THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 3

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

He went over to his desks and lit several oil lamps. He stared a long time at the top sheet of a stack of parchments. It was the passages of the suffering servant that he translated. Since the battle, his mind kept returning to that nagging desire for understanding ‘why the Messiah had to suffer so and die?’

The problem here is that this particular chapter seems to contradict all the other chapters that he had so far read of the Messiah in the whole book of Isaiah. The contradiction is that the Messiah is alive to usher in the new kingdom of which all of the nations will be affected. His logical mind tells him that since those chapters in bulk out weigh this one particular chapter, he should just disregard it. At most, if this is the passage that Jesus wanted him to find, then can it be that his task is to prevent it? That seems right, but yet, somehow in the deep recesses of his heart there is this lingering doubt in his logic. It was maddening.

He so wanted to speak to Jesus. On their way to Emmaus, they went through the town of Jericho. He made some inquiries on the whereabouts of Jesus. They said that he was there staying in the house of a tax collector that seem to have repented of his sins. But he and his followers left with no indication of where. Cornelius was tempted to swing by Bethany but he had to reach Emmaus by night fall. So, now, here he was unable to sleep trying to figure out an enigma.

He decided to read through the passages again.

On his third pass, one phrase seems to jump out at him.

If he would render himself as a guilt offering… [Isaiah 53:10b NASB]

He recalled that the guilt offering is an animal sacrifice for one to make himself right with God whenever that person sins. The ritual is for a person to symbolically pass his sins onto the animal by laying his hand on its head. Then the priests would slaughter it and offered its carcass on the burning altar. Cornelius knew he was forgetting something important; something about the animal. Oh yes, he remembered. The animal, whether it be a ram, an oxen or even a lamb, was to be male and with no blemish. That is the crucial condition that God required. It is written through out the Scriptures.

Cornelius realized that he may be on to something. He had to ask, what did the animals represent? And what is the connection between the sacrifice and Jesus? He went over to the corner of the large tent where the baggage was stored. He pulled out a big chest that carried his collection of books and scrolls. When he opened the lid, he rummaged through it; pulling out five big books. Cornelius had not read these books since way before he joined the Legion. They were the first books that Jacob helped him translate into Greek when he was still in his teens. It took them six years. They were the books of Moses.

That whole night, he poured through the books jumping from one story to the next, always writing down notes. He did not know when he finally fell asleep, but when he woke up and opened his eyes, he found that Jacob was there looking over some of the notes that he wrote. There was a tray of food and drink next to him.

“You have been busy, I see,” Jacob said as Cornelius was stretching his arms up. Pointing at his notes, he asked, “You have listed about twenty five references to the type of animal sacrifices from the story of Abel to the laying of Levitical ordinances^^. What do you hope to conclude from your research?”

^^ Levitical laws are found in the book of Leviticus, the 3rd book of Moses

“I have been working off a premise.”

“And that is?”

“That Jesus is offering himself as the guilt offering,” Cornelius answered. Jacob looked at him questioningly. “But I needed a better understanding of guilt offerings, hence my pulling out the Book of Moses to see where it all started. I tell you Jacob. It was like my eyes have opened up. I cannot explain it, but I began to see this book in the way it was meant to be seen.”

“What do you mean?”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 2

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

Later, in Arturos’ quarters, General Alto gave them their orders. “Tribune, your cohorts will be relieved in two weeks. They have earned some rest at Caesarea. However, Arturos, you will be stationed in Jerusalem with at least ten squads of your cohort.”

“Yes sir. Thank you.”

“Centurion, the governor wants you back at what you were doing, as soon as possible. He is giving you a squad of Equites Legati*. This is my suggestion. Tighten up your network of informants. With the light cavalrymen, you are to report more frequently, even if you have nothing to report. The governor demands it. He feels that with the biggest Jewish festival coming in a month or so that something significant is going to happen. He does not want to be caught unaware again.”

* Equites Legati were actually lightly armored cavalry men used mostly for reconnaissance and as messengers.

“Yes sir. I will leave in a couple of days.”

“Oh yes, I almost forgot. He wants you to be closer but not necessarily in Jerusalem. There is a supply outpost in Emmaus. It is only seven miles from the city. Establish yourself there within the week.”

“But, sir?”

“I know you want to closely follow this Jesus fellow, Centurion. You need not fret. He seems to have moved his operation to Judea and around the Perean Basin since last week. Apparently, this Jesus wanted you to know where he will be. One of his closest followers approached Centurion Porcius in Capernaum and gave him this note. I was at the Bethsaida fort when he reported to me. Since, we were already coming here I figured I will give it to you myself.” He handed the folded parchment to him.

“Thank you, sir.”

When he opened the note, what was written was a single Hebrew word, ‘Bethany’.

After a good nights rest, Cornelius opted to leave that day for Judea. He dispatched Nacob and Lyca, two of his best men as well as three of the light cavalrymen to Capernaum. They will hand over written orders to Porcius. The three cavalrymen will be stationed there. Nacob and Lyca will then bring whatever personal gear left there to Emmaus.

Flavius came up to him as he mounted. “Well, it looks like I will be in Jerusalem with the Tribune. I will see you there in two weeks.”

“Until then,” he said with hand raised in farewell as he led his contingent of fifteen men who rode on two wagons and the remaining four cavalrymen out the fort.

They actually did good timing. At the end of the second day, they rolled into the outpost about a mile outside of Emmaus. It was actually a small fort manned by only forty men. It was extensive mainly because the animal pens and grain storage were within. The fort’s commander was an aging veteran who lost his arm. His name was Verinius. Not wanting to quit the Legion, the only position open to him was procurement. He was jovial and quite accommodating. His men were easily billeted in the barracks. Verinius offered his quarters since Cornelius outranked him, but he declined telling him that he is not there to take command of the fort and its operation. So, they set up his campaign tent.

That night, he could not sleep. He went over to his desks and lit several oil lamps. He stared a long time at the top sheet of a stack of parchments. It was the passages of the suffering servant that he translated. Since the battle, his mind kept returning to that nagging desire for understanding ‘why the Messiah had to suffer so and die?’

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The story continues on in my next post.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 1

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius walked into his quarters saddle soar. For a whole week, he and a contingent of twenty cavalrymen have doggedly followed the defeated army back to their mountain stronghold where the legendary city of Petra, a city built into the rock, lies. Upon returning to the fort, he was surprised to find that the Governor General was there with General Gaius Alto. He had to quickly freshen up and report to the Governor’s quarters.

As he entered the governor’s tent, he saw that Tribune Arturos, Flavius and other officers were standing relaxed listening to General Alto talk. Pilate was sitting on a plush divan with Tribune Marcianus standing behind him.

“Aretas will not be so bold as to gamble again for a long while,” Alto said, as he was finishing his assessment for the benefit of the officers. “He clearly underestimated your small force. Very well done on your first campaign, Tribune. I am sure your father will be pleased.”

“Thank you, sir.” Seeing Cornelius enter, he added, “Of course, sir, I could not have done it without my second in command, Centurion Primus Cornelius.”

“Ah yes, Centurion,” Pilate stood up and joined them. “I have read all the reports. It is most fortunate that General Alto had convinced me to allow you to rejoin your cohort for this minor campaign. I did not think that Aretas would go so far as to try to gain a toehold in the Decapolis and be a thorn at my side if he captured Gadara. It is a good thing that you were an important asset to your tribune, for I did not need anymore headaches.” Cornelius could hear in Pilate’s tone that he was not pleased with him about something.

Sensing the same thing, Arturos dismissed the other officers. As soon as they left the tent, it was Arturos who asked, “Governor, what has happened, sir?”

“What happened was? I was caught off guard because I had no intelligence to warn me three weeks ago!” Pilate angrily said.

“Allow me, governor,” Tribune Marcianus haughtily said. Pilate sat down fuming. “Three weeks ago, the governor was in Jerusalem for business. He was entertaining a delegation of senators when a loud mob formed on the Temple court and started shouting protests. As I understand it, the mob was incited by men from Galilee. Hence, the reason why the governor was not pleased with you, Centurion. You were not there to give him any warning. If he knew, he could have head off the protest.”

“Sir, may I ask what was it that they were protesting about?”

Marcianus turned to look at Pilate. “They were protesting something about the aqueduct project.”

“The aqueduct? Sir, the aqueduct was completed last year,” Arturos said. “I heard that the city turned out and celebrated. How was it that they were protesting a year later?”

“Those ingrates!” Pilate threw his goblet across the room. “I had a secret arrangement with the priesthood. The money to build it came from them.”

“From the Temple treasury, sir?”

“I assume so, but what does that matter? Annas and I had a deal! It was suppose to be a secret. Some priest must have told the Zealots. There they were, disrupting my business and they dare to call me names!”

“The governor wanted to send in the troops.” Marcianus cut in. “But I felt it was prudent to mix twenty of our men in disguise among the crowd to quietly separate the ring leaders. Well, when the signal was given, our men were somewhat zealous in their execution of the orders. I believe forty or fifty Jews were killed in the process.”

“But that is not the last thing I have heard on this!” Pilate brewed. “One of the senators informed me that the Jewish leadership was sending a delegation to Emperor Tiberius to have me ousted.”

General Alto stepped in, “Fortunately, Governor, you have this victory to report to the Senate.”

“Yes! Thank you for reminding me, Gaius. A triumph like this will gain me some support.” Pilate poured himself another goblet of wine. Then he lifted it up and toasted, “To the victory!”

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The story continues on in my next post.

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