THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 8

City of Tiberius, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

“Before we start, Centurion… Ah, may I call you by your name?”

“Please… by all means.”

“Thank you, Cornelius. Please call me John. Now, let me clarify that it is true that Israel awaits the coming of a savior who will lead them to freedom. I will even say so boldly that they wait for the Messiah to push you Romans out of Israel forever.” When he saw the concern on Cornelius’ face, he chuckled a little and said, “Be not too alarmed, Cornelius. When the Messiah comes, I believe the salvation he brings will not be limited for my people alone but for all man… for you, Cornelius.”

Cornelius blinked and sat up straight. At first, deep inside, he resented the notion. How is it the he needed to be saved? Saved from what? But before he could ask, John the Baptist asked his question first.

“You are seeking meaning in your life, are you not?” Then he continued saying, “You are a soldier who have seen much death and suffering. You yourself have killed. You desire answers especially on the question on why you need salvation by our Messiah.”

Cornelius nodded.

“When one seeks meaning… answers, then that one must go back to the very beginning for perspective.”

“Where?”

“I think you know.”

How would he know? He thought to himself. Then an old childhood tale of a garden, a tree, a man, a woman and a serpent that can talk came to mind. A story he thought was made for children.

“Creation story of Adam and Eve?”

The Baptist nodded then said, “Think about it. What did they have?”
The creation story is the beginning of Moses’ five books of the Torah. It tells in prose how God created the world by voicing into the darkness and just said ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. That was the first day! In the course of five more days, God called into being the sky, land, vegetation, and every kind of living creatures including mankind. Then the story focused on how God fashioned the first man and named him Adam. From the way the story goes, Cornelius imagined God carefully and lovingly mold Adam from the dust of the earth then breathed life into his lungs. Then God placed Adam in a protective environment, the Garden of Eden, where even the natural law of survival was suspended. God provided everything for man; purpose, companionship, joy and life eternal.

“In the beginning, everything was perfect for man,” Cornelius answered.

“Why?”

“Because in the start, mankind had a very close relationship with God, their Creator… like family. But they lost it!”

“How?”

“God gave them one commandment, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…’ But the Serpent enticed Eve to eat the fruit, then she gave it to Adam who knowingly ate the same. Then something in them changed. I never understood what really happened.” [Genesis 2:16-17 NASB]

After Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, their eyes were open. In other words, they became acutely aware of their nakedness and experienced shame for the first time. They covered their nakedness with fig leaves. Then when they heard the sound of God walking in the Garden, they both hid.

“There is a word… SIN. Do you know what it means?”

Cornelius frowned. It is a word strewn through out every book in the Scriptures. But for some reason, he never delved into it closely.

“By the look of your frown, you are not too sure of its actual meaning nor its significance.”

“My understanding is that sin is when you do wrong in God’s sight.”

“Yes but there is more. Isaiah wrote, ‘But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.’ ” [Isaiah 59:2 NASB]

“So, when they ate the fruit, they sinned and was separated from God. How does their sin entail for mankind?… at that matter, for me?”

Again, Cornelius saw the glint in the Baptist’s eyes. “Cornelius, if my own people would ask such questions as yours, well… never mind. The answer is what happened next in the story.”
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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 7

City of Tiberius, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Then he sat down. Cornelius was not exactly fond of prose, poetry or the songs of Scriptures. He preferred the historical aspects. And it showed on his face of which the Baptist picked up on.

“The word can be cryptic if you are only hearing but not really listening. Think about it closely and the right questions will come out.”

Cornelius wished he had parchment and quill. Instead, he gazed blankly at the far wall and mentally laid out the words in line segments the way it was sung. In his mind’s eye, the words jumped out at him and his analytical mind went to work.

Clearly, he knew that John the Baptist is a prophet… a messenger from God… a voice of God… in the ‘wilderness’? Herod’s chamberlain did tell him that the Baptist was preaching and baptizing in the wilderness region of the Jordan. He was thinking that part of Isaiah’s was literal enough, however the next lines were a little harder to take literally. If John is the prophesied messenger, then he will have the supernatural powers to smoothen desert dunes into highways, fill in sunken-in valleys into plains and even flatten both hills and mountains. That would be a sight to see. As a child, he fantasized of being there with Moses when the Red Sea miraculously parted. But somehow he felt that this prophecy had a much more deeper meaning.

So, he asked, “Have you completed your task?”

The Baptist smiled, “Almost.”

If that is so, Cornelius thought then, the making clear of deserts, valleys, hills and mountains for the LORD were metaphors. Like a hunting dog in hot pursuit, his analytical mind went back to work. A prophet’s work is to communicate… to be the mouth of God… ‘a voice calling in the wilderness’… So…

“So, the question is, ‘What is the message from God and to whom?’ ”

The Baptist looked at Cornelius with bright eyes, as if he was debating whether to reveal the message of God to him maybe because he was a Roman… A Gentile. Then he nodded.

“In your studies of the Scriptures, do you recall the coming of a Messiah?”

“My mentor and teacher, since I was a child, did tell me of a legend that God will send the Prophet and Redeemer to set Israel free.”

“For you I shall make the picture clear. What you heard is just partially true and incomplete. Do you wish to journey down the road which will significantly change your life?”

Cornelius hesitated for just a moment. Then he went to the door and called out to Cestus.

“Cestus… get us some food and drink. I will be here all night. You and the men enjoy yourselves in the city.”

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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.

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 6

City of Tiberius, Galilee

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It was twilight when Cornelius entered the cellar below the stables. There were three guards and two other men in ragged tunics sitting on the floor next to a bolted door with a small grilled window. The two men were followers of the Baptist that the Tetrarch allowed to serve his need. An oil lamp was handed to him by one of the guards. Cornelius then handed to Cestus his sword and dagger.

“Sir! You must not go in there unarmed. According to some of these blokes, it took seven of them to subdue him when they arrested him.”

“I’ll be alright.”

He walked to the door. The two followers stood up and backed up out of the way. He unlatched the door and swung it in. Not knowing what to expect, he braced himself for violence. He entered with the oil lamp held high. It took a short while for his eyes to adjust to the dark. Then he saw him standing calmly with hands at his side palms out; to show that he was unarmed. Cornelius beheld not a bulky warrior that held off seven soldiers nor did he see what he’d always imagined was the chosen mouth piece of God. The Baptist was somewhat shorter than he was. He was muscular but not bulky. He had extremely long hair and his beard went all the way to his navel. It was long but not disheveled. His hair and beard were unexpectedly cleaned, oiled and tightly braided into tied bundles. As he scrutinized his camel’s hair clothing with a leather belt around his waist and his hair, he recalled another desert prophet from the book of the Kings of Israel. Elijah was his name and it was he who singlehandedly confronted four hundred fifty Baal prophets on a contest on whose god is the strongest. It was a favorite of his. One man versus four hundred fifty and he prevailed against them. It was written that he did not die but was taken up into the heaven on a fiery chariot. When he asked Jacob why? He said that God would send Elijah back one day to fulfill a task. ‘Could it be true?’ he thought, ‘is this him?’

He broke the silence. “You have questions, I see,” he said in Greek. He gestured to a bench, while he sat on the floor.

“Yes, I do.” Cornelius sat, “Shalom,” he greets in Hebrew. “Peace be with you. I am Cornelius Metellus, Senior Centurion of the Italian Regiment of the 9th Legion. ”

The Baptist smiled. “Greetings, Centurion”, he returns. “Blessings be upon you.”

“Forgive me for staring… May I ask who are you? It is said that a prophet of old shall return. Are you Elijah?”

He started to chuckle. “I am pleased that you know about one of my people’s greatest legends. That is unusual for a Roman.” He peered closely at him like he saw something. “But I see that you had some education.”

“My name is John, son of Zacharias, also known as the Baptist. To answer your second question,” he continued, “it is not for me to say but this… ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.‘”. [Mark 1:1-3 NASB]

Cornelius blinked. He remembered reading those words… just recently, in fact. “Is that from Isaiah?” Cornelius asked in amazement.

The Baptist was pleased. He took his sash and ceremoniously draped it over his head. Cornelius have seen Jacob do this when he ritually sings from the Scriptures. Then the Baptist sang in Hebrew.

“A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’” [Isaiah 40:3-5 NASB]

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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

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 5

City of Tiberius, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

“Ah Centurion, welcome my Roman friends,” he said grandiosely in Latin with both hands raised high.

Cornelius saluted and said formally, “Hail Tetrarch! We bring greetings from Governor Pontus Pilate. He sends his warmest regards.”

“I am sure he did,” he said a little too sweetly. “I have received a dispatch that your unit will be policing my region of Galilee. I am so gratified to hear this. This region is crawling with Zealots determined to uproot my good relations with Rome and my good friend Caesar Tiberius. They are ever a thorn at my side. Why, just last week, they attempted to despoil the statue I erected of our beloved emperor. My own name is besmirched by these wild brigands among my people.”

“May I ask, Tetrarch? Who are these zealots?” asked Cornelius.

“I am sorry to say that I don’t know. I have no specific names to provide.” Cornelius noted some reluctance in his voice. “I have reports of wild religious fanatics rousing the countryside that a king from among them will lead them to freedom. In the jurisdiction of Jerusalem, there is a highwayman, a self-proclaimed man named of Barabbas, said he was a Zealot and had made a reputation of himself by robbing your tax collectors even in daylight and eluding your pursuits. These zealots are everywhere.”

As Herod drone on with his prattle, Cornelius so wanted to meet the prophet before Herod takes him down south. “Ah, Tetrarch?” he asks. “I have heard that you are holding a dissenter here. I have orders to question all insurgents.”

“Oh… How did you… Ah well… He is not an insurgent. He is just a desert teacher. He is harmless.”

“Why is he your prisoner?”

“He is not! He is a guest but under guard… for his protection, of course. He will not reveal anything because he does not know anything.”

“Nevertheless, Tetrarch,” He brings out his baton. “I must see this man!”

“Very well, Centurion, I will arrange a translator.”

“No need, Tetrarch,” Cornelius said in fluid Aramaic.

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

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 4

City of Tiberius by the Sea of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Tiberius was somewhat a surprise to Cornelius and his mounted men. As soon as they rode through the northern gate, it was like they entered into a Roman city in Italy. From the gate, they followed the traffic of wagons and a lot of pedestrians on a wide boulevard of cobblestone, lined with tall palm trees and in interval, statues of Greek gods in their divine poses. The city sat on a graded slope from a high rocky mount all the way to the shoreline of the lake. It was lined with a fortified wall with battlements with two main gates, north and south. On the lip of the mount, overlooking the city, is an amphitheater, the size of which can be seen from any part of the city. The population of it is close to eighty thousand people the majority of which… obviously observed by the Centurion… seem to be made up of non-Jews.

“It’s almost like home, sir,” commented Cestus who rode next to him. He and the cavalrymen had grins on their faces and were looking around everywhere.

Asking direction from the city guard, Herod’s palace was about midway down the wide boulevard, then turned left on another avenue which would take them close to the waterfront. Riding in two columns, they entered through the gates into a fairly impressive palace complex. They were greeted by Herod’s chamberlain. Cornelius and Cestus were led to an antechamber to wait on Herod who was having a heated discussion in the next chamber. His discussion were with two other men and a woman whom Cornelius surmised was Herodias, his wife. Originally, he stole her from his brother. The story goes that Herod Antipas divorced his Nabataean wife, the daughter of Aretas IV, king of the desert kingdom adjoining his own, to marry Herodias, formerly the wife of his half brother. The marriage, of course, offended his former father-in-law and alienated many Jewish subjects.

The discussion was loud and agitated, but Herod was probably not worried about the Romans overhearing their conversation because they were talking in the common tongue. However, Cornelius understood what was said for he grew up learning Aramaic. Jacob taught him the languages of the land. Hebrew is the exclusive language of the Jews; Greek is the trade language used among the foreigners; and then Aramaic, the most used language in the entire region.

“Why did you have to bring him with us? “You should have left him at Machaerus,” wailed the woman.

“Herodias, my dear,” Herod spoke melodiously, “He is a prophet like of old. The words that come out of his mouth are the very words of God himself.”

Cornelius picked up on it quickly. His ears were burning.

“Do you not hear what he says about us? …about ME?!” She was screeching.

“He cannot help saying it. He is the mouth of God after all.”

“I do not care! I want him DEAD!”

“NO!” He lifts his voice angrily. After a moment of silence, he goes to her sweetly and said, “I cannot kill him, my dear. He is the very messenger of God. If I had him killed, I’d hate what would happen to you. …to me. My father was a great king, but when he crossed God… he died a terrible death. Do not pout, my love. I promise you… as long as he is locked up, he cannot say another word against us.”

“You do not fool me, Antipas,” she said. “I know you send for him to your private chamber at night. I know you listen to him. You are a fool. He is even more dangerous now. This is not over.” She walked away still angry.

“My king, there is another matter that we must discuss.,” said one of the men with him. “There is another fanatic out there. We thought it was one of the Baptist’s followers but they seem to have dwindled and gone to this new one.”

“Who is he?”

“We don’t know. He seems to move from one place or another preaching. And the people are protecting him.”

“Is he arousing the populace?” He gave Cornelius a quick glance.

Cornelius had to maintain a straight face but his mind was racing. He has to talk to what he hope is a genuine prophet. He also have to investigate this elusive teacher and magician who may potentially move the people to revolt.

“He seem to only limit himself here in Galilee. Also, there are some reports of miraculous healings but nothing substantiating.”

“Really?! I must know more.” Herod glanced toward the Roman. “Are we set to leave for Perea tomorrow.”

“Yes, your majesty.”

“Make sure the Baptist travels with my caravan. Now, leave me while I meet with our guests.”

The two men bowed and left, while Herod gestured for Cornelius and Cestus to join him.

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

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 3

The Fort, Bethsaida, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

The fort was in shambles. It sat on a low rise that overlooks the lake. Located about three miles from Bethsaida, it’s design is typical of most Roman forts. It was built rectangular with rounded corners and can accommodate six hundred men – two cohorts. This one was built over forty years ago to guard the fertile valley from desert raiders from the east. The walls, made from timber, were supposed to sit above an earth rampart but because of forty years worth of erosion with practically little to no maintenance, Cornelius noted several sagging breaches along all four sides. If they were attacked right now, the fort would be inevitably lost. There are six towers set in intervals along the perimeter but two of them are in such disrepair that it’s not safe to man them. Cornelius didn’t even bother inspecting the ditches outside the walls because they were non-existent.

It’s been two days since they arrived. After Cornelius had a heated discussion with the fort’s commander (who was of lower rank) about the unnecessary destruction of the village’s prayer place – called a Synagogue – and the incredibly shabby condition of the fort, he gave him his relief orders and the next day, the auxiliary troops packed up and left the fort to return to Caesarea Philippi. This left his own troops at least a week’s worth of clean up duty and the proper refurbishment of the fort. Cornelius stood watching the ongoing progress on the third level of the only sturdy structure situated at the center. He heard familiar footsteps approaching.

“How is the work going, Flavius?”

“We are focusing on the outer defenses first. We commandeered over a hundred locals to dig out the ditches. Our own lads are using that dug-up dirt to shore-up the breaches on the earth ramparts. I have men in the forest getting us timber to replace the rotted wood in the palisade and also repair the towers. I figure we will complete the repairs by week’s end.”

“I have to the go and pay my respects to the Tetrarch of the region, Herod Antipas. I’ll be riding to Tiberius.”

“Tiberius?!” Flavius’ eyebrows went up mockingly.

“Yes… he named his city after our glorious emperor hoping to curry more favors. He still hopes that the emperor will give him control of Jerusalem and the Judean region. But the emperor will not give it back to the Herods… ever, I think.”

“Hold on! We are stationed in his region. Do we get ordered around by this… Jew?”

Cornelius was smiling inside. He was tempted to correct Flavius and tell him that the Herods were not really Jews. However, there was a kin relationship. The old Herod king, who ruled this entire region because of his close friendship with Augustus Caesar, was originally Idumean. In the first book of Moses, the miracle son of Abraham and Sarah was Isaac. He married Rebekah and gave him twins, Esau and Jacob. Jacob became Israel, the chosen of God. And Esau became Edom, the rejected. There was enmity between the two brothers that have been passed on to generation after generation. Idumeans are the final descendants of Esau. It is ironic, Cornelius thought to himself, that Esau’s desire was to rule it over Israel. Generations later, his descendants succeeded.

“No! We are here to keep the peace. Our presence is for show only. We are a reminder to Herod that Pontus Pilate is the Governor,” Cornelius said. He then turned and walked towards the stairs that led to his quarters. “I will take Cestus with me and twenty cavalrymen. You get them ready to ride in half an hour.”

“Yes, sir.”

When they descended into the second floor, just as Flavius was about to go down to the ground floor, Cornelius turns to him and said, “Oh, Flavius… try not to lose the fort while I am gone.”

Flavius laughed as he went down the steps. Cornelius walked briskly down the corridor and entered his quarters. Jacob had laid out his formal armor. He cringed a little at the prospect of wearing that heavy armor which is good only for pomp and ceremony. He also noted with trepidation that the red cape was laid out as well. “Jacob?” he called.

His old tutor came from a curtained alcove with Trax obediently following. They then started to help him put his armor on.

“I will be gone for two days. Why don’t you go to the village and visit your kin? And to keep this rascal out of trouble, bring Trax with you.” Cornelius playfully shoved him away. Trax clapped in excitement and grinned.

“It will be good to visit my brother.”

“While you are at it…” He goes to a heavy chest and pulled out a pouch of coins. “Find the elders of the village and give them this. There should be enough there for them to rebuild their Synagogue.”

“You are a good man, Cornelius.” He did not think so. His motives for the money is to work his way into the hearts of the locals, so he can spy on them better. Jacob noticed him brooding in thought. “Is it right with you, my boy? Are you worried about something?”

He shook his head clear and smiled reassuringly. “I am fine, my old mentor.”

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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.

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 2

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ENCOUNTER WITH A PROPHET

Galilee

A whistle was blown below. The men were picking up their gear and moving back into formation. Jacob went back to the wagon he rode with Trax. Cornelius got back on his horse and rode at the head of the column. As he rode, he thought more on the son of this impossible virgin birth whose name would be Immanuel. He learned early on when studying Scriptures, to pay special attention to the meanings behind names. Immanuel in Hebrew means ‘with us is God.’ There is no other way of interpreting these words. God will be born among men and the sign for mankind will be that His birth will be through a woman who have not known any man. Impossible as it sounds, Cornelius thought it made sense. He recalled another impossible occurrence in the book of Moses where God intervened and caused the barren wife of Abraham to give birth in her eighties. This was written as fact, as something that had already happened. There were a lot more supernatural events recorded in the Scriptures. Others would say that they were nothing more than tall tales… exaggerations, but not him. In his heart, he always believe them to be true.

 

A few hours later, the column reached the crossroads. To the right, the road goes to the city of Capernaum. According to Jacob, it is the trading center of the Galilee region with a population of thirty thousand people. The column turned left on a bridge over the Jordan River toward the village of Bethsaida. Bethsaida is a farming and fishing village with an estimated population of about four thousand people mostly Galilean Jews. The main village is about a mile from the lake and is enclosed by a perimeter wall. However, the fishing community preferred to keep their homes closer to the water where their boats lie on the pebbly shoreline.

The road they were on went through the main village then out the east gate. As Cornelius rode through the gate, he noted how the populace watched him and the column with outright disdain. The other towns and villages they went through, the people mostly stared with blank faces, but here their looks can almost be construed as rebellious. The reason becomes clear as the column enters the village square. The column came upon a crowd of angered men and weeping women. But they were not looking at his column. Their focus were mostly on a squad of thirty auxiliary soldiers** who were tearing down an unrecognizable building. But Cornelius figured by the reaction of the crowd that this building was significant to them. He signaled for the column to continue on through the crowd. The crowd who then realized that a greater number of Romans were there, began to disperse fearing greater violence. As his column marched by, he called to one of the Legionaries that always stayed with Cornelius.
** auxiliary soldiers are Roman Legionaries made up of foreign descent

“Cestus. You come with me,” ordered Cornelius “The rest of you march ahead with the column”

Legionary Cestus was a head taller than him. He was a veteran of the Spanish campaign and was one of the survivors who closely fought side by side with Cornelius in the trap that almost decimated their whole unit. Ever since then, he loyally followed Cornelius. Still on his horse, Cornelius rode through the remainder of the crowd with Cestus making way for him. He approached the soldiers that were tearing down the building.

Cestus then snapped to attention, took two steps ahead of Cornelius and with a commanding voice he shouted, “Auxiliaries! Cease what you are doing, NOW!”

The soldiers realized the presence of an officer, they halted in what they were doing.

“Who is in charge here?” Cornelius asked looking around menacingly.

Two soldiers stumbled out of a house hurriedly fixing their clothes. A sobbing sound can be faintly heard coming from the inside of that same house. An elder woman that was held back by some men of the village quickly dashed to the house and entered it. A scream of agony was heard within. Cornelius kept his focus on the approaching men, one of them clearly the squad leader – an optio.

“Sir!” They came to attention and saluted sloppily.

“What occurred here?” asked Cornelius. “Why was this place torn down by your men?”

“Your honor, serr. We were ordered to by our commander,” the squad leader spoke with a deep accent of that of a Syrian descent.

“Why?”

“Serr, one of our patrol was ambushed by Jewish rebels. The commander believes them from here. So, we destroy their praying place.”

“I see,” Cornelius could not fault them for following orders. “Well, you completed your task. You are done here!” He then turns to Cestus, “Cestus, take command of this men.”

“Auxiliary!” Cestus called in a commanding voice, “Alright lads. Form up into three lines and get ready to march like real Legionaries.”

“Halt!” Cornelius pointed at some of the men who were going to gather some bundled items that came from the collapsed building. He saw among the loot a large bounded scroll nicely covered in deep colored felt trim with silver tassels. He recognized what it was. It was the holy copy of the Scriptures, the Torah. He ordered, “No loot today. These items stay!”

The soldiers grumbled but they quickly went silent when the hulking figure of Cestus stared them down. The auxiliary unit was soon filing by, joining the column. Cornelius scanned the crowd until he spied a cluster of elderly men helping another older man sitting on a bench nursing a bleeding cut on his head. Cornelius called to them in Hebrew, “Please, take back what was taken.”

He did not wait for them to respond. He wheeled his horse around and went to the head of the column at a trot.

 

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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

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 1

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Galilee

The Cohort actually made good time. Four days out from the Phoenician city, Cornelius could just make out the inland sea, the Sea of Galilee. Of course, the sea was really a great lake of fresh water. From North to South, it is about thirteen miles in length then eight miles at its widest. The column of three hundred soldiers have been traveling on a caravan route following the tributary, Jordan River, which feeds the north side of the lake. The column halted and the men were lying about on the sides of the track getting some well earned rest. As they rested, Cornelius was standing on a shelf just above the track with a panoramic view. To the north were the Lebanon mountains. To the east was a wilderness of rocky hills, canyons and deserts. Then to the south toward the inland sea on the east side of the river, lies the lush green farm lands of Bethsaida. They were on the west side of the river following the rough craggy hills of the Galilee region. Though he could not make it out yet, his destination is a fort made by the first expeditionary Legion that conquered this land some fifty years ago. The fort lies about a few miles east of Bethsaida.

Cornelius saw Jacob climbing the shelf to join him.

“Look there, Jacob,” Cornelius pointed. “You are almost home.”

“I think I still have kin in Betsaida, farmers and fishermen both. I wonder if my brother is still living in Capernaum?”

“I have important work to do here, Jacob. They are your people and I am coming here as their conqueror and as another Roman oppressor.”

“An oppressor, yes. But that is not new for the people especially for those of us in the north part of the old kingdom. After the last exile into Babylon, those of my people who returned to Judah to rebuild the Holy city also remembered the lands of Zebulun & Nephtali, the lands of our ancestors. So, when the holy city was done, my family and many more returned to this area but the lands were already occupied by gentiles. There were some of the Israelites that were not exiled, the Samaritans, but they forgot the traditions of our people and generations of them intermarried with gentiles. Today, there is still deep enmity between our peoples. Anyway, we did re-establish the many settlements that were lost to us but had to learn to live with the gentile communities for they were protected by Persia at the time. Eventually, we became an independent province again but we were conquered by the Greeks, Egyptians and finally the Romans. So, we are not strangers to oppression but yet there is hope.” Then Jacob noticed Cornelius’ brooding look. “I have known you since your childhood. I have watched you grow into the man that you are today. I have surmised the difficult task you have to undergo to fulfill the orders of your superiors. I know you will be torn inside. All I can say is that when I chose bond servitude to you, it means I will support you. Does that help?”

Cornelius nodded and smiled.

“Now, how goes your study of the Prophet Isaiah?

“I have to reread the first quarter again. I did read something odd, though. ”

“What is that?”

“King Ahaz was king of Judah and it was reported to him that the king of Aram had made an alliance with the king of Israel. Both kings waged war against Jerusalem at that time. The Lord had prophesied to Ahaz that Judah will prevail against them and revealed a future that sixty five years from then both Aram and the north kingdom of Israel will be no more.”

“Yes, I recall that passage.”

“Right after that, God spoke to Ahaz again and gave him an opportunity to ask the Lord for a sign… which Ahaz foolishly did not ask, inviting a scathing rebuke. Then God gave him a prophesy anyway of ‘a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.’* I’m a little puzzled by this prophecy. I am not sure if this is literal or figurative.”
* Isaiah 7:14 NASB

“When it comes to prophecy, my boy, expect it to be both.”

“If it is literal, how can a virgin be with child?”

“I’m afraid I cannot answer that. It is an impossible mystery. However, when it comes to the impossible, it clearly belongs in the purview of the Spiritual. To be candid, I don’t think you or I will ever be a witness to any of the prophesies. I have been in this life for over sixty years, I have not seen any fulfillment. But I can hope.”

 

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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

 

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch1 – part 6

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Tyre

General Gaius was a burly man in his mid fifties. He was reviewing some dispatches when Arturos and Cornelius entered his tent.

“Gentlemen, stand at ease,” said the General. He read for another minute or so. Then he stood up, walked around the table and greeted both men with the shake of their hands. “Centurion, you have come highly recommended from your last commanding officer and Tribune Arturos. Also, I believe I met your father one time or another.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You are probably wondering how you have rated the senior rank of Primus Pilus at your age?”

“The thought did occur, sir.”

The General walked over to a large map of Palestine and the surrounding region. “Our Governor General is the prefect of this entire region.” The General was gesturing on the map from north area of the Lebanon all the way down to the Red Sea and Egyptian border of Gaza. “Do you see the problem?”

“Sir, that is a large area to cover with only our twelve cohorts that we brought in plus the eight cohorts that were already here.” Arturos said.

“Precisely, gentlemen. The territory is about the size of over a fourth of Italy but worst since the entire eastern border is open with the Jordan River valley as the only natural barrier. The main problem for the moment is not external. It is internal,” he said tapping in the Judean part of the map.

“This country is riddled with rebellion,” said the General as he sat back at his table. He picked up a scroll and opened it. “According to this, our forces had to quell about thirty uprisings since the old Herod died. The last one was just two years ago. An upstart called Bar-Jesus who claimed to be the Jews’ messiah was able to recruit the gullible fanatics… they call themselves zealots… and it were they that almost brought the populace to rebel almost successfully that the eastern trade to the empire was disrupted. It was by sheer luck that this Bar-Jesus was inept in his own country’s politics. It was the greed of the Jewish leadership that gave up his hide out and we were able to quash this rebellion. A thousand crucifixions still line the north caravan road to Jerusalem. But most of the zealots have blended back among the masses. We don’t know who they are.”

“This is where you come in, Cornelius” said Arturos.

“Me? How so, sir?”

“The Tribune came to us and said that not only can you speak the language of the Jews but you have a working knowledge of their culture and religion. An education that took up most of your youth. That makes you an expert. With what your former commander have written on his assessment of your command capabilities and your specialized education, the Governor had approved your advancement and commissioning you with a very important assignment.”

“General, I am gratified to serve. What are my orders, sir?”

“The Emperor Tiberius has his eyes on us. Pontus Pilate must succeed in not just subjugating this province but to prosper it. He will need up to date intelligence. He must not be caught unaware like his predecessor. You requested to garrison in the region of Galilee. That is good. That area is currently a hotbed of zealot activity. Root them out, Centurion. Establish a base of operation there. Get us that intelligence. The Governor will be at Caesarea Philippi for a year or so. Then he will take residence in Jerusalem.” He reached into a drawer and took out a short white baton with a silver wolf emblem on its crown and handed it to Cornelius. “This will give you governorial authority to make request of any military command in this region.” He hands a sealed leather bound packet. “Here are your orders and signet ring. Any questions?”

“Where will you be, General?”

“While the Governor is up north, I will be at the port city of Caesarea down south. I will sail with the fleet in a forth night. Dismissed, gentlemen.”

Cornelius and Arturos saluted and then exited his tent.

As they were walking slowly back to their respective tents, Arturos broke the silence. “Well, Cornelius, it seems that you got your wish to be assigned in the Galilee region. I’m a little concerned about this assignment. This assignment can make or break your career. The General didn’t say it outright but the implication is clear. Failure is not an option especially for you. And lately, I could not help but notice that you have been occupied with something.”

Cornelius paused and was about to reveal his thoughts but instead… he said, “No problems, Tribune. I will not fail.”

“Very well, Cornelius. The gods seem to favor you. So, let us hope that you will be successful in all the things you do.”

‘The gods,’ thought Cornelius. In his mind, he really is having a hard time believing that the gods have any influence at all. In about a week from now, he will be in a land where the people were given a promise of true hope by a god that supposedly has no equal. He will find out the truth.

 

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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

 

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch1 – part 5

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Tyre

Cornelius saw that his ship was steering to shore north of the city. He saw anchored in a wide bay many other Roman ships busily unloading supplies and men unto a flotilla of small boats going back and forth to the shore. The other ships of his fleets were beginning to weigh anchor too but not his galley and the two other large galleys. All three ships had furled their sails and started to row closer to shore. At first, he thought the ships were going to be beached, then he saw several floating piers jutting out from the shore. His ship steered itself to one. Flavius who had come up to join him at the bow pointed at the pier ahead. Cornelius had to shade his eyes and peer at what he was pointing at. He finally focused on an officer waiting for his ship to dock. It was his commanding officer, Tribune Arturos, who arrived days earlier with the other three cohorts that sailed ahead of them.

Tribune Arturos was the son of a senator and belonged to one of the high class families of Rome. When Cornelius met him for the first time, he was unsure of the ways of the military. But he liked him. Unlike some high born commanders, he was not haughty and he was willing to learn. Eight months in, training and commanding two cohorts, Cornelius felt he will be a good commander.

“It looks like our young Tribune did not farewell on the sea voyage here,” commented Flavius with a little humor.

Cornelius smiled a little as he saw that Arturos’ armor was noticeably larger for his wiry body. He took a mental note to speak with Arturos that he does not have to use that ornately decorated breast plate except for ceremonial purposes.

“Flavius, you better get our standard ready. Looks like, we will be going formal.”

The ship gently moored itself on its port beam and the sailors secured the gang lines. Then they laid out the gang plank. Flavius, two other sub-officers and the cohort’s Signifer, a legionary garbed with a gray wolf head and pelt over his armor stood attention by the gang plank waiting for Cornelius. The Signifer carried the standard – a tall staff with the cohort’s emblem on the top. The emblem had the carving of Rome’s eagle encircled by a wreath. There were four medallions in a line below the main emblem. Cornelius put on his helmet and worked his way to mid-ship where they waited. Then they followed him off the ship. They formed up and together in step, they marched toward the awaiting Tribune. Then they stopped in precision. Cornelius saluted by banging his right fist against his chest then extended it with his palm facing out.

“Hail, Tribune.”

“Hail, Cornelius,” smiled Arturos as he reached out to shake Cornelius’ forearm. “Well met, indeed. How was the journey?”

“We encountered a storm last week but no ships lost. How was your trip over?”

“I don’t mind telling you. I was sick all the way until we arrived two days ago.” Both of them laughed about it. “The camp is only three miles up the coast. The city of Tyre is about twelve miles south. City is off limits by order of the governor.”

“Tribune?” asked Flavius. “Why did we have to land here? I thought there was a Roman port farther south. What was the name of that port?”

“Caesarea,” answered Cornelius.

“Governor Pontus Pilate wanted to hold court at Caesarea-Philippi in the mountains of Lebanon. Tyre was a lot closer than our base down south. So far, our three cohorts plus five other auxiliary cohorts will bolster the old Ninth Legion there. The rest of the fleet with the rest of our forces will sail south tonight and garrison Caesarea. Meanwhile, Flavius, you disembark the rest of our men from those ships and get them settled at our camp. Cornelius, you and I have a meeting with General Gaius tonight.”

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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