THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch11 – part 4

THE FALLING OUT – Sea of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

The next day was the Sabbath and as Cornelius predicted, Jesus’ open declaration was on everyone’s mouth. Cornelius sat among ten other non-Jews, all proselytes, on seven tiered steps against the western wall of the synagogue. There were another set of steps at the opposite wall. Capernaum’s synagogue was large and able to hold hundreds at a time. The whole assembly faced the south wall mainly because that was the direction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. At that wall, on a raised platform, Elan, the synagogue leader, had reverently brought out The Torah, the holy scrolls, from an ornately decorated cabinet also called the Ark built into an alcove. John, the brother of James, was called to read from the scrolls. With his shawl over his head, he read a passage from the Prophet Jeremiah after which Elan lead the congregation in a chant-like prayer.

The synagogue was filled to capacity. The main floor area with its row upon row of wooden benches was occupied only by the men sitting shoulder to shoulder. The women and children were always relegated in the upper galleries in the back. Cornelius finally spotted Jesus seated near the front row surrounded by the Twelve and other disciples. Seated on the opposite side were a group of men in more elegant clothing. He knew some of them to be local Pharisees but there were a number of new faces that Cornelius did not know.

When the prayer finished, Elan, the synagogue leader, returned the Talmud back into the Ark and then opened the floor for discussion. At once, one of the local Pharisees stood up and called out to Jesus challengingly, “Rabbi, we have heard that you claim to be our promised messiah! And that you are the bread of life and we have to believe in you! What is this talk? If what you say is true, what then do you do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform?”

Others stood calling out, “Yes! Give us a sign!”

“After all, our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness,” the same Pharisee said somewhat mockingly, “as it written, ‘MOSES GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ “

Jesus then stood and calmly said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven…” [John 6:31-32 NASB]

Against Peter’s whispered objections, Jesus walked out of the protective circle of his disciples to the front and sat down on the raised platform. Elan seeing that he had taken the posture of the teacher called for the house to be silent and gestured them to sit.

“Truly, I say again, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”

From the back of the synagogue, some called out, “Lord, always give us this bread.” From among the Pharisees, there were a few chuckles.

Jesus again repeated to them that he was the bread of life, then he said, “he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

Then, he stood and walked to where his disciples were and said, “This is the will of Him who sent me, that of all that He has given me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I myself will raise him up on the last day.” [John 6:34-… NASB]

Cornelius noted that the Pharisees were agitated and were talking among themselves. Elan, who was seated on his customary bench at the front, was visibly and uncomfortably worried.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch11 – part 3

THE FALLING OUT – Sea of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

An hour just before sunrise, the boats were broached securely on the beach with everyone sound asleep in their blankets. By sunrise, a passing herdsman recognized Jesus and went and spread the news. Two hours into the morning, a crowd of a hundred people with many that were sick and impaired were gathered around the encampment. Jesus and the disciples ministered to them for four hours after which they got back into the boats and sailed back to Capernaum.

That night, a number of men sought out Jesus after they arrived from where the multitude was fed. When they found out that Jesus was already at the house of Peter they rushed over and found him seated on the front porch teaching to a small crowd. Cornelius noted them approaching. They were about twenty of them. He noted that three of them were zealots, former companions of Simon. Simon also noticed them as well and whispered into Peter’s ear. Peter then moved ever so slowly and positioned himself slightly behind Jesus watching them. Cornelius and Cestus also subtlety positioned themselves so that they can intervene between Jesus and them if need be. But the men stopped at the edge of the seated crowd.

One of them asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus looked at them for a long while. Most of them started to look uncomfortable like they knew that he could see right through them. He slowly stood and took a couple of steps toward them. Then he answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” He started to look at everybody else and said, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

Then they asked Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”

He again sat and told them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Jesus then spent about twenty minutes or so in a dissertation that even to Cornelius was both incredible and yet profoundly disturbing. For months, Jesus had not openly declared who he was except to his closest disciples; but even to them he mostly referred to himself in the third person. But now Jesus have openly declared, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.” [John 6:25-29,35 NASB]

For Cornelius, this was an incredible statement of which he has no doubt will keep his mind busy through out the night. But what was foremost on his mind was ‘why now?’ He must know that his statement will spread like wildfire. But to what end? Cornelius scanned the faces around him. His disciples showed confusion and concern. To the group of twenty men including the zealots among them, what he saw was disgust. Some of them have left even before Jesus finished. Others including a number of followers have left as well murmuring among themselves.

When Jesus had finished, only the twelve, a few others and Cornelius were left. No other words were spoken. All that Jesus did was smile and then went into the house.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch11 – part 2

THE FALLING OUT – Sea of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

“The wind on the sea is coming from the northwest. It will be a hard pull to Capernaum. The sails will not help us. My brother, Andrew, knows these waters, he and Simon will help your men row.” Peter gestured for the women to come closer. “Our boat is full. May these women take passage with you under your protection? This is Mary of Magdala and her cousin Elizabeth.”

“Of course, they can ride with us.”

“Many thanks. Come, we must go. It will be a hard pull in this wind.”

They have been rowing against the wind for two hours. Cornelius relieved Simon on the oar and already his arms felt rubbery after half an hour of pulling. Cornelius peered toward the shore that they came from, though it was still three hours until sunrise, he could still make out distinctive markings of the beach and the hills behind it. He determined that they were less than two miles from the same eastern shore. The north shore, on the other hand, cannot be seen, so that means the wind had been pushing them south. Cestus and Simon were exhausted and resting in the stern. The women, Jacob and Trax were huddled together low at the bow trying to stay out of the wind and spray. As Cornelius looked around, he could just make out the other boat some twenty yards from them. Seeing that he and the others needed rest, he stood up and called out to the other boat. He signaled them to come closer so that they will not be separated. After a while both boats were tied together.

“We are all exhausted,” he spoke to Peter. “Let us rest for about an hour.”

“Yes, I agree. This northwesterly wind seems to be picking up even more. I fear we may have to ride this wind to the south and hopefully we could use the sails in the morning.”

But then about half an hour later, the wind and the choppy water calmed down around them. For Cornelius, it was uncanny. He could hear the wind howling above him but all he can feel is a slight breeze. He could tell that the inland sea was choppy but the boats felt like they were riding on gentle rollers. Peter roused the men to man the oars and take advantage of the lull. They were about to untie the boats from each other, when one of the other women in Peter’s boat screamed out in fear. Cornelius looked over to see what is the matter. Some of the disciples started to point toward the east shore. As he looked, he could not see a thing. Then from behind a high rolling wave, he could just make out something glowing. At first, he thought it was something floating in the water but then it was upright and heading towards them.

As it came closer, Cornelius could feel the hairs on the back of his neck standing, as he looked at what can only be a glowing apparition walking slowly on the surface of the water. Nothing in all his experience prepared him for this. He stood there frozen as both men and women called out in fear.

Then the apparition spoke in a quiet voice, “Do not be afraid! It is I.”

No more did Cornelius see a ghost but Jesus himself calmly and casually walking on the rolling waves. Cornelius burst out in joyous laughter at this incredible sight.

Peter called out, “Master, if it is you, command me to walk on the water to you.”

Jesus stopped and said, “Come!”

Then Peter, with no hesitation, jump out of the boat but instead of going under both his feet landed like as if it were on solid ground. Jesus was about ten yards out. Incredibly, Peter was walking towards him on the water. He was about half way there when spray from a breaking wave touched his face. He started to frantically look around in panic at the rough sea and wind. Then, like someone falling through a thin layer of ice, Peter plunged into the churning sea yelling to be saved. Jesus quickly pulled him out and steadied him as he was standing again on the water. He and a grateful soaking wet Peter climbed back into the boat.

Jesus then said to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Jesus calmed the sea. The winds have blown both boats so far south that Jesus allowed them to row to a beach in the vicinity of one of the Decapolis cities named Hippos.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch11 – part 1

THE FALLING OUT – Sea of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

It seemed that Cornelius had just closed his eyes to sleep when he was awakened by Cestus. The sky was still very dark.

“Sir! I am sorry to wake you, sir! But the follower, Simon, needs to speak to you. There seem to be some urgency, sir.”

Cornelius noted that Jacob and Trax were up rolling their blankets. “What is going on?” he asked.

Cestus gestured to where Simon and Matthew were standing. As he got up, Cestus started to roll his blanket as well, prompting him to surmise that something was up. Simon and Matthew approached him.

“The master has called us to leave this place as soon as possible!” Matthew said.

“Why? What has happened?”

It was Simon who answered, “He told Peter that, in the morning, the people will come to take him and declare him king. I am afraid that my former companions have been busy arousing the populace.”

“We must get Jesus away from here! If they force the crown on him, the governor will have no choice. He will be a hunted man.”

“He is already gone. According to Peter, he alone went up the mountain for solitude. Only Peter, John and James know to which his direction went. He commanded that we must be away from here before the morning. He also felt that you should go as well. We will guide you down to the beach by another path away from the multitudes.”

Simon led the way. Fortunately, the moon was out and bright enough for them not to use torches. He led them down a fairly steep ravine that eventually reached the beach about two miles from where they originally landed. Cornelius thought that they were going to work their way back to the boats, when to his surprise, he noticed that there were two boats already waiting for them. As he came closer, he saw that one of the boats was his. Peter approached them.

“Greetings again, Cornelius!”

“How is it that you were able to convince my men to bring my boat here?” Cornelius had to ask, for his men would not have taken orders from anyone else.

Cestus, who went ahead to the boat, called back, “I found them, sir! They were both trussed up and gagged!”

Cornelius faced Peter questioningly.

“Forgive me, Cornelius?” Peter sheepishly explained, “We reasoned that your men would not listen to reason. So, we silently jumped them.” Rubbing his sore jaw, he continued, “Please do not reprimand them. Your men did put up a good fight. It took all ten of us to disarm and tie them up.”

Andrew came up leading two women. Cornelius noted that his left eye had some bruising around it.

“No harm done and the boats are here,” though he may have to talk to his men, to reassure them that no honor is lost and so that they will not act out on their own.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch10 – part 7

THE SIGN – Wilderness East of the Lake of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

“What you have heard this night, keep it guarded only among yourselves. The time is not yet right. But it will soon be.” Jesus paused and closed his eyes in contemplation for a long minute. Then he opened his eyes and said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

The men began murmuring among themselves. Peter stood up and requested Jesus if he could talk to him privately. Cornelius watched them walk not too far, just at the edge of the light of the camp fire. At first, the big man was calmly whispering things to him. But then he started gesturing angrily. After awhile, Peter was heard angrily saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” The men went silent. Jesus was walking back with Peter wanting to talk some more. Then Jesus angrily pushed Peter back, turned his back to him and said, “Get behind me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind in God’s interests, but man’s.” [Matthew 16:22,23 NASB]

Peter’s face first showed shock and anger, and then realization on the implication of Jesus’ words. Shock was soon replaced by shame. The once big proud man who was minutes earlier praised for his faith stood there humbled with his head down in dejection.

This is the first time that Cornelius has seen Jesus angry. But as quick as it came, Jesus’ face was composed. He went up to Peter and placed his hand on his shoulder and guided him back to the circle of men. He looked at each face and said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it.”

Jesus sat and everyone else followed suit. Then he said, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” [Matthew 16:24-28 NASB]
Cornelius returned to his own campsite. Jacob, Trax and Cestus were already sound asleep. As he wrapped himself in his blanket, looking up onto the starry sky, he tried to think about Jesus’ parting words. But to no avail. He finally gave in to sleep with one question lingering in his mind, ‘Why the cross?’

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch10 – part 6

THE SIGN – Wilderness East of the Lake of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Jesus welcomed Cornelius to their circle and gestured that he sit between Simon and Matthew. Matthew had his writing tablet out and was scribbling away. As he was meticulous in keeping records as a former tax collector, he had taken on the task on keeping a journal. By the light of the campfire, Cornelius saw that it was only the twelve that was gathered with Jesus. All of them offered him a nod of greeting. The men were talking among themselves about today’s event, when Jesus interrupted with this question.

“Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” Jesus asked.

The men started to answer all at once. Some have heard that he was John the Baptist returned from the dead. Matthew and a couple of others called out Elijah. Every major Prophet of old from Jeremiah to Elisha was mentioned.

Then Jesus raised his hand for silence and asked, “But who do you say that I am?”

Cornelius watched the men look at each other like they were afraid to give the wrong answer. He wanted to blurt his answer out but felt that it was not his place. Then Peter stood up with determination and answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

Then Jesus approached the big man and to Cornelius’ surprise he spoke in Greek! “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”   [Matthew 16:13-20]

Jesus then sat down allowing them to discuss it among themselves. Cornelius, as to his practice, preferred to think it out by himself. The first thing that came to his mind was, ‘Why in Greek?’ Here in Galilee, Aramaic was the common language among the locals, but Greek was often used in trade with foreigners. In fact, Greek was often used this way throughout the Mediterranean even as far as the cold North Country where the empire had not touched. As he stared at Matthew’s writing, he thought, ‘Of course, one day Jesus’ teachings will go out among the nations and Greek is richer in vocabulary and meaning than Aramaic! At that matter, it is even better than Latin, the language of Rome.’ This message is for the ages, not just for the Jews or else Jesus would have spoken in Hebrew.

So, Cornelius focused on the message. Jesus said that God had opened Peter’s eyes and revealed to him who He really was. He himself came to that same conclusion even before Peter declared it. He had to wonder if God’s hand was behind this as well. Was his conclusion that Jesus may be the promised Messiah from months of investigative work? As he looked back, he began to see patterns of a divine guiding hand. He would never have investigated Jesus closely if it were not for John the Baptist.

‘But hold on’, he thought. ‘He did not exactly point out Jesus directly!’ John pointed him to the manuscripts of Isaiah of which he was already studying even before he came into this land. Was that coincidence? At that matter, he would not have shown any interest in the Baptist if it wasn’t for his childhood interest in the Prophets of God. Cornelius eyes widened in astonishment to the realization that God may have put him on this road of discovery when he was still a child hearing for the first time of Jacob telling a story of God choosing a shepherd boy to lead His people. He felt he should talk about this in length with his old mentor.

Meanwhile, his mind started to work on the final part of Jesus’ message. He was staring at Matthew’s writing tablet and the freshly scratched message on it. He asked him if he could look at it closely. Matthew handed the tablet to him. Cornelius tilted it toward the fire so that he could read.

Matthew wrote Jesus’ message, word for word, in Greek. Right under it, he also wrote the Aramaic interpretation. His first impression was that Jesus was declaring that Peter would be the ‘rock’ on which He would build His church. But for some reason, he was not sure if that was correct. He again looked over the Greek and Aramaic passage. At first, he was not sure what he was looking for. Then he saw a discrepancy in the Aramaic passage and compared it to the Greek. In the Greek, Jesus used the words Petros for Peter and petra for a big rock. In the Aramaic, Matthew used only one word for both, cephas, which both translate to Peter and rock. But then Cornelius realized that the Greek word, Petros, also means small stone. Now, he understood why in Greek.

It is a play on words. Jesus was not declaring that Peter would be the ‘rock’ on which He would build His church. He again looked at the original passage. ‘You are Petros… small stone… and upon this petra… big rock… I will build my church.’

In his mind’s eye he saw an image of a small stone being placed upon a massive rock. The small stone was definitely Peter who was privileged to be placed on the big rock because of his open declaration of faith. The only other question that came to mind was, ‘Who is the big rock?’ Of course, there was no doubt who that is.

Cornelius looked over at Jesus and found him looking at him too with that knowing smile. Then Jesus quieted down the men.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch10 – part 5

THE SIGN – Wilderness East of the Lake of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Jesus then gathered only his chosen twelve and they circled around him. He called over the boy with the bread and fish.

Cornelius could not see what Jesus was doing but he heard him prayerfully giving thanks for the bread and the fish. As he looked upon the backs of the twelve, he saw them bend over closely to what Jesus was doing in their midst. Then all twelve broke out in joyous laughter. Soon they were handing out lots of bread and fish to the waiting line of people who carried filled baskets back to their respective groups. Levi who was now called Matthew brought to Cornelius’ group a basket full of warm barley flat loaves and fish that was amazingly smoked dry and ready to eat.

When all have eaten, Jesus again gave instruction only to his closest twelve to each to take a basket and collect the left over pieces from among the people. When they returned they had collected twelve baskets filled with bread fragments.
The sun was just setting in the horizon. Cestus went back to the boat to bring food to Nacob and Lyca. Cornelius was lounging close to the fire listening contently to Jacob telling Trax the story of how David narrowly escaped Saul’s trap, when, to his surprise, Simon the Zealot approached him.

“The Master wishes you to join us up at the ridge.”

As he got up, he asks, “Did he tell you to get me?”

“No. I volunteered.”

About half way up the ridge, Cornelius asked, “How is it that it was you to volunteer to get me? I thought you did not like Romans?”

Simon paused to face him, “That is true! I still do not trust your people. But the master considers you with high regard and even to my surprise, I have to agree. I have heard that you tried to have John the Baptist released.”

“To no avail, I’m afraid. I failed him!”

“Yet, it was told us that you would have risked your own life to save him from execution.”

“How did you hear of that?”

“We do have eyes and ears in Herod’s palace,” Simon amusingly said. “The wife of Herod’s treasurer, who at times comes to minister to us with the other women in our group, witnessed your anger at Herod’s celebration. Be at peace, Cornelius. She was the only one that noticed your anger. She knew, through John’s companions, that you were going to petition for his release. When the order was given for his execution, she saw you walking after the guards and guessed that you were going to do something violent until your governor called you, of course. But it is of no more matter. To all of us here, your intentions are clear. Of this, we thank you. For myself, well, now I am beginning to understand some of my master’s teaching.”

He held out his hand and Cornelius took hold of it and shook hands.

“Come! The master awaits us.”

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