FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 051

MARY THE FAITHFUL
33 AD – Death of Lazarus – Bethany, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

One afternoon, Lazarus woke up in the midst of a fever and in a low hoarse voice, he said, “Mary, I do not think I will make it.”

“What talk is this, Lazarus?” Mary said a little scoldingly. “Jesus will not let you die. He will come.”

“Comfort my heart. Tell me a secret like you used to when you were little.”

Mary knew a secret and she was going to share it with him when he gets better.

“I did discover something,” she whispered. “It was when the disciples were talking amongst themselves when Jesus said ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’ [Mark 9:30-32]

“I was shocked to hear it but the disciples showed very little in emotion. Joanne later told me the he had said this a number of times before. The disciples are having a hard time trying to comprehend it and fear asking him about it. Some of them believe that it was more figurative. I believe otherwise… from the things I learned so far.”

Mary was given a great privilege. When Jesus saw that she had great capacity to learn, he gave instructions to his disciples to give her tutelage of the Scriptures which were traditionally reserved only for Jewish boys. Matthew took it upon himself to instruct her. Using the holy scrolls of a friendly Synagogue leader, Mary’s eyes opened to God’s written word. In the course of a few months, she saw a repeated pattern weaved within the stories of Moses and the books of the prophets. It was a pattern of sacrificial substitution provided divinely to temporarily pay for the original sin of Adam, the first man. But those sacrifices only benefited just a few. Mankind is still eternally in danger.

Mary, however, had also gleaned a promised hope in that pattern. She saw this promise float to the surface from within the literature like pieces in a puzzle starting with a voiced certainty that the future offspring of Abraham would be a great blessing to the nations. Those pieces came together in the prophecies of the coming Messiah. The question in her mind though was what would the Messiah do? The Jews have it in their minds that the Messiah would be a returning victorious king from the line of David freeing them from the tyranny of the Romans. But Mary believed that that prophecy will not come about the way her people expected. In her mind, their way of thinking only serves their nation. But prophecy says that the Messiah would be a great blessing to the nations… to all mankind. And that blessing will come in the form of a sacrifice to top all other sacrifices. She put it all together.

“Lazarus,” she whispered into his ear, “Jesus is going to die for all of us. I don’t know how yet, but I believe it is going to happen soon… very soon. I know this because of the way he had been talking to us lately. I think I am the only one who believes this. Lazarus? Lazarus, did you hear me?”

Mary thought he was asleep. When she placed her palm on his forehead, it was cold. She expected it to be feverishly hot. She sighed a breath of relief thinking that maybe his fever broke, but then to her dismay, she realized he was not breathing.

“Abba!” She called out as loud as she could.

Simon came rushing in followed by Martha and some of the servants. As Martha wailed loudly, he calmly assessed the situation. Going to a countertop, he retrieved his daughter’s hand mirror and gently held it under his nostrils trying to detect even a slight puff of air. He looked at Mary and shook his head. Then he pulled his son’s bed covers over his head.

The activity around the house was solemn. Mary was tired and walking around in a daze. She walked into the room where Lazarus was being prepared for burial. His body was almost wrapped with linen soaked in aromatic spices. Two women were solemnly wrapping his right arm and shoulder. Mary went to the other side of the table and rolled up her sleeve.

“Mary, you should not. You will be unclean,” said one of the women. “We can finish this.”

But Mary had already picked up the soaked strips and started to delicately wrap his other arm. When only his head was left unwrapped, the two women respectfully left the room to let Mary finish up.

Mary’s tears started to fall and she started to stroke her brother’s hair. When she turns toward the open window, she says, “If only you have come…”
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch5 – part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What of Miriam, your mother?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Optio… have your man release the girl.”

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

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

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 050

MARY THE FAITHFUL
33 AD – Death of Lazarus – Bethany, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

The winter again was not as harsh than last year and spring seem to have sprung up a little early in Judea. But the air was still a bit cold when Mary returned home with her two companions from Galilee. She had spent three wonderful months with Mariam, the mother of Jesus.

Mariam had taken Mary under her wing. From her, Mary was told an incredible story of how she was visited by an angel of the Lord. From that meeting, Mariam was told what the Lord God had intended and as intended, she became pregnant. The incredible part was that she was a virgin.

Jesus had been focusing his ministry in and around Nazareth and Capernaum. Whenever, Jesus was there, Mary had taken every opportunity learn more about him, the kingdom and eternal life. She even learned of things that Jesus only reserved to his closest disciples. For her, it was heaven.

When she alighted from the wagon, her father emerged from the house.

“Abba,” she hugged him. “It is good to be home.”

The two women approached them.

“Abba, you remember Mary of Magdala. And this is Joanne. Her husband is Chuza…”

“Oh yes… he is Antipas’ finance manager, I recall,” Simon said. “Ladies… please enter our home. I must talk to my daughter.” He led her to the side as her companions entered.

“Mary, I miss you so much. I almost regretted sending you to Galilee… almost.” Simon smiled then he hugged her again. “Before we go into the house, I have to tell you that your brother is very… very ill.”

Mary rushed into the house with her father not too far behind. She passed her two companions who clearly sensed something was wrong. She went up to the third level to her brother’s room. She paused before his door, took a breath and then entered.

Lazarus was covered from neck to foot with bed covers and blankets. His hair was flattened down in sweat. His glistening face was incredibly pallored to the point that he already resembled a corpse. It was only by his shallow breathing that Mary knew he was still alive. Martha was there laying a damp towel on his head.

“He has been asking for you, Mary,” Martha said.

“I wish I knew he was ill, or else I would have come earlier,” she said as they hugged each other. “How is he?”

“I feel much better, now that you are here,” Lazarus said as he smiled weakly. Then he fell back to sleep.

Martha took Mary to the far end of the room and whispers, “He is not getting better. I fear the worse. Where is the Master? Father had been sending messengers far and wide.”

“He and the Twelve are somewhere in the Perean region.”

“Then, I must inform Father, so he can send messengers. You stay and keep him cool.”

“Of course, sister.”

Martha quietly left the room.

“Mary?”

“I am here, brother.”

Mary went to his bed and replaced the the damp cloth on his head. He asked her for some news and she told him of the happenings of Capernaum, Cana and at Nazareth, mostly places where she was. Throughout the night and several other nights, she and her companions took turns in caring for him. However, Lazarus did not get any better and there were no signs of Jesus.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 049

NAHAN THE PRIEST
32 AD – Confrontation – Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Then the crowd again surged forward most with exaltation and belief written on their faces. Nahan saw that Jesus’ disciples were hard pressed to keep the crowd back from swamping him. Meanwhile, the guards and the Pharisees retreated back into the temple. Several minutes later as the crowd calmed down the chief priests and the leadership came back out.

So Jesus spoke loudly to those that surrounded him, many were of the Pharisees, Nahan noted.

“If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” [John 8:31,32]

One of the elder priests called out to Jesus, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that you say, ‘You will become free’? ” [v33]

The crowd quieted down and Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. [v34-36]

“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill me, because my word has no place in you. I speak the things which I have seen with my Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.” [v37,38]

Then a number of them exclaimed loudly to Him, “Abraham is our father.” [v39a]

Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father.” [v39b-41a]

“We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: The Lord.” [v41b]

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on my own initiative, but He sent me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear my word. [v42,43]

“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” [v44]

Nahan should have been angry but what this man have said so far disturbed him deeply.

“But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” [v45-47]

One of the priests answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” [v48]

Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. But I do not seek my glory; there is One who seeks and judges. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he will never see death.” [v49]

Pharisees in the crowd called out to Him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste of death.’ Surely you are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do you make yourself out to be?” [v50-53]

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” [v54-56]

So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” [v57]

“Truly, truly, I say to you,” Jesus paused for just a moment, then said, “before Abraham was born… I… AM.” [v58]

The whole court went deathly silent. Nahan was struck dumb. Deep in the recess of his mind he heard echo the words of the Prophet Isaiah, ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ [Isaiah 9:6]

Then the crowd erupted. There were men shouting to stone him but the bulk of the crowd were those who believed and they again surged forward in loud exultation. Altercations broke out as a group of men with stones in their hands tried to force their way to Jesus. Nahan lost sight of him. As angry as he should be, he was unusually happy that Jesus got away. Besides, he knew somehow that he will see the Son of man again.

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 49th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

PS… If you want to support my writing, there are two options:

1. Donate $2-$5 to my PAYPAL account [click below]

DONATE TO MY PAYPAL

2. Purchase my ebook, THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL, in Amazon.com for only $1.99. The Centurion’s Gospel is the story of Cornelius Metellus, the Roman Centurion who almost saved Jesus Christ from the cross. Just click the link below.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch5 – part 1

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

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

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

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

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

“He read from the scroll of Isaiah.”

Cornelius was curiously interested.

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

“Is he declaring himself openly, Jacob.”

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

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

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

“Shalom,” Jacob greeted.

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

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

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

—————————————————————————————-

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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Thank you

Johann Q

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 048

NAHAN THE PRIEST
32 AD – Confrontation – Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Then Nahan saw about twenty temple guards shoving their way through the crowd towards them, led by two of the chief priests. Nahan was wondering why are the guards being sent now. But the guards stopped at their tracks when Jesus spoke again.

“You all know me and know where I am from; and I have not come of myself, but he who sent me is true, whom you do not know. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” [John 7:28-29 NASB]

The priests leading the guards were coaxing them to move in, but the guards feared what the crowd will do to them. Meanwhile, the crowd was elated on how Jesus’ voice stopped them.

“I am the light of the world,” said Jesus. “He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” [John 8:12]

“You are testifying about yourself,” cried Nahan taking advantage that Jesus had contradicted himself. “Your testimony is not true.” [v13]

Jesus answered and said, “Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. But even if I do judge, my judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent me. Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am he who testifies about myself, and the father who sent me testifies about me.” [v14-18]

Someone in the crowd then called out, “Where is your father?”

Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my father; if you knew me, you would know my father also.” [v19]

The crowd started to surge toward him making it even more difficult for the Temple guards to approach.

Then he said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.” [v21]

Nahan, the temple guards, the priests and the Pharisees who were there to take Jesus looked at each other questioningly. One of them asked, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” [v22]

“You are from below,” Jesus declared loudly. “I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.” [v23-25]

They asked him, “Who are you?” [v26]

“What have I been saying to you from the beginning? I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but he who sent me is true; and the things which I heard from him, these I speak to the world. When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” [v27-29]

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 48th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

PS… If you want to support my writing, there are two options:

1. Donate $2-$5 to my PAYPAL account [click below]

DONATE TO MY PAYPAL

2. Purchase my ebook, THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL, in Amazon.com for only $1.99. The Centurion’s Gospel is the story of Cornelius Metellus, the Roman Centurion who almost saved Jesus Christ from the cross. Just click the link below.

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 047

NAHAN THE PRIEST
32 AD – Confrontation – Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Nahan then noticed the expressions of the crowd and saw that most were frowning and not happy with his words. He was losing the crowd and looked nervously back at his superiors. At the same instance, he saw that Jesus on the other hand was a picture of calm and serenity still sitting on the top of the steps politely allowing the other to make his point.

Nahan needed to illustrate that Jesus is a false teacher, so he brought up one of Jesus’ controversial lessons that he gave some months back in the synagogue of Capernaum.

“Was it not you who declared, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ What nonsense is this?”

“Then you continued on by outragiously saying that, ‘…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” [John 6:34-58 NASB]

“The nerve of this man!” Nahan exclaimed quite dramatically. “Do you not see how ridiculous the things that this man teaches? Again I ask you all, how has this man become learned, having never been educated?”

Jesus then stood up quite calmly. Somehow, though this Jesus did not seem impressive, Nahan suddenly felt a sense of dread.

“My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me,” Jesus said. “If anyone is willing to do his will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who is seeking the glory of the one who sent him, he is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” [John 7:16-18]
Jesus then directly points at him but shifts his gaze towards the leaderships.

“Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill me?” [John 7:19]

There were angry murmurs coming from the crowd.

“You have a demon! Who seeks to kill you?” cried Nahan.

Jesus answered, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. For this reason Moses has given you circumcision not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers, and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” [John 7:22-24]

The High Priest and a number of the leadership angrily walked back into the temple. Nahan would have followed but he was instructed to stay.

Meanwhile, the crowd was busily debating among themselves on whether Jesus is the Messiah or not. Some of the people therefore, were shouting, ‘This certainly is the Prophet.’ Others were saying, ‘This is the Christ.’ Still others were saying, ‘Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was from?’ So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 47th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

PS… If you want to support my writing, there are two options:

1. Donate $2-$5 to my PAYPAL account [click below]

DONATE TO MY PAYPAL

2. Purchase my ebook, THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL, in Amazon.com for only $1.99. The Centurion’s Gospel is the story of Cornelius Metellus, the Roman Centurion who almost saved Jesus Christ from the cross. Just click the link below.