THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch6 – part 1

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

On the Sabbath day, Cornelius was summoned to a meeting with Arturos at the Bethsaida garrison. The meeting lasted for two days. Contingent plans were laid out for the transfer of the Governor General’s seat of power from Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem next month. Already the Fortress Antonio in Jerusalem had been garrisoned with two cohorts of Praetorian. Before Cornelius made his return to Capernaum, Arturos told him that the Governor has shown interest with Cornelius’ reports. Since, the insurgent problems are mostly concentrated in the Galilee region, he is still ordered to stay in the area.

It was mid-day, when Cornelius returned to his house. As expected, Jacob was there eagerly waiting for him with news.

“Jesus was at the synagogue!” He called out even before Cornelius can dismount. “He was there at our Sabbath meeting! Oh, if you were only there yourself to listen to him. At the lake I said he was a masterful teacher. That praise does not do it justice. I have been a scribe of the law for over thirty years and even I cannot teach and explain the Scriptures the way he did. For one so young, he spoke with conviction… with such authority like he himself was the sole author of the law. It was an eye opening experience that I thought I would never relish again in my old age.

“Then this man barged in making such a commotion. He was crazed out of his wits. I have seen this man before roaming the streets talking to himself. He was one with an unclean spirit. He pushed his way into the center and no one could hold him. He pointed at Jesus and said, ‘What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God!’ [Mark 1:24 NASB]

“While we all backed away, like from a rabid dog, Jesus stood there calmly. I saw no anger or judgment in his face for this unholy creature. I did see pity and compassion when he told the man to be quiet. Then he took a step forward and commanded the unclean spirit to come out. The man collapsed and began thrashing violently on the floor like a fish out of water. His face was contorted like in such pain and then he suddenly calmed down. Like waking from a deep sleep, he opened his eyes and asked where he was. The whole room erupted with amazement that no one noticed the Nazarene had left quietly.” Chuckling to himself, “When I left I noticed my old colleagues, both scribes and Pharisees, arguing among themselves on what to make of all this.”

“Where is he now?”

“Oh, how foolish of me not to say right away! He has been staying in the house of a man called Simon Peter. I heard that the mother of his wife was with fever and this Jesus healed her. So, since yesterday, the house has been inundated, day and night, with all sorts of people bringing their sick.”

“Come! Let me change and then we will go to this house.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch5 – part 5

A MOTHER’S TALE – Nazareth, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

After eight days, we traveled to Jerusalem to present our baby at the Temple as in tradition. It was there, we were met by a man named Simeon who said, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.’ Then he told me that ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’ [Luke 2:29-32 NASB]

“After the census was finished, people went home. Joseph’s family urged us to stay. So, we stayed. Jesus was over a year old, when we were visited by several disciples of Daniel known as Magi. They presented us with the gift of gold, francinsense and myre. That night, Joseph woke from a disturbing dream. He told us that an angel urged us to leave for our child was in danger. So, we left for Egypt. It was there we later heard what Herod had done. So, we stayed two more years until again an angel told Joseph it was safe to return. When we learned that the eldest son of Herod was to rule Judea, we chose to return to Nazareth.”

Then Mariam went silent. After a long while, Cornelius asked, “Would you tell me how I may find your son?”

She looked into his face for a very long time without uttering a word. Cornelius assumed she would not give that information to a soldier of Rome who could harm her son.

“He is in Capernaum.”

An hour out on the road, Cornelius was riding his horse next to the wagon.

“Ahem… Centurion?” It was the voice of Levi, the tax collector. “You have done a kind thing back there.”

“It is of no consequence.”

“No consequence, you say,” exclaimed Jacob. “You have, time after time, shown such consideration to my people of which you again risk retribution from your own people.”

“Ah yes…” Levi said. “I have heard talk of you among our people, even from those that hate me. You are gaining many friends in the city. It may be that if my people can accept you, a Gentile. Maybe they will be able to forgive me, a tax collector, and allow me back to worship the Lord in the synagogue. Oh… how I tire of this hated position.”

Cornelius did not say a word. He kicked his horse to a trot and rode ahead. He felt conflicted inside. In the back of his mind, he knew that part of his motives to show kindness was also to add to this myth so that he may do his task to protect the empire. But then hearing that incredible tale, his duty to do his task didn’t seem so important. But he shook his head and reminded himself that he is a Roman soldier with orders and a task to do. However, he wondered how he was going to report this.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch5 – part 4

A MOTHER’S TALE – Nazareth, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius and Jacob looked at each other but no words were exchanged. Mariam then told them that her husband to be, Joseph, wanted to divorce her quietly but the same angel spoke to him in a dream and they got married. They thought the baby was to be born at Nazareth but then came the Emperor’s edict for the heads of family to return to where they were born. So, we left for Bethlehem where I gave birth.”

“We know of the coming of the magi from the East and the dreadful event after. Was there there anything unusual that happened on the day you gave birth?” asked Jacob.

“When we arrived in Bethlehem, the village was crowded with people because of the census. We stayed with the family of Joseph but the inn, that is, the upper room for guests was already occupied by other relatives; one of whom was also ready to give birth. The midwives were already up there. At that time, I thought I still had about a week to go, so Joseph and I were quite content to sleep on the ground with other family members. We settled ourselves on the ground where the animals were usually kept during the winter months. That night, I went into labor. All the men were ushered out of the house while the women of the household helped me.

“When my son was born, Joseph wrapped him in swaddling cloth and then he laid him in a stone manger filled with a bed of fresh hay while I rested. I still recall how magical it was when Joseph let open the large wooden doors to let the cool air in. A ray of light from the moon seem to fall upon my baby’s face. But that is not the only special event that happened that night. Something else happened in the nearby hills. For this part of the story, I bring you an eyewitness.”

She nodded to one of her daughters. She went out the door leading an old man leaning on a hooked staff. Miriam gestured to him and said, “This is Eloa. He was there when I gave birth. At that time, he was a shepherd who was out on the hillsides of Bethlehem watching over a flock of sheep. I will let him tell you himself.”

“Gre… gre… greetings, your honors,” Eloa said nervously. “I is a simple shepherd. I not talk to others too good, but this story I like to tell very very well.

“I remember… I always remember that night like it yesterday. Me, my father and ten others… we sitting around fire. Night very dark, when suddenly on hill above us, man appear like very bright sun. We all knew man was no man but messenger of the wind… sent by Yahweh. He spoke to us in very clear words.”

Cornelius then heard him suddenly speak with clear diction and it seemed Eloa’s voice was not his own.

“Fear not… for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

“Then night sky burst bright with more light and there was many holy messengers flying by singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’ [Luke 2:10-14 NASB]

“Then… no light… no singing… all quiet. Even sheep quiet… no run away. We shepherds laugh and cry because we so happy. We left sheep… not worry about them… they safe we know somehow. We met other shepherds going to Bethlehem. They saw too. More and more joined us. When enter Bethlehem, we asked where babies born this night. We search and search… found five but not right one. Finally, we came to house where baby born in upstair room but baby was girl. Then walked around house and big doors open and single light from lamp over manger. When we saw baby in manger, we knew sign. First, we quiet… then laughed out loud. Soon dancing and singing psalms. When villagers came… asked why… we told them all.”

Mariam smiled and nodded. Eloa bowed and then quietly left. “Eloa stayed with us ever since. The village did celebrate that night. Joseph and his family were concerned but as is the nature of people, they easily forget.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch5 – part 3

A MOTHER’S TALE – Nazareth, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius wanted to leave but the collecting of tax was not completed. So, he and Jacob retreated from the sun under some trees. Then a young man approached them. Jacob recognized him as one of the brothers of Jesus. He went straight to Jacob first and whispered into his ear.

“He said to follow him,” Jacob said.

They followed the lad to a house not too far from the square. He knocks on the door and gestured to them to enter. Cornelius pushed open the door and entered into a darkened room. The only light visible were several narrow streams coming through the gaps of a shuttered window unto a table where a veiled woman was sitting. Standing behind her were two younger women.

“Peace be upon this house,” Jacob offered.

“May the Lord too bring blessings to you,” said the woman in a lithe soft voice. “This house belongs to my kin. I am the mother of the one you seek. I am Miriam.” She then turns to Cornelius and he saw that she was not that old and was a handsome woman. “It is you that we have heard from the disciples of John. He has sent word that you seek wisdom and that we are to offer every hospitality.”

One of the women brought some fermented juice, goat cheese, salt, flat bread and a bowl of dried dates.

“You came to ask about my son.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Cornelius said. “We have heard many strange things about your son. Earlier today, your son almost caused a riot in your own Synagogue because of his declared claim.”

Before he could ask, she spoke in her quiet voice, “I was among the date trees with the other girls harvesting fruit then everything around me started to slow down. I thought I was sick and very very dizzy. I closed my eyes for just a moment and when I opened them, there was no one to be seen. I was all alone. I looked all around and I ran but I knew not where.

“There was a voice calling my name. Then… before me was a man all in the brightest of white. He was so beautiful that I was so afraid. He said, ‘Hail Mariam, thou art highly favored among women. Do not fear for the Lord is with thee. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

“I was so confused for I have never known a man before. But he said, ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’ ” [Luke 1:28-35 KJV]

Cornelius was totally stunned to hear her story. The skeptical part of him could not believe of a virgin conception.

“In some ways, I probably looked like the way you both look right now. The angel then told me of a recent miracle with my cousin, Elizabeth, who was barren but became pregnant in her old age with her husband, Zecharia.” She then looked at Cornelius and said, “I believe you already know their son. They named him John.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch5 – part 2

A MOTHER’S TALE – Nazareth, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

“Is this the house of Joseph the carpenter?” asked Cornelius offhandedly.

“This is the house of Joseph, but he has long been dead for some years. My brothers and myself run the business now.”

“We seek your brother, the rabbi,” said Jacob. “We heard him speak at Bethsaida and we would like to hear more. Do you know where we can find him?”

“I know not where he went. Now, if you would excuse me, I have much work to do.”

As he returned to his work, Cornelius noticed the curtain in the window part just so slightly to reveal a hand of a woman.

“What of Miriam, your mother?”

“She… she is away in Cana.” Then he went back to sawing the plank. They then started to walk back.

When Cornelius and Jacob returned to the village square, they arrived in the middle of a commotion. One of the soldiers was dragging a screaming girl towards the wagon, while two others were holding off a desperately pleading father and a hysterical mother. Cornelius pulled out and blew his whistle twice. Then he shouted, “Enough!”

“What is going on here?” He demanded. Then pointing at the soldier holding the girl, he said, “Where do you think you are going with her?”

The optio in charge approached with a nervous Levi following behind. He pointed at the father, “this man could not pay his taxes. So, we are taking his daughter.” He pushed Levi up forward to confirm it.

“Ye… yes, Centurion.” He nervously said, “he… he was short by five drachmas.” Then he retreated back a few steps.

Cornelius could not interfere. As much as he hated this practice, these people are under Roman rule. This is the reality of their lives. The soldier continued to drag the girl towards the horses as the father and mother wailed even more loudly. He looked at the parents and then at the crying girl who will probably end up in the brothels.

“Stop!” he ordered. Then he called Levi to approach, he said, “I will pay their debt.” He handed Levi some coins. The optio was livid.

“What are you doing?” The optio demanded. “Are you out of your mind? They are in violation of the law!”

Cornelius looked at him with a challenging stare. “I believe the tax collector has something to say about that.”

Levi showing a little more confidence spoke out, “Ahem… As I am the official tax collector of this district, my records now show that their taxes are fully paid. There is no violation.”

“Optio… have your man release the girl.”

The optio was still livid. He placed his hand on the hilt of his sheath sword. Cornelius swept his cape to his back revealing his sword and his armor. When the optio noticed the emblems on Cornelius’ chest armor, he knew he was not facing an ordinary procurement official but a battle hardened centurion. He moved his hand away from his own sword took a step back and gave the order to release the girl. The girl flew to her mother’s side crying.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch5 – part 1

A MOTHER’S TALE – Nazareth, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius had again seen the zealot a number of times at the synagogue mostly during the Sabbath worship. He had assigned Nacob to track his movements. Nacob had established his cover very well. Within the city, he is a smelly street beggar. Out in the countryside, he poses as an Arab shepherd. He had successfully followed the Zealot to a villa belonging to a rich merchant from Jerusalem. Though, this Simon is from Cana, a town west from here, up into the Galilean highlands, he frequently visits this villa. Nacob had also reported that this villa is frequently visited by numerous well-to-do young men some of which had recently arrived from Jerusalem. This interested Cornelius greatly. He had suspected that many of those in the Zealot faction came from there. He had arranged for them to be discreetly followed back to Jerusalem. At the same time, establish his network of spies there.

Meanwhile, his real interest is in the whereabouts of Jesus of Nazareth. He has not been in Capernaum since Cornelius acquired his house. When he heard that a tax official called Levi and six other soldiers were going to Nazareth to collect the taxes, he went with them in the hopes that this Jesus would be there. He brought Jacob along to ride with Levi in the wagon.

Nazareth is located in the heart of a valley surrounded by the highlands. It is a small farming village situated on the foot of a hill near what is known as the old King’s road which was built by an ancient Babylonian king.

When they got there, Jesus and his followers were not there. But he did find out that Jesus stirred up the men in the local Synagogue. He heard that they wanted to cast him off a cliff on the hill. Cornelius wondered what he would have said that stirred them like that. Jacob, after speaking with the synagogue leader, told him that Jesus was invited to read from the Scriptures.

“He read from the scroll of Isaiah.”

Cornelius was curiously interested.

“The passage he read went like this, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ What stirred the men was what he said after. He said, ‘Today, this has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ ” [Luke 4:18-21 NASB]

“Is he declaring himself openly, Jacob.”

“Yes, I believe he is… and it is incredible.”

“You said that he has family here. Let us find out where his house is.”

Jacob got directions from the rabbi. The house that they sought was at the bottom of the hill near the southern edge. It was not hard to find the house. Since they knew that Jesus was a carpenter, they followed the sound of sawing and hammering. At first, Cornelius thought the bearded man sawing on a large plank of wood was Jesus, but it turned out to be his brother, James. Two other brothers were working on some furniture just inside their workshop and a young woman, a sister maybe, was meticulously picking pebbles out of a basket filled with grain. It was she who saw Cornelius and Jacob approaching and then called the attention of the working men. They stopped their work. James put down his saw and walked over to them at the gate.

“Shalom,” Jacob greeted.

“Shalom,” James greeted back with a slight nod. “How may we be of service, masters?”

“Is this the house of Joseph the carpenter?” asked Cornelius offhandedly.

“This is the house of Joseph, but he has long been dead for some years. My brothers and myself run the business now.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 6

SPYING IN A TREE – Capernaum, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

That night, wearing nondescript clothing, Cornelius and Cestus went back into the city. Cornelius recalled that Elan’s house was located near the western edge of the Jewish sector of the city. As soon as they reached the Jewish sector, they became even more careful traversing the almost empty streets and alleys. As much as possible they walked within the dark shadows. It took them forty minutes when they finally reached the house. The house was in a corner of a block of houses. From the shadows across the street, they quietly watched a few men entering through the gate leaving two guards outside. Cornelius and Cestus went back down the alley they were on, careful to stay always in the shadows. They had to circle three blocks before they finally arrived at the back side of Elan’s house. Fortunately, it was not guarded. Cestus tiptoed to the corner and took a peak at the guards who were content to stay by the gate. The wall was about the height of two tall men, but Cornelius saw that a big branch of a tree from inside the courtyard broke through the wall a quarter of a way down from the top. Cornelius motioned Cestus to give him a lift up so he can stand on his shoulders which was just good enough for him to get a hand hold on the thick branch. He pulled himself up into the tree and got his first view of the courtyard. Through the branches of the tree, he could just make out about forty or so men gathered around a blazing fire in the middle of the courtyard. They seem to be finishing up a meal that would be traditionally served before they conducted this meeting. Knowing that all these men would lose their night vision because of the fire, Cornelius confidently climbed down to the lower branches so he would be able to listen to the meeting.

The meeting started with the old rabbi from this afternoon offering a prayer, then Elan stepped forward to speak about some synagogue business. The older men were content to listen to all that Elan was reading. But Cornelius noticed a group of ten young men grumbling among themselves.

“Elan! Stop with this babble!” Stood one of the young men. “We are here to demand why you allowed this foreigner… This Roman oppressor into our holy place.”

The old rabbi stood up and calmly said, “Simon, son of Nissim of Cana. Have you forgotten about Antonitus, a proselyte from Greece who joined us last year? This man Cornelius is no different.” Many of the old men were nodding.

“But this one is a Roman!”

Another older man stood up. Cornelius recognized him as Jacob’s cousin. “This man is different. He is well versed in the Torah as well as the prophets. He had learned this under the tutelage of my cousin, Jacob, who has returned from a distant land. And he has a love for our people. It was he that rebuilt the synagogue in Bethsaida after it was torn down by the soldiers. And he was punished for it. I was there! I saw this!”

Another man stood up and joined in, “Let us not forget that he has shown generosity among us as well.” More of the older men also gave their support. Cornelius could not help feeling a little touched, but he also felt guilt. The young men including Simon of Cana started to argue with the older men. It was not long that they started to cast insults as well. Then Elan raised his voice.

“Enough! This matter had been settled by the council. This man is welcomed in our community as is written in laws of our father.” Then he pointed at the group of young men. “I know your ways, Zealots! You will in no way harm him.”

Grumbling among themselves, the men made their way out to leave. Cornelius quickly climbed back up the tree till he came to the wall. He had to wait a moment for his night sight to return. Then he saw Cestus coming out of the shadows, cross the narrow street to the wall and helped Cornelius down. They both rushed to the corner in time to see the group of young men walking their way. The group paused and called out, “Who’s there?”

They quickly retreated back into the narrow street and ran. Hearing running footsteps behind them, Cornelius could just make out the glow of torches behind him. Fortunately, they already traversed this part of the city and were confident they would not be cornered. After running down several streets and always in the shadows, he finally motioned a halt.

“How far back do you think they are?” Cornelius asked.

“Not too far.” Cestus back tracked a little ways and peered down a street that they turned left from. When he came back, he said, “I can hear some dogs barking about two blocks down but I saw no lights.”

“Very well,” commented Cornelius. “Let us go home.”

Cornelius was hoping to follow the zealots back to their lair. But he was satisfied that he has a name to go with a face. Simon the Zealot.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 5

SPYING IN A TREE – Capernaum, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

The winter was mild and spring came early in the Galilean hillsides. Capernaum was again busy with commerce. Five large caravans arrived laden with spices and other exotic food stuff from Persia, India and even from the fabled lands of the Far East. The fishermen were out on the lake in force taking advantage of the calm waters and had returned with a rich bounty. Though there was still a chill in the air, the market square was busy with merchants. Cornelius and Porcius went from one stall to the other haggling with the merchants; though Porcius did most of the haggling. When they neared the Jewish sector of the city, Cornelius separated from Porcius and headed down a side alley toward where he knew where the synagogue was located. Though Cornelius was dressed like the locals, he could not hide that he was a foreigner. This fact was not lost on him as he passed some people who were obviously wary of him. But yet, many knew him. During the winter months, Jacob had petitioned the head of the synagogue to allow Cornelius to enter as a proselyte. At first, the synagogue leader and members of the council were doubtful because Cornelius is a Roman soldier. But when they were eventually told of his demotion and the reason, they relented and allowed him access. Many were surprised to find that Cornelius was well versed in the books of Moses and the prophets. This and occasional contributions to the synagogue’s coffers helped ease the tension considerably.

As he turned a corner, he saw Jacob talking to one of the rabbi. So, he held his position, not wanting to intrude, but Jacob beckoned him to approach. When he came close, he bowed to the rabbi and offered the traditional greeting. The rabbi returned the greeting and then whispered something in Jacob’s ear. Then he went into the synagogue. Cornelius sensed something wrong.

“Why are we not entering?” He asked.

“A number of young men arrived from Jerusalem. They are questioning your admission into the synagogue because you are Roman!” Jacob answered angrily. “They are zealots! …fanatics! They hate everything that is foreign, especially the Romans! I am afraid that we will not be able to join the brethren this evening. But the rabbi and the council will meet with a few of these young noblemen tonight at the house of Elan, the synagogue leader, on your behalf.”

Jacob continued on another subject but Cornelius had not heard what he was talking about. His mind was on the fact that zealots can be found in the synagogue leader’s house tonight. He debated in his mind if a squad of legionnaires should surround the house and set a trap for them. But he threw that idea out. He needed information. He needed names! A plan was forming in his mind.

“Cornelius?” He shook himself back to awareness and looked at a concerned Jacob. “You were not listening. Are you disappointed?”

Shaking his head, he said, “It is of no consequence.” Not wanting to explain further, he asks, “Where is Trax?”

“The boy is sick again. I told him to stay in bed.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 4

SPYING IN A TREE – Capernaum, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Then Jacob tiredly walked in. “I think I have found another part of the puzzle concerning the Nazarene.”

Cornelius noticed that Jacob was breathing heavy and streams of sweat were rolling down into his beard. He was also massaging his right shoulder down to his arm. “What is wrong? Do you feel ill?”

“No! It is just the heat.” He wearily lowered himself into a chair. “I’ll be fine.”

“Do you want to rest? We can certainly talk later on.”

“No, no. I just exerted myself a little to rush back here to tell you what I discovered.” After Cornelius gave him a drink, he continued, “Do you recall how I questioned that this young rabbi could not be the promised one because according to the Scriptures that the messiah was to come from Bethlehem not from Nazareth? Well, I met with a woman who is a second cousin to the Nazarene’s mother. This Jesus was not born in Nazareth. Though his family was a permanent resident there, his parents, Joseph and Mary, went to Bethlehem in compliance with an edict by the Emperor Augustus to return to the town of their ancestry for the census. I remembered that census. That was about thirty years ago, just before I left for Athens where I eventually worked for your father. Anyway, a few months later, this Jesus was born in Bethlehem.”

Cornelius picked up a sheet from the notes that he was compiling and pointed at it. “This complies with Micah’s prophecy that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem. But then there must have been other infants born in that town that same year.”

“Yes but then, the old Herod ordered the slaughter of all male infants up to the age of two in Bethlehem and its surrounding villages.”

“There were already rumors of a promised Messiah going around in Herod’s kingdom. Herod was afraid that another king will take his place. Then came a group of magi from the East and it was from them that he discovered that the awaited king and descendant of King David was an infant. Herod probably tasked the magicians to reveal who the infant was. But when they didn’t return, he couldn’t take the chance and had them all slaughtered.”

“Except that if this Jesus was born there, his parents obviously escaped the carnage,”whispered Cornelius.

“Yes, Cornelius! You have it right, I think. For the woman said that months after Herod’s death, they showed up in Nazareth; Joseph, Mary and a four year old Jesus, her son.”

Cornelius picked up his pen and started writing down more notes.

“There is something else.”

Cornelius heard something in his voice enough to pause. He put his pen down.

“Do you recall when we discussed about the sign of a virgin birth? How we both surmised that it may be figurative?”

Cornelius nodded in agreement.

“I now believe that God intended that passage to be literal. It was the way that she worded ‘Jesus, her son’ was what peaked my curiosity. Why not ‘their son’? I asked myself. So I pressed this woman for more information. Apparently, this Jesus may not be of Joseph’s seed.”

“What do you mean?”

“His true father may be another! She, apparently over heard her parents say that Joseph wanted to divorce Mary quietly. In our tradition, there is only one reason why a man would do this. If she had been unfaithful! After which Mary went to some relatives in Judea. But then he later changed his mind, followed her and married her.”

“I know what you’re thinking Jacob,” exclaimed Cornelius. “This Jesus could just be the son of another man. It is not uncommon.”

“True. But then my cousin told me later that there was a rumor that a young woman in Nazareth was visited by an angel of the Lord. And that she claimed that it was the Holy Spirit who caused her to be pregnant. Rumor or not, it is too much of a coincidence. I believe that the prophecy of the coming Messiah is at hand and so far it points to the man from Nazareth!”

Cornelius contemplated what Jacob claimed. “I have to see this man again. Do you know where he is?”

“I hear that he is somewhere in the up-lands near Cana moving from one village to another.”

“Well, we can’t traipse around the highlands blindly. So, we wait until he returns to Capernaum.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch4 – part 3

SPYING IN A TREE – Capernaum, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius was awakened by the baying of many of sheep under his window. Upon opening the window, he received a gust of chilled air. A mild winter had set in and he can just make out flecks of snow on the distant hillsides. Below, the courtyard was wall to wall filled with fleece. Trax was gleefully trying to ride a ram while Cestus was working his way to the house entrance.

“Cestus! What is going on here?”

Cestus looked up helplessly, “Sir, Kepto, the Arab merchant, delivered two flocks of sheep.”

“I can see that! He was instructed to deliver them to the fort tomorrow!” All Cestus could do was shrug but then was knock down by the bucking ram with Trax holding on tight. Trying not to laugh, Cornelius ordered, “Have Porcius report to me in an hour!”

An hour and half later, Cornelius was going over his intelligence report when Porcius entered without knocking. Porcius was portly and bald. Though he also held the rank of centurion, he was no soldier. His job was to supply the eight Roman forts of this region. When Cornelius arrived two weeks earlier, he kept Porcius and his twelve men on to continue to do what they were doing. With Jacob and Trax, he also brought Cestus and five others.

“You are late again, Porcius!”

“Well, you had to get the farthest house on the outskirts of Capernaum. I’m not as young and fit as I used to be when I first came out here eight years ago.”

“What are these sheep doing in my place?”

“Ah, yes! Kepto’s shepherds are Jews! They arrived a day earlier and would not be able to move the sheep until after this ridiculous Sabbath ritual. And since you have this nice large courtyard, I figured that many of the sheep will survive the evening.”

“Very well. Ask me the next time.”

“As you wish.”

“Now, the Governor General will be going to Jerusalem this early spring. That is about two months from now. Tribune Atesca will be sending his wagons prior to the Governor’s travel. He has sent a list of his provisions.” He handed him the list.

“Ah,” Porcius shook his head in disgust, “Does he not know that it is winter here too? He wants to take our stored grain that was supposed to last until harvest. Our men at the forts will have meager meals, I’m afraid.”

“And I am sure your pockets will be as light, as well?”

“Ah, yes! There is that too!” he chuckled as he exited.

Cornelius set the reports to the side and went up to his upper room. On a table stacked with scrolls and books, he had the Isaiah manuscript opened. His eyes locked on the same particular passage which he kept rereading.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the Lord Almighty will guarantee this! [Isaiah 9:6 NASB]

Cornelius was not sure how to take in the implication of the Messiah’s title. ‘Mighty God?’ He thought. ‘Everlasting Father?’ This passage is implying that the Messiah and the God of all creation are One!

Cornelius reeled at the thought of this and yet he can accept this concept. After all, the kings of Egypt and even Caesar himself were considered gods. There were tales of Greek gods, though I do not really believe in their existence, were known to walk the earth as men. But then, he recalled when he first saw Jesus of Nazareth, it was inconceivable that this simple looking man can be the God of eternity. However, there are still those stories of the sick being healed when he touches them or men able to see again after being blind for years. There was even one story that he changed water into wine. The skeptic in him told him that he has not witnessed to any of that. He needs to watch this man closer but he was not seen in Capernaum at all since he moved here.

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q