THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch18 – part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch18 – part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Passages in italics are from Isaiah 53]

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

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 8

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

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

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

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

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

“Lord, come and see.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[note: quotes in italics are from John 11]

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 6

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

They rode out of the village and galloped down the Jericho Road. About an hour later, they reached the outskirts of Jericho near the river. They were about to ford the river when they saw Jesus and his disciples already crossing. There was a crowd waiting for him on their side of the shore. As soon as they waded out of the river, Jesus was quickly surrounded. Jesus started to talk to them and minister to the sick as he waded through them. Cornelius did not want to disturb him. He saw Simon the former Zealot and approached him. As they walked through the crowd, Simon told him what went on the past week.

“We did receive word of Lazarus’ illness about six days ago. We all thought that he was going to drop everything and return right away. But we stayed. We received two other messages. The last one read, ‘Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick.’ But when he heard this, he paused from his work, looked toward the direction of Bethany. He was looking a longtime. By the look of his face, I knew he wanted to go. Then he looked at us and said, ‘This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.’

“We thought that Lazarus was going to be healed. After all Jesus did heal the sick from a distance. Your own young servant was healed this way. Was he not? So, we did not think of it anymore. We stayed two more days, ministering and teaching. The he said, ‘Let us return to Judea.’ Peter and the others tried to sway him saying, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?’

“Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.’ We all stayed quiet because we were not sure what he meant. The he said, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.’

“Now, I thought his sickness had caused him to go into a deep sleep. We all thought that. Peter still hoping that he would stay told him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’ But he just looked at all of us and plainly said, ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sake that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.’

As they neared Bethany, Jesus decided not to enter the village. Instead, he went off the road and sat on a stump among a copse of pine trees. He seemed to be waiting expectantly and sure enough, Martha, sister of Lazarus, came to him with a servant. Cornelius could tell that she was slightly angry and disappointed at Jesus. She stood at a distance and said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Sighing deeply she said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Then Jesus approached her and stood before her. Her face was bowed and downcast. “Martha, look into my eyes,” he softly said to her. She slowly raised her teary eyes to meet his. Then he gave her a reassuring smile and said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” She cast her face down again in shame. Jesus ever so gently lifted her chin and asked, “Do you believe this?”

She sobbed loudly and Jesus drew her closer to him so that her face cried on his shoulder. Martha said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, even he who comes into the world.”

[note: quotes in italics are from John 11]

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 5

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

Jacob stood up and started to slowly pace the floor. “There is much to absorb on what you said. The traditional Jew in me is cringing on some of your concept but I do find it intriguing, maybe because I have lived for so long away from the local prejudices. If Jesus is going to offer himself as the guilt offering then there can only be two questions to ask, how and when?”

“For the when, it may be a long way off, for Jesus may still have much to do to usher in the kingdom. I pray he will be an old man by then. As to the how, I believe I may know how. But I would rather not discuss it now. I have to find Jesus. You and two of our men take one of the smaller wagons and meet me at Bethany at the house of Simon the Leper. I will take Cestus with me and ride ahead. Bring enough supplies for three days and if the lad wants to come, bring him along.”

On the rode halfway to Bethany, they slowed their horses down to a canter. Cornelius was not paying too much attention to his surroundings. He had been thinking on the how question. He is convinced that sometime in Jesus’ future he will be crucified. He recalled him mentioning how the Son of Man would be lifted up and even specified the cross to his disciples. Crucifixions are Rome’s answer to dissension. It is not just an instrument of death but agonizing torture. He had seen hundreds of crucifixions in Spain so much so that he does not pay too much attention to them nor the crying pleas for a quick death. He had reasoned that they all deserved it.

When they sighted Jerusalem, they were on the road that led to the North West gate of the city. About a quarter of a mile from the gate was a fork on the road. Just off the road was a large rocky knoll the shape of which looked like a sunken skull. Cornelius looked at the top of the knoll and saw two roughly hewn poles sticking up from the ground. This would be an ideal location to execute punishment, he thought. It was high up and in sight from the city and the busy traffic on this road. As he looked at the empty poles, he shook his head thinking that this was no kind of execution for Jesus. In the back of his mind, he would not allow it. He would rather plunge his sword into him, in honor, rather than see him tortured on the cross.

They took the left fork which led them to another road that skirted the north city wall. Cornelius noted signs of the city expanding. There were already a number of structures built on the wide plain north of the city as well as an army of workers building sections of a new perimeter wall. They soon reached the other side of the city and took the road that went to Bethany. When they arrived, Simon the leper was there to greet them. There was sadness in his eyes and Cornelius noted that his robe was ripped from the neck down. Then he can hear wailing cries from inside.

“What has happened, Simon?”

“My son, Lazarus, succumbed to his illness four days ago.”

“He is dead?! I grieve for you, my friend. He will be sorely missed,” Cornelius said as he placed his hand on Simon’s shoulder. “Where was Jesus?”

“We heard he was in the area of the Jordan River Valley. Probably still is, I think. We sent messengers to him but the master had not come. I just do not understand why.”

“I will go seek him out.” He and Cestus mounted their horses. “Jacob and some others will arrive here soon. Would you tell him to await for us here?”

“Of course.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 4

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

“I have always looked at these stories as exactly that, stories! Intellectually, I knew them as your people’s history. Now, I believe them to be not just a collection of your history but one continued account; an account of God in the process of redeeming not only your people but all of mankind. In fact, redemption is the key in the process.”

“I am intrigued!” Jacob said eagerly. “Please, go on.”

“Mind you, I am only skimming the surface of God’s process. I really doubt that I will ever figure it all out in my lifetime. But this is what I managed to figure out when I first met John the Baptist. From the Adam and Eve story, mankind had a very close relationship with God. He provided everything for them in the Garden of Eden. But most importantly, we were created to live forever with him. Can you just imagine it, Jacob? Eternity!

“Unfortunately, mankind chose differently. They chose to sin; the most heinous sin of them all… UNBELIEF! What prideful creatures we are, Jacob, for we chose to know better than the creator himself. Even when God gave Adam and Eve an opportunity to repent they would not accept the error of their ways. It is no wonder that God had no choice but to eject them from his presence and the doom of death was laid upon all our heads.

“But death is not the worst of our doom. Mind you, this is just conjecture on my part for I have not found anything solid on what awaits us after death in the book of Moses or any of the other books. There are hints but I cannot put my finger on it now. However, there is a sense of damnation that awaits us. Jesus spoke of an eternal life with God. This made me to think that he is here to save us from the opposite – eternal separation from God. I believe this is mankind’s greatest doom! For are we not created in God’s image? To be eternally separated from God is eternal torture and madness. In fact, this madness is reflected already in mankind’s history and religions as we strive to get back to him. But we can discuss this part later. What is important to consider is that we are DOOMED!

“That is the bad news! The good news is that God had a plan even before he created us. That plan is hinted throughout all of Scripture. Again, I do not have it all figured out. Earlier, I said that redemption is the key. Now, sin prevents us from coming near God. So, God provided a way for us to come to him and that is through animal sacrifice. Why animals? I ask myself. The answer is simple enough. Animals are not under the penalty of sin. They are innocent of sin. We, on the other hand, do not qualify even though we were originally created in his image. If one of us offered ourselves to pay for the penalty of sin, that sacrifice will be rejected off hand. So, the tradition of animal sacrifice had been passed down through the generation. But the true implication of the sacrifice was not known among the other nations, only in yours, for God had focused on your people. It was God who had institutionalized the sacrifice to become eventually the Temple practice.

“However, I think that the whole Temple system was never meant to be permanent. For one thing it is not perfect. We only have to look at the history and see how easily the system can be corrupted. Then there is the frequency of the sacrifice itself. Every year thousands of animals are offered. All of these show me that it is temporary. I think the whole system, every element in the temple – the laver, the altar, the incense, the bread table, the candles, the Ark of the Covenant, the priestly garments, the utensils, and the animals – the whole Temple itself is a shadow of something even more significant to come. I think all of that point to Jesus!”

Cornelius can see a slight frown of skepticism on Jacob’s face. “I know, it sounds thin. But I cannot get it out of my head. Imagine if the blood of a lamb can temporarily purchase forgiveness for just a year, how much more the blood of the Messiah. Do you recall what John, you know, one of the Twelve, told us what John the Baptist called Jesus?”

“No, not really,” said Jacob.

“He said that the Baptist called him, ‘the Lamb of God!’ Jesus has to be the ultimate guilt offering to open the way to God once and for all. It all fits. By his mother’s testimony, he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He had no human father. His unique birth qualifies him to be free of the doom of sin; And to add to that, all the miracles that you and I witnessed are clearly testimony of God’s approval.”
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