men brandishing crude weapons jumped out from hiding. As soon as they appeared, he and the hidden soldiers went into action. Cornelius kicked a brigand in the face as he tried to climb on board. He then jumped on another one and quickly disarmed him. The skirmish was quickly over with a few who escaped but was later captured by a closing ring of soldiers. It was Flavius who brought a surprise prisoner all trussed up for Cornelius.

“We caught this one two miles out. He said he was a farmer on his way to his home. He had no weapon, so I almost let him go, when out came Nacob and said that we captured Barabbas. Nacob was trailing him from Ephraim. Well, Cornelius, here he is.”
It was late when they rolled into the Fortress Antonias with the prisoners. He was about to ride back to Emmaus when he heard his name called. It was Jacob and Trax.

“Jacob, what are you doing here?”

“We came looking for you. The guards would not let us in, but the Lady Pheobe, who was returning with the Governor’s wife, recognized us. It was she that gave us leave to wait for you here.”

“But why did you come looking for me?”

“We were staying with the kin of Simon the Leper in the city of David for the night. We were about to retire when John Mark burst in with his clothes all torn. He said they have the Master!”

“Who got Jesus?”

“He was not very clear, but he thinks there were some Temple guards there. That was all we could get from him, I’m afraid.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch20 – part 3

STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK – Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Everyone was up and shoving each other. Some of the angry priest were calling out for the guards. People were saying he is the Messiah. Others were calling to have him stoned for blasphemy. It was this time of the chaos that Jesus was whisked away by his disciples. They went down the Eastern stairs to the winding ramps. then crossed the Kidron bridge. When they were climbing a trail to the top of the Mount of Olives, Cestus came up to Cornelius from the rear.

“Sir, no one is following us,” Cestus reported. “Sir? What happened back there? If I didn’t know any better, I think he purposely goaded those people back there.”

“Yes, he did.”

“Sir, that is a little odd. You would think if he is to become a leader of these people, he would not alienate the ruling class. Did I get it right, sir?”

“If he was just any ordinary person.”

“Yes, sir. I see.”

When they reached the top of the Mount of Olives, one of the disciples gestured towards the city. From their vantage point, they can see above Eastern ramparts of the Temple Mount into the Court of Nations and the Temple Complex in the center. The Temple itself rose high up with its massive doors overlaid with gold flanked by two tall bronze pillars were very visible from where they stood. A thick column of smoke rose from within the Temple complex. That would be from the daily burnt offerings on the equally massive bronze altar in the Court of the Priests. On the opposite side of the court from the altar would be the giant metal basin sitting on twelve bronze bull statuettes called the Sea.

“Master, see how magnificent the Temple and the other buildings are.”

When they looked at Jesus to see his reaction, he was weeping.

He cried out, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’” [Matthew 23:37-39 NASB]

“If only you had known on this day what would bring you peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” [Luke 19:42-44 NASB]

As Cornelius listened to his last statement, he pictured three Roman Legions surrounding the entire city. High embarkments would be dug around the perimeter. Water and food resources would be cut off to cause starvation and thirst and bring the city into submission. He now knew that somewhere in the near future, the Jews and Rome will come to a head. And Rome will prevail. For Jesus said that ‘they will not leave in you one stone upon another’. Roman soldiers will tear down the Temple structure probably to get at all the gold used on the whole building.

Philipp asked, “Master, tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

“Come with me among the trees and we will talk.”

Cornelius would have joined them in the shade but a whistle from down the hill stopped him. It was a signal from Cestus who was watching if they were followed. Cornelius spotted Cestus about a hundred feet down the hill gesturing at a lone man jogging up the same winding trail they were on. Ten minutes had past, when Cestus was leading Lyca who was panting for breath.

“Lyca, how did you find us?” asked Cornelius.

“Sir, I knew you were going to be in the Temple. So, I entered through the Western gate and saw the Nazarene talking. I was working my way through the crowd when everybody erupted and started jostling me about. I caught sight of you going into the columns but then lost you in the chaos. It was by luck that I spotted your group crossing the bridge and going up here.

Sir, we got word from Nacob up in Ephraim. He found Barabbas in a tavern boasting about being soon to be very rich and being hailed as a patriot. He even went as far as to describe how he and his men will hit a Roman Revenue wagon disguised as a merchant wagon.”

“Sir, your lure worked!” Cestus said satisfactorally.

“Yes… very well. We left the horses at Bethany. We’ll go there first. Cestus, you ride to Flavius at the city’s West gate and get him and his men moving. He already knows the plan. Lyca, you stay with me. We’re riding to Emmaus and commandeer a wagon.”

Cornelius saw that Jesus had finished talking to the disciples. He asked if he could talk to him.

“Lord, I have to leave for awhile. I will try to catch up to you for the Passover meal.”

“Go, Cornelius. Do your duty. Whatever comes, always fall back on your faith.”

Cornelius told Jacob and Trax to go ahead and stay with the group. Then he said his farewells and together with Lyca and Cestus jogged back to Bethany. Half an hour later, Cestus was riding to the city while he and Lyca was riding hard to Emmaus. By the middle of the night, Cornelius and Lyca were on the road with two empty wagons.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch20 – part 2

STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK – Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Angry murmurs were coming from the Pharisees and scribes, while confusion was coming from his own group. They were caught off guard. They didn’t expect and understand why he was attacking them. Jesus criticized them for taking the place of honor at banquets, for wearing such ostentatious clothing, for encouraging people to call them Rabbi. For this he reminded the people that it was not them who are their true leader but only Christ. He was telling people that the true servants of God are not them who exult themselves but those that humbles himself. Some of the Pharisees were loudly protesting, while some were trying to maintain decorum. His own followers were probably relieved that things were calming down. But apparently, he was not done yet. This time, he turned to Pharisees and scribes and delivered some very scathing rebukes each attacking their hypocrisies.

Every one of the rebukes started with “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” For every ‘woe’ shouted Cornelius cringed knowing what an explosive situation they’re in. He signaled Cestus to be at a ready. He checked on his dagger that was hidden under the sash of his back but decided not to pull it out. They positioned themselves on Jesus’ left flank two steps lower from him. The Twelve formed a protective circle while there were about twenty or more other disciples between them and the crowd. Cornelius also sent Jacob, Trax and some of the women to retreat far behind Jesus deeper among the colonades.

Like the pounding of a nail into wood, every rebuke touched a sensitive nerve most in their pride, but some in their conscience. When Jesus accused the Pharisees for being energetic to make proselytes of the Jewish religion and when they succeed, Jesus charged, “You make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” In other words, the Pharisees and their proselytes both would end up in eternal damnation. Most protested by jeering and calling Jesus a devil. But there a few who were notably disturbed.

On Jesus’ third woe, as he ridiculed the trickery of the Pharisees, who held that swearing by the gold of the temple bound the oath. Just as Jesus was denouncing them as both fools and blind, the increasing angry commotions attracted the attention of the High Priest. From the Temple, he strode through the crowd with his priests making way and joined the already seething members of the Sanhedrin. He had a satisfied smirk in his face.

Jesus continued on with four more rebukes from their hypocrisy in tithing to finally their hypocrisy to honor the prophets forgetting that their ancestors were the ones that killed them and that even now they are doing the same by plotting to kill him.

Then with dramatic flair, Jesus points ominously at the Pharisees, the scribes and the High Priest, and declared, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” [Matthew 23:33-36]

Like the breaking of the damn, the court yard broke out with indignant voices.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch19 – part 2

ENTER THE KING – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

The entourage entered the Eastern gate of the Temple Mount base after crossing a narrow bridge that spanned the Kidron Creek. They followed three winding ramps up until went through another gate. Jesus dismounted and James tied off the animals. Then they climbed a set of stairs unto the Eastern wing of Solomon’s Colonnade. Already Cornelius could hear the sounds of selling and bartering. As they emerged from among the columns, the temple court was an unattractive scene of a busy marketplace.

Cornelius looked over at Jesus and saw him actually composed. Peter was whispering in his ears, probably trying to talk him from doing what he did the last time. Jesus turned his head toward the Temple complex where a group of priests were already watching him. Jesus then looked at him and smiled ever so slightly. Cornelius knew he was going to do something drastic.

Jesus pulled up his sleeves and stepped over to the nearest money changer’s table and started to tip it over. Coins scattered everywhere and the money-changer scrambled after them. He went next to a peddler of birds and tore into the soft baskets releasing the birds that took flight. He turns over more tables then turned his attention on breaking the pens that held the animals and drive the corrupt merchants away. All the while he was causing chaos, he was directing these very same words he used before at the growing gatherings of priests.

“My House shall be a House of Prayer,’ but you have made it a Den of Thieves.”

A squad of Temple guards were dispatched to arrest him but were thwarted by an excited and ever so growing crowds that surrounded Jesus hailing him the son of David. As the dust settled, Jesus went back up the steps of the collonade and sat down to teach the people. He taught until early evening and retired back to Bethany.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch19 – part 1

ENTER THE KING – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Two days later, a big crowd gathered expectantly on the road outside the village of Bethany. The road which was already thick with foot traffic ran from Jericho down unto the Jordan River Valley going wounding up the Judean Highlands to Jerusalem. Cornelius, dressed as a local, waited with his group. Many on the pilgrimage were singing.

“Jacob? What are those songs they’re singing?” asked Cestus.

“Oh, those are the Psalms that Moses commanded us to sing on the way to Festival.”

“Look. Here they come,” Cornelius said. He was looking towards the Bethany gate as Jesus and his disciples emerged.

The people cheered and clapped. Jesus greeted many as they walked among the crowd. But they have not moved on the road to the city. Cornelius worked his way through the crowd by Jesus’ side. But before he could ask, Jesus smiled and whispered.

“We wait to fulfill righteousness.” He looked toward a side track that led to a small village. After a while, Cornelius recognized two of Jesus’ followers coming from that village leading a donkey trailed by a colt.

“Of course, it is a prophecy from Zecharia,” Jacob whispered to Cornelius. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” [Zecharia 9:9]

Peter and James placed their robes on the donkey and helped Jesus climbed on. Just as Peter and James were about to lead the donkey on the road, the men in the crowd took their own robes off and laid them on the road while the women and children tore palm branches off and waved them at him as he rode by. For the two miles to get to the city, it was like this; singing, dancing, clapping and the waving of palms.

Upon entering the Kidron Valley where there was a massive encampment, the people there too joined in. They slowly made their way, through the throng. Young people and children went ahead of the procession shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” [Matthew 21:9]

Among the crowd, there were some of the Pharisees who tried unsuccessfully to quiet those shouting out their praise. They finally pleaded with Jesus saying, “Teacher, rebuke them for they say.”

But Jesus joyously laughed and answered them, “I tell you, if these become silent, the very stones on the ground will cry out!”   [Luke 19:37-40]
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch18 – part 4

THE ANNOINTING ANSWER – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

They returned to the table. Jesus was lounging on his side talking to old man Simon and Lazarus, when young Mary, sister of Martha came in followed by the other women. She paused just at the threshold. In her hands was a slender white alabaster jar with a golden stopper. She then walked over to Jesus caressing the jar over her heart. She looks down and no words were exchanged. Jesus nodded ever so slightly to her. With a smile in her face, she gracefully knelt and unstoppered the jar. Cornelius smelled perfume. She then poured some on his head and her fingers gently combed it into his hair. The other women then sounded wavering, high-pitched tongue sound which they do as a sign of honor. Mary then poured some on Jesus’ feet and used her long hair to gently wipe them.
Abruptly, Judas Iscariot stood up quite indignantly speaking out loud.
“What is this waste? We could have sold this perfume for three hundred denarii and used the money to feed a multitude of poor.”
“Let her alone. Why do you bother her so?” Jesus said calmly. “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. Mary has done a good deed to me. For when she poured this perfume on me, she was preparing me for burial. I tell you all the truth that wherever this gospel is preached in the world, what she did for me will be spoken of in memory of her.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch18 – part 3

THE ANNOINTING ANSWER – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

It was the night before the beginning of the Passover Festival. The city is overflowing with Jewish pilgrims. The Kidron Valley, just under the gaze of the Eastern battlements of the Temple Mount, was startingly packed with multicolored tents. Smoke from thousands of camp fires formed a hazy blanket that rose as high as the controversial aqueduct that crossed the valley from the Mount of Olives. Cornelius, again with Jacob, Trax and Cestus were invited to the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany. When they arrived from Emmaus, Cornelius was happy to find Jesus and the Twelve, the women who always provided support to the group, and a few other followers like young John Mark. Also present were a few Pharisees friendly to Jesus. Nicodemus was there talking to one that Cornelius didn’t recognize. He was a little taller than Nicodemus and brawny but not like Peter. When he saw him, they approached.

“Centurion, allow me to introduce you to a colleague and friend of mine, Joseph of Arimathea.”

“Oh, yes!” He said as Cornelius grasped his forearm with a smile, “We have common acquaintances. I believe you know the Lady Procula and her hand maiden, Lady Pheobe.”

“Most interesting ladies,” chuckled Joseph. “They have such a zeal to learn. I also have heard that you yourself is a student of the Law and a proselyte. Wonderful!”

Then Simon the former leper called for everyone to the pavilion.

“My brethren, we have come unto miraculous times. Even more so, here in this household. Just a week ago, my son was buried four long days, but now, see my son!”

Old man Simon hugged his son, Lazarus. There was clapping and hugging until the men broke out in celebratory music and Jewish line dancing. Cornelius and Cestus decided not to join in the dance, however Jacob could not keep hold of an excited Trax who jumped right in. They were clearly enjoying the show and was clapping away with the rhythm. This went on for several minutes until Martha came from another part of the pavilion and rang a gong like bell to announce the evening meal. Some of the men moved a number of low tables to the center of the pavilion. Cushions were quickly strewn around the tables and the men started to lounge on them.

Cornelius was content to take the furthest table when Jesus came and led him to the main table. It was the largest there and that it could accommodate about twenty or so people. Jesus led him to a place next to him. Cornelius looked at the faces around the table. Jesus was on his right with old man Simon, Lazarus and a few men he didn’t know sitting next. To his left, the Twelve, Simon, Andrew, Peter, Judas, John, Philip, Matthew, James, Matthew, Thomas, Nathanael and Thaddeus. Before him were bowls of flat breads, salt and a pale yellowish paste that tasted tangy. Simon said before they bring out the main meal, they start with this. Simon broke off some flat bread then dunked it first on the paste then in the salt. He waited for Cornelius to follow suit before they ate it. Cornelius enjoyed it. He was in his fourth serving when Martha and an army of women brought in the rest of the hot food to all the tables.

As the dinner progressed and conversations got more busier, Jesus leans over to Cornelius and said, “Come, I’ve sensed you wanted to talk to me all night. Let us retreat over there for awhile.”

They went over to an adjacent courtyard and sat on opposite benches. Peter and Simon probably figured out that they needed privacy, so they stationed themselves to the entry way of the courtyard.

“I see you have found the passages I told you to find in Isaiah,” Jesus knowingly said. “But you feel you are at a lost.”

“Yes, very much so,” Cornelius said. Then he started telling him everything what he felt and shared his frustration to Jesus who had that silent power to just listen, encouraging him to speak with no reservations.

After what seem a long while, he finally asked, “Lord, I am still unclear on what I am suppose to do?”

“My Father had shown those things for you as a way of understanding and preparation, but it is for you to act or not act. Do not despair, Cornelius, you will do what is right in the long run. Let us return, for you must witness what comes next.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch18 – part 2

THE ANNOINTING ANSWER – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius quickly wrote on his notes, ‘Can this mean a public execution?’ Shaking his head, He read on.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.

This passage had clear elements of an execution. Being pierced could be as nails are being driven into hands and feet. Cornelius knew that the hands would be stretched out high and wide while the feet would be precariously nailed together on a tiny step with the legs slightly bent. Being crushed is the torturous effect of those under crucifixion. When hung like this, the lungs are crushed under the pressure. The effect is like drowning. The passage also stipulated beatings and whippings.

Cornelius was clearly not wanting this to happen to Jesus. But then, the same passage that detailed how it was going to happen in a gruesome way, also showed that we, that is, mankind will benefit. It was a redemption. It would be he who will be pierced and crushed, instead of us who truly deserved it more because of sin. Him being scourge instead of us would bring us healing and wholeness. He had to read on.

All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

He remembered when he fed those thousands on the Eastern side of Galilee, he called them sheep with no shepherd. When sheep have no guidance, they always wander, each to their own direction. There it is again. ‘The LORD’ that is God had purposely set up his son to go through torture and finally death. Cornelius was really having a hard time with his emotions. Intellectually, he now knows that this is why Jesus was born. He is going to offer himself to die in a gruesome way. He tasked me to find these passages and accept it. He continued on.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.

The words of John the Baptist came back to haunt him, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’ He read on.

By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

There it is. ‘His grave!’ A prophetic conclusion in his mind. He is losing to his emotions again. He failed to save John. Does this mean he has to let Jesus die too?

But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

Cornelius almost lost to anger when he read that God was pleased, but then the intellect part of him took over when he saw something in the rest of the passage.

He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

Here lies an enigma? How is it that God’s good pleasure will prosper in a dead man’s hands? He could not reason it out. But instead of building up to more heated emotion, Cornelius looked up at his tent ceiling and closed his eyes. In his mind, he prayed the way Jesus taught, ‘Our Father in Heaven, what does this mean?’ It was his first prayer. He had never had a need even in the heat of battle. He wasn’t sure if he will get an answer, but he felt himself get calmer. He opened his eyes and read the last two passages.

As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

[Passages in italics are from Isaiah 53]

Cornelius smiled with a sense of satisfaction, for these passages gave him some hope but yet its full truth still lies beyond his comprehension. He glanced at his cot and it beckoned him to sleep. He crawled onto it and fell asleep with the reassurance of another day.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 8

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

So, Peter and Andrew positioned themselves on the right side of the stone. The round stone was resting in the bottom of an inclined groove carved into the rock. Grunting profusely, they rolled the heavy stone up the slight incline, revealing the small opening into the dark chamber. Except for Jesus, those on the ledge and steps as well as those gathered below the ledge covered their noses and mouths from the obvious smell of decay. They quickly retreated down the steps leaving Jesus alone on the ledge.

Then Jesus raised his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

Then he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”

The crowd was silent. When after awhile nothing seem to be happening, some in the crowd started snickering. But then a woman gasped and with a trembling hand pointing, she said, “Look!”

Cornelius had to take a few steps back to get a better look inside of the tomb. At first, all he saw was pitch darkness. Then he could just make out some slight grayish movement deep inside. He felt the hairs on his back stand up. The crowd was startled with a few women screaming out loud as a bound hand came out of the darkness grasping the entrance wall. Jesus reached in, grasped the other hand and helped the struggling bound man out. It was Lazarus alive after four days in the tomb. He was wrapped from head to foot with linen wrappings. The bound wrappings were hardened and stiff from the herbal ointments applied when he was buried.

No one moved. Jesus, who was holding him up, called out to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

It was the sisters that reacted first as they both rushed up the steps and embraced Lazarus. Other men rushed up to the ledge and started to tear at the hardened wrappers. His father handed his robe to cover his nakedness. He was still pretty weak, so they had to carry him down.

The people were amazed and were calling loud praises to God. Those Jews whom Cornelius noted who had laughed at him bowed their heads in respect when Jesus and his disciples walked by following the happy family. There were a few, however, who were concerned about this event. They did not cheer nor praise. Some of them went ahead of the crowd, probably to report what they just witnessed.

When they finally reached their house in the village, Jacob was there waiting for them with the others. Cornelius filled him in on the incredible event. Jacob was no less astounded.

That night, they received word from Nicodemus, that the religious leaders wanted Jesus dead.
[note: quotes in italics are from John 11]
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 7

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

They spoke privately while Cornelius and the disciple kept the crowd away. Then she hurried back to the village with her servant in tow. About fifteen minutes later, a sizable crowd was seen coming out. They were following Mary, the youngest sister of Lazarus, who was walking fast ahead of them. Martha and her father were just behind her. When Mary spotted Jesus, she sprinted the last twenty yards to him. Then she threw herself on the ground at his feet weeping loudly.

Her tear streaked face lifted to look imploringly at him and she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus helped her up on her feet and she fiercely embraced him, burying her face unto his chest weeping loudly. As Jesus returned her embrace, Cornelius saw anguish in his face. The women among the crowd were also weeping loudly.

Then he looked at Simon the Leper and his daughter, Martha and asked, “Where have you laid him?”

“Lord, come and see.”

They led him south of the village into a small canyon. The canyon walls only rose about fifteen to twenty feet up. It was narrow with only enough room for four men to walk abreast of each other. As they followed a well worn winding trail, Cornelius saw signs of excavations into the recesses of the walls. A number of them had carved circular stones about three feet in diameter covering the openings. They were burial chambers for the rich families of the nearby villages. They reached the end of the trail that opened up into a wider enclosure where Simon the Leper’s clan maintained a garden. The garden which was fenced in by a short rock wall about three feet high, fronted several burial chambers some of which were carved out halfway up the canyon walls. Rough steps were carved into the rock that led up to several ledges. Lazarus’ father told Jesus that he was entombed inside the chamber of the first ledge about five feet above the canyon floor. The ledge was only wide enough for about five to six people.

Jesus climbed the steps to the ledge followed closely by Simon the Leper, Peter and Andrew. The sobbing sisters also climbed the steps but stopped part way. Jesus placed his hand on the round stone and wept openly.

There were a number of Pharisees among the crowd and Cornelius could hear one of them whisper, “See how He loved him!”

But someone else also said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have kept this man also from dying?”

Jesus took a step back and spoke to Peter and Andrew, “Roll the stone away.”

Martha gasped and said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Mary’s head came up and looked on him with a desperate hope.

Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

[note: quotes in italics are from John 11]

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The story continues on in my next post.

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Johann Q