THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch13 – part 2

TO JERUSALEM – Magdala to JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Wherever Jesus went there was always a large following. Cornelius started to note the presence of a tighter group of Pharisees and scribes among them. At first, they mostly observed and whispered among themselves, but lately, they have been increasingly confrontational. Just the week before, three of them from Jerusalem came up to Jesus and publicly demanded why he would allow his disciples and they used the word “transgress” the time honored traditions of the elders. Apparently, they observed some of the Twelve not washing their hands during a Sabbath meal.

[note: The scribes were the religious lawyers of the priesthood. The Pharisees were mostly rich fundamentalist and members of the leadership.]

To their surprise, Jesus started to chuckle and shake his head. A few others also started to laugh though Cornelius knew that they were not sure why. Jesus started to walk away still chuckling but they insisted that he answers them before the witnesses around them. He looks at them and again he had that same knowing smile. He whispers something to Peter, James and John. They started to push the crowd to form a circular area with the three angry Pharisees on one side and a calm Jesus on the other. Cornelius was reminded of another similar scene of the Prophet Elijah against four hundred Baal priests.

Then he answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 

“For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ 

“But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,’ he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.”

“We are teachers of the Law!”

“You are hypocrites! How rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ “

The Pharisees were blustering for no one has ever dared spoken to them that way. They angrily pushed their way through the crowd and left.

Jesus called the crowd to come closer, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”

Privately Judas Iscariot, who had a disturbed look, came up to Him and said, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended in what you said?”

But Jesus answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
[Matthew 15:1-14 NASB]

Cornelius now knew that he need not worry about the Zealots. For Jesus had just made a bigger enemy of the religious leaders of the land.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch13 – part 1

TO JERUSALEM – Magdala to JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

For Cornelius, the next two weeks went by with a whirlwind of activities. He again followed Jesus going to every village in the region teaching and healing the sick. He did not stay long in each village. As soon as he had finished preaching, they were off to the next. Twice during that time Cornelius’ sense of reality was rocked by Jesus’ power. He had gotten used to seeing people healed by Jesus that it had become commonplace to him. But then bringing someone back to life from the dead was something that he did not expect. He had heard Jesus say that he brings life to the dead, but he had always thought that what he meant was metaphorical.

The first time was when they had landed on the shore near Magdala. As usual the crowd was waiting for him when Jesus was desperately approached by Jarius, the local synagogue leader, who told him that his only daughter was dying. But the press of the crowd had slowed them down when messengers arrived to tell Jairus that his daughter had died. When they finally reached his house, Jesus went in with only Peter, James and John. A question kept nagging Cornelius as they waited outside. If the girl was already dead, what was the reason for Jesus to tell Jarius to believe? Believe what? Can the dead be brought back to life? More importantly, could Jesus bring her back to life? With all that he had seen Jesus do, Cornelius had a hard time believing in this. His unbelief was disturbing to him and he did not know why.

After a short time, Jarius came out carrying his daughter who was obviously well. For many, they argued that she was not really dead and that Jesus healed her on time. Cornelius was of the same opinion and did not think anymore of it.

The second time was when they arrived in the town of Nain. As they were approaching the gate, there was a funeral procession. Four men were carrying a dead body in an open box litter followed by a weeping woman and a sizable crowd. They found out that the woman was a widow who had lost her only son. Cornelius could see that Jesus had compassion for her and somehow knew what he intended. Then those same questions and the feeling of great doubt came back to haunt him.

Jesus stopped the sad procession of which a number of the crowd was not happy. After whispering in the widow’s ear, he placed his hand on the coffin and commanded, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”   [Luke 7:14 NASB]

Cornelius’ heart was beating very fast as he watched the dead body stir and then abruptly sat up. The bearers were so startled that they almost dropped the coffin. The young man was speaking but his voice was muffled by the wrappings around his head. Jesus unwrapped his face, helped him out and gave him back to his mother alive. Cornelius felt shame for doubting but then he looked upon Jesus with a different set of eyes. He felt something significant had happened with him but he could not put his finger on it.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch12 – part 6

THE MISSION – Capernaum, Nazareth, SidonCG-book-cover-w

When they returned to the encampment near Capernaum, many of the seventy men have returned including Jacob. There was joyous laughter throughout the camp. Jacob was recalling his week long adventure with the young John Mark, who was also recounting his own version to Peter. He spoke excitedly of preaching to an assembled crowd in every village they went.

“I cast out an evil spirit!” He blurted out excitedly. “At first, I was afraid for he was a mad man that dogged us with wild screeching and hysterical laughter. Finally, I pointed at him and commanded the demon in him to come out in the Master’s name… and it worked!”

Before Jacob could finish his story, Jesus called them all to gather around him.

“I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning,” He said. “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”

Then he raised his hands high up and with a joyous voice he called out, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.”

The people joined him in praise. Cornelius, who was much more reserved, closed his eyes and thanked Him silently.

Then Jesus announced to them, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

He then went into the tent as the camp celebrated and privately spoke to the Twelve and Cornelius who was also invited. “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.” [Luke 10:21-24 NASB]

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch12 – part 5

THE MISSION – Capernaum, Nazareth, SidonCG-book-cover-w

They spent about a week around the plains south of Sidon. Because they were in Gentile country only a few recognized who Jesus was. It was a time of rest and not contending with crowds. It was also a time for lessons. In one particular afternoon, when they were staying in a house of a Galilean acquaintance in a small village near Tyre, Jesus used an unexpected visit of a Syrophoenician woman as an object lesson for his disciples.

The woman had recognized him right away when they rode through the small village. Observing them enter the house, she barge in before the door was closed and threw herself to the ground before Jesus.

“Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David,” she cried out in desperation, “for my only daughter is cruelly tormented by the evil spirits sent by the gods.”

Cornelius sympathized with her but noted that Jesus was not responding to her. He was not even looking at her. Her wailing for mercy became even louder and annoyance was showing on the disciples’ faces.

It was Judas Iscariot who spoke first. “Master, you must send her away or her loud screaming will bring all the needy to us.”

The other voiced similar concerns. It was when Judas and Thaddeus were about to pick up the woman to lead her out was when Jesus quickly stood up and was sternly looking at each of the Twelve. He stepped forward and helped her to her feet. Then he stepped back a couple of steps from her and as he was looking at each of the disciples, he said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

She fell down to her knees and pleaded, “Lord, help me!”

Jesus again helped her up and again backed away two steps. This time he was looking directly at her and answered her with a slight smile, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Cornelius thought she was going to beg but she stood there contemplating on his words and stared at his smiling face. Then her eyes lit up with understanding and quickly said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” [Matthew 15:21-28]

Then the woman broke out in tears and embraced Jesus. Jesus then turned his eyes toward Cornelius.

Cornelius understood the silent request. “I will take her home to her daughter.”

As they were walking to her house, he surmised that this was a test. This woman passed and by the look of disappointment in Jesus’ eyes, they did not. When they reached her house, as expected, the daughter was normal.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch12 – part 4

THE MISSION – Capernaum, Nazareth, SidonCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius stood aside as the brothers, shaking their heads, went into the workshop. He joined Jesus by the woodpile. He was staring down the beaten track that led to the Old King’s Road then he looked up with a smile.

“Peter and the others will be here by mid day. I intend to go north to the Phoenician coastal plains so that they may rest. Do you still wish to come? It will be several days.”

Cornelius considered it as he forlornly gazed at the grazing donkeys near by. He unconsciously started rubbing his backside in contemplation. Both Jesus and Simon broke out laughing and said sympathetically, “Nay, Cornelius, I will not subject you to more discomfort.” He mirthfully pointed to a wagon by the side of the workshop and two mules.

Jesus got up, rolled up the sleeves, and then proceeded to pick up some planks. Cornelius was about to help but then Jesus said, “No. This I must do with my brothers alone.”

The rest of the morning, Cornelius watched, fascinated, as Jesus worked side by side with his brothers; the earlier argument forgotten. Jesus, assisted by his novice brother, Jude, worked on a dining table that was ordered by a merchant relative in Cana. By mid day, the table was fully assembled. Jesus was doing some final touch ups when the rest of the Twelve arrived. After they ate their mid day meal, the mules were hitched to the wagon. The table was loaded on the wagon for delivery to Cana. As they all waited patiently on the wagon, Cornelius watched Jesus and his mother quietly talk to each other. He saw sadness in her eyes as she said her farewells.

They spent about a week around the plains south of Sidon. Because they were in Gentile country only a few recognized who Jesus was. It was a time of rest and not contending with crowds. It was also a time for lessons.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch12 – part 3

THE MISSION – Capernaum, Nazareth, SidonCG-book-cover-w

“Cornelius?” Jesus approached him. “I have matters that need attending at Nazareth. Do you wish to accompany us and be welcomed in my mother’s house?” Cornelius nodded his ascent. “Good! Matthew will wait for Peter and the others to return sometime tomorrow. They will meet us there.” Jesus looked at where Cestus waited by the picketed horses. “I suggest that you send your horses back. The trail we take will not be easy for them.”

“Are we going to walk to Nazareth?” He was not looking forward trekking through the Galilean range just by foot.

“No. We have these.” Jesus pointed amusingly to where Simon was leading three gray donkeys from behind the thickets.

“Very well,” Cornelius said laughingly. “I will send Cestus back with the horses.”
Nine hours later, Cornelius’ bottom was sore. Riding this small donkey was a challenge. At first, he rode it like his horse, but without a saddle and only a woolen blanket to separate him from the animal’s ridged backbone, he regretted it. Besides which his feet was hanging very close to the ground and managed to stub his toes on every boulder on the narrow trail. After an hour and much chiding from a laughing Simon, Cornelius relented and shifted his sitting position so that both legs were on one side with one knee resting on the base of the ass’ neck. He slipped off a couple of times but after a while he got the hang of it. Though Cornelius missed riding his horse, he had to grudgingly admit that they did good time. For these small animals were better suited for these rocky terrains.

They traveled mostly southwest from the Capernaum basin over the Galilean Range. By early night fall, they skirted around the north base of Mount Tabor and finally came upon the Old King’s Road which would take them to Nazareth. Cornelius recalled that this road, which was rebuilt by Roman standards, was as old as the time when the ancient Chaldeans raided the independent city states of this region. It was one of a network of established caravan routes as far as the great cities of Babylon and of Nineveh which was no more. This particular route led south through Gaza all the way into Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest king of Babylon, led his vast armies down this road vanquishing what was left of the Philistines, all of Egypt and eventually Judah and Jerusalem. When they arrived at the house of where Jesus grew up, Mariam, his mother, was there waiting expectantly.

Cornelius was awakened by heated voices coming from the outside. By the angle of the sunlight streaming through the window, he surmised that the sun had been up for about two hours. He overslept. He groaned as he lifted his aching body off the sleeping palette. He and Simon slept in the wood crafting workshop. Simon, who was already up and about, left food for him on the worktable. Hearing the raised voices again, he goes out to investigate and found Jesus sitting on a pile of roughly hewn logs confronted by his brothers. Simon was standing slightly behind Jesus with his arms crossed and a stern expression.

“In three weeks is the Festival. You must go to the Festival, brother!” exclaimed James. “Many have already left you here but in Jerusalem, there are many there that are awaiting for you to perform your miraculous act. Think of what you can achieve.” As he was saying this, he was gesturing with wriggling fingers above his head.

“It is not yet my time,” Jesus responded quietly.

“Brother, it was you that chose this road. You openly proclaimed yourself to the public. What talk is this that it is not yet your time? Are you afraid that the Pharisees are out to get you? Then how much more should you go down to Jerusalem and show yourself to the people? After all, no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly.”

So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune.”

“What are you saying?”

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” The brothers were about to object but he raised his hand up for silence and said, “Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because my time has not yet fully come. But soon it will be and you will understand.” [John 7:7-8 NASB]

Cornelius stood aside as the brothers, shaking their heads, went into the workshop.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch12 – part 2

THE MISSION – Capernaum, Nazareth, SidonCG-book-cover-w

“Cornelius,” he says breathlessly. “He calls the disciples together!”

About an hour later, after they ascertained the location, Cornelius, Jacob, and Cestus rode to the same encampment south of Capernaum where Jesus gave his sermon. Cornelius saw that there were about seventy plus men milling around the tent waiting. As they dismounted, Jesus emerged from inside the tent accompanied by Matthew, Simeon and two of the Synagogue’s elders both recent followers. He called all the men together and started to organize them into thirty five pairs including Jacob who was paired with a young man from Judea called John Mark. Seventy men were chosen.

Jesus led them up to the top of a mount with a panoramic view of the whole area. Jesus gestured for all of them to look all around. The view to the other side of the great lake was clear, free of its usual misty haze. Just north of them, nearby, lies Capernaum with Chorazin just a little beyond. To the northeast, Cornelius could just make out Bethsaida. Looking south, he could see Magdala by the shore. More villages can be found among the ridges of Galilee in the west.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” He said quietly to Matthew and Simon who were close to him. The he gazed at Cornelius and said with that knowing smile of his, “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Then in a commanding voice, “Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” They gathered around him to listen to his instructions. “Carry no money belt, no bag, no extra shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’  I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.”

Jesus then moved to the edge of the ridge and turned to the north. “Woe to you, Chorazin!” He declared loudly. He turned north east and also loudly said, “Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you.” Then his focus shifted to down toward Capernaum. “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!”

Then he looked at the men and said, “The one who listens to you listens to me, and the one who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects me rejects the One who sent me.” [Luke 10:1-16 NASB]

Minutes after, down at the camp, most of the men have already left on their mission. Cornelius watched Jacob and a very enthusiastic John Mark take the north road toward Magdala. He fondly noted that Jacob too had a spring in his walk.

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