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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GOSPEL part 7

THE COVENANT OF BLOOD

Once a month, usually on the first Sunday, most churches celebrate by partaking in the Lord’s Supper (Communion). This is when little pieces of bread and tiny cups of grape juice or as some churches prefer, red wine are distributed among the congregation to commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Technically speaking, this practice of eating the bread and drinking the wine is a ritual. Now, I am not usually fond on doing rituals and many traditions, however this ritual is one that I just love to practice. Do you know why? Because it was Jesus who institutionalized it for us until He finally comes and claims us .

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. [Matthew 26:26-28]

I have been privileged to go to four churches; 2 churches here in Manila and a couple in Washington State and in California. And in all of them, I had heard many wonderful sermons on the first part of the Lord’s Supper about how the bread represents the body of Christ and what He endured on the cross. But because the preachers were allotted with a limited amount of time during the services, I have yet to hear about the second part. What does Jesus want us to learn about the blood of the covenant? First things first…

What does the Bible say about blood?

For the life of a creature is in the blood… [Leviticus 17:11a]

I need not have to explain why the life of all creature is in the blood.

I learned this quite young when my grandfather who was a farmer had me watched for the first time the slaughtering of a pig. I am afraid I may have to be a little bit graphic here. In those old days, the animal was still very much alive when the farmer plunged his knife into the creature’s neck severing the jugular vein. Its lifeblood gushed out in a constant crimson stream slowly and surely denying the brain of oxygen. It was not long until what was once a living creature, had then become a lifeless carcass. I was 7 years old then.

So, since blood is synonymous to life, God commanded this…

But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. [Deuteronomy 12:23]

One reason God prohibited the consumption of animal blood in the Old Testament was to teach respect for the sacredness of life. Blood is viewed as a symbol of life throughout the Bible, so much so that after mankind sinned, God had set a precedence for their redemption.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul… [Leviticus 17:11,14]

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. [Hebrews 9:22]

By definition, redemption means the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt… and innocent blood was the price.

God illustrated this to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve had just sinned by eating the fruit that was forbidden. They then covered themselves with fig leaves in an attempt to hide their shame. Deep down they probably thought they were successful in hiding their guilt. Of course, God is never fooled.

gen-3-skins-wHe saw through their futile attempt to make themselves look presentable that He disapproved. Verse 21 simply stated that the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

Did God just simply cause the garments of skin to appear from out of nowhere? He could, quite easily, in fact, but what was evident in Scriptures suggested that God had a large animal slaughtered before their eyes. They witnessed the blood of an innocent creature being spilled so that their sins will be covered. Instead of being totally cut off from His grace, God had provided the people of the Old Testament a way to approach Him without being destroyed by Him.

Adam passed this practice down to Abel, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and yes even to Job. But it was in the time of Moses, in the book of Exodus, that God provided us with a clear picture of how innocent blood redeems.

It was at the time when Moses confronted the king of Egypt with the commandment of God to ‘let His people go’. Nine plagues God had already released upon Egypt and yet Pharaoh refused to obey. So, God intended to send the tenth and final plague… the worst of plagues… the deaths of the first born in Egypt. This would have included the first born of Israel if God had not provided a way for them to escape. How? Every family would have to kill a lamb and place its blood on the door frames so that God’s angel of death will pass over that house and spare their first born. Which he did.   [Exodus 11]

After the fateful event, God had commanded that an intricate system of animal sacrifices  be established as way for the people of Israel to gain forgiveness and then worship. A system that was repeated year after year. Why year after year? The system was meant to be temporary and besides which…

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. [Hebrews 10:4]

Here still lies the problem for mankind – SIN. If the shed blood of innocent animals could not truly redeem us from eternal damnation of hell, then what could?

By every right, it was one man that brought SIN in, so, it should be a man to pay the price.

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. [Romans 5:19]

The problem is that no man born in this world (i.e. born of man and woman) can qualify to God’s precedence for redemption. So, who can save us?

Enter JESUS CHRIST! Hallelujah!

The Old Testament Temple practices were never meant to solve mankind’s ultimate dilemma. It was a dress rehearsal, so to speak, for the biggest show!

The show when God enters our reality as man… Jesus Christ…

Who, being in very nature a God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! [Philippians 2:6-8]

To what end?

…and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies (cleanses) us from all sin. [1 John 1:7]

So, when you partake in drinking the cup, keep mind of what Jesus preciously shed and remember the covenant which is when God who is Holy looks at you, He will choose not see your old sinful self but the blood of Christ than covers you.

If you are not sure if the blood of Christ is covering you, then set your mind to learn and get to know Jesus Christ. Then believe.

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Well, where ever you are right now, know that God is listening for you. Talk to Him with no delay and express your faith in Jesus Christ and receive Him into your heart as your Lord and Savior. You only have to pray the prayer below once, but with sincerity, because when He enters your life, He will never leave you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you so much for loving me. I confess that I am a sinner worthy of eternal punishment. Thank you for dying on the cross to pay for all of my sins. With your help, I am turning away from all my sins. Today, I put my trust in you as my Lord and Savior and I receive you into my heart. Thank you for forgiving my sins and for coming into my heart. I accept your free gift of eternal life. Thank you that one day, I will go home to be with you in heaven. From this day on, I will follow and obey you. Amen.*

* Note: It is not the prayer that saves us but faith in Christ. The prayer is a way express belief.

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 story continues on in my next post.

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BIBLE Q & A with Johann – #8

Questions about Guardian Angels

People have many notions about guardian angels. It is safe to say that much of it were based on personal experiences of supposed angels that had kept them in one way or another from getting into trouble, getting hurt or other disasters. But are these notions biblical.

Here is what Crosswork.com say – “While angelic activity fills the pages of the Bible, the Bible is not very forth coming when talking about the particulars of the ministries of ‘guardian’ angels.” *

Ok! There is nothing specific, however, let us explore anyway what the Bible says in regards to specific questions below.

Do Christians have angels that protect them?

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14

What Do Angels Do?

Spiritual beings or angels carry out God’s purpose in the natural world.

In the Old Testament, angels brought great news to Abraham and Sarah that they will bring forth a son in their old age. Those same angels also saved Abraham’s nephew Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was an angel that came to Jacob three times in his lifetime. There was the Angel of Death that struck down the first borns of Egypt at the same time, sparing the Israelites. It was an Angel of the Lord that led the slave nation of Israel out of Egypt and in the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness as a column of cloud by day and a pilar of fire by night. Angels came to help prophets like Daniel and Elijah. The angel of the LORD killed a large number of the Assyrian army. There was even an angel who communicated to Balaam by the mouth of an ass.

In the New Testament, the Angel Michael appeared to Zechariah to proclaim the miraculous birth of John the Baptist. Months later, he again appeared to a 14 year old Mary of Nazareth and declared that she will be the mother of Jesus. Then again he gloriously appeared with a host of heavenly angels declaring to startled shepherds of the birth of the messiah. An angel came to Joseph in a dream three times. From time to time an angel would stir the water in the pool of Bethesda. God had sent spiritual messengers to minister to Jesus several times. An angel appears twice near Jesus’ tomb declaring, to Mary, Mary Magdalene and others, that the Lord has already risen from the dead. God had sent the angel of the Lord to free Peter and John from prison. An angelic being appears to Philip the Evangelist and commands him to travel to Gaza. During his travel he runs into an Ethiopian eunuch, explains the gospel to him, and ultimately baptizes him. One of the greatest New Testament interactions with an angel occurs when one is sent to the Apostle John. He journeys to the apostle, who has been exiled to the island of Patmos, to reveal prophecies to him that will ultimately become the book of Revelation.

Do they have names?

Yes, angels do have names, however, we only know with certainty the names of four angels.

    • Michael (Dan 10:13,21) (Dan 12:1) (Jude 1:9)(Rev 12:7) – Michael is called an “archangel” in (Jude 1:9), and based upon the times he is mentioned in the Bible, it appears he might be God’s chief warrior angel.
    • Gabriel (Dan 8:16) (Dan 9:21) (Lk 1:19.26) – Each time the angel Gabriel is mentioned, he is delivering messages from God.
    • Lucifer (Isa 14:12) – Based upon the description of Lucifer in (Isa 14:12-15), Lucifer appears to be Satan, who is a fallen angel (Lk 10:18).
    • Abaddon/Apollyon (Rev 9:11). – “Abaddon/Apollyon is also a fallen angel who is mentioned as ruling over the “bottomless pit” in the end times.

[Do angels have names? by Steve Shirley]

Can departed loved ones actually return to “watch over” us here on earth?

Once we die, we die. Either we go to Heaven or to Hell depending on whether we received God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12 and John 3:16). It is impossible for those who have died to return to earth in any form whatsoever (Luke 16:19-31). *

Do people become angels when they go to Heaven?

Despite conventional wisdom, humans are not transformed into angels when they die.

For example, in a discussion of whether or not marriage exists in Heaven, Jesus said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 24:38).

Note that we are like angels—but we are not angels.

Paul teaches on many occasions that we keep our own identities, personalities and enough of our earthly features to be recognized by others in eternity (1 Corinthians 13:11-12). While we will be transformed into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2), we will remain distinctly who we were on earth—and we will not be angels. *

[* from Crosswalk.com article “Do we have guardian angels” by Dr. Roger Barrier]