Walking the footsteps of Jesus – Part 1

Module 5 – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by Johann Quisumbing

In module 5, we will visit the Bible sites of where Jesus Christ walked during His first 2 years of His ministry. Now, the Son of God covered a lot of ground.

1 – Start of His Ministry

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. (Hebrews 1:1,2)

The prophets said He was coming… and it was to a prophet that He made Himself known. So, we go to a place where the Prophet John the Baptist was crying out loud saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

Click LINK 1 – JORDAN RIVER

You are virtually standing on the eastern bank of the Jordan River. On this side as well as the more modern looking site across the river is the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist which is about 6 miles east from Jericho.

For 400 years, the Israelites have not heard from God. For 400 years, they had to contend with the conquests of the Persians, the Greeks and now… the Romans. Then, a voice of one calling out in the wilderness (Matthew 3:3) made his appearance dressed like another prophet-of-old (who was Elijah). Jews from all over came to the Jordan River to see the wonder of God’s latest messenger. But little that they knew, One among them was the Messiah himself. He looked quite ordinary, like someone you’d not even notice.

He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. Isaiah 53:2

He came from Galilee… from Nazareth, to be exact. Why was He here? To be baptized like everyone else? Well, not exactly…

Why did Jesus, the Son of God, need to be baptized?

John the Baptist asked the same question. “I have the need to be baptized by You, and yet You are coming to me?” (3:14)

Jesus responded, “…it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (3:15)

Righteousness? The ‘righteousness’ He spoke of was that John had to witness what came next.

After He was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and settling on Him, and behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (3:16-17)

After that, Jesus entered the…

Click LINK 2 – JUDAEAN WILDERNESS

The Judaean Wilderness or the Judaean Desert stretches from the northeastern Negev to the east of Beit El (Bethel), and is marked by natural terraces with escarpments. It ends in a steep escarpment dropping to the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley. This particular canyon is about 11 miles from where Jesus was baptized. Now, I’m not saying that our Lord was here. But it does give us an idea of the environment that Jesus was in when he was tempted by the devil. You can read the entire story in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.

After that time of temptation, Jesus went north. Why north? Why not straight to Jerusalem first? The answer is, He’s following God’s plan.

In earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He will make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:1,2)

So, we go to…

2 – Galilee

Galilee was the venue for most of Jesus’ 3 year ministry. It is located in modern-day Northern Israel, which in Jesus’ day was part of Roman jurisdiction. One of three Roman provinces of ancient Palestine, it included the whole northern section of the country, the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee forming the Eastern border. Lower Galilee, with its great plain and hill country running down into the Jordan, was one of the richest and most beautiful sections of Palestine. Upper Galilee, known biblically as “Galilee of the Gentiles,” was mountainous.[www.biblestudytools.com]

But before Jesus got to work, He had a wedding to attend.

Click LINK 3 – CANA

You are standing in-front of the Wedding Cana Church located in Kafr Kanna which is an Arab town in the Galilee, part of the Northern District of Israel. This Catholic church is a favorite destination for weddings and tourists. However, is this town the actual biblical site of Cana? Many believe not. Six miles north of Kafr Kanna is a hill with ruins of a Jewish village. It is believed that this may be a good candidate for Cana.

Click -> Google Map Photos of Khirbet Qana

[By the way, there are 2 other sites being considered as well.]

In John 2, Jesus Christ, His mother and His disciples were invited to a wedding (probably of a close relation). When His mother noticed that the wine had run out, she turned to her son. He knew what she wanted. Jesus gave her a loving and gentle rebuke saying, “What business do you have with Me, woman? My hour has not yet come” (2:4). But He relented by changing water into the best wine ever made. The Gospel writer had written that this act was the first sign of Jesus’ divinity. 

Well, enough of parties, let us go on a boat ride.

3 – Sites of the Inland Sea

Click LINK 4 – SEA OF GALILEE

The Sea of Galilee, also called Lake TiberiasKinneret or Kinnereth, is a fresh water lake in Israel. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake). [wikipedia.com] You know what made this lake special for me personally. It is the only body of water where Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14:25). By the way, here’s some trivia for you, Jesus was not the only one who walked on water. Peter the fisherman also walked on water, if only for a few steps anyway before sinking (14:29,30).

One other thing needs telling. One night, Jesus and his disciples were crossing the lake in the middle of a raging storm. The disciples were afraid that the storm would swamp their boat. As they panicked, Jesus was at the stern sound asleep, like one who had no worries at all. Finally, they shook him awake pleading to be saved. With a word, He calmed the sea. His words to them was, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

Since, we’re on the lake, let us go to the north end to the shoreline village of…

Click LINK 5 – BETHSAIDA

This is a 360 aerial view of where the fishing village of Bethsaida once was situated. If you look north, at the copse of trees on the waterline, archaeologists had excavated there and had found remnants of the fishing village.

Bethsaida was best known in the Bible as the birthplace of three of Jesus’ disciples: Phillip, Peter, and Andrew (John 1:44–45; 12:21). Bethsaida was the scene of several miracles. One of those miracles performed was when Jesus restored the sight of a blind man (Mark 8:22–26). 

Three miles west from Bethsaida was…

Click LINK 6 – CAPERNAUM

This is a 360 aerial view of the area where the biblical Capernaum was located. Capernaum was one of the main trading towns in the Gennesaret area. It was a vibrant and prosperous part of Galilee. Many travelers, caravans, and traders passed through Capernaum on the Via Maris. It was a main trade route connecting Damascus in the north and Egypt in the south. It was no wonder that Jesus used it as His home base during His first 2 years of His ministry.

Below you is the Kfar Nahum National Park. If you zoom in, you can just make out archaeological excavations of this ancient town. The circular structure is the museum with see-through glass floors for visitors to get a better look of the ruins.

Click LINK 6a – MUSEUM

The block structure near the museum is the Pilgrimage Church of St. Peter in Capernaum.

Click LINK 6b – PILGRIMAGE CHURCH

It is a modern Catholic church which is part of the Franciscan monastery. Archaeological excavations carried out in this place discovered another layer of residential structures, on which the first half of a first century church was built. It is believed that it was built over the house of Peter’s in-laws.

Jesus stayed mostly in the house of Peter’s in-laws. His healing of Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever was the start of a daily influx of the sickly, the lame and the possessed. One story in particular was when a group of friends tore an opening through the roof of that house and lowered their paralytic companion to the floor before Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said to the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. But some thought this as blasphemous. Perceiving their thoughts, Jesus justified His authority by healing the man (Mark 2:1-12).

To the right of the museum (white structure) was the location of the Synagogue.

Click LINK 6c – SYNAGOGUE

This synagogue that you are currently viewing may have been built around the 4th or 5th century. Beneath the foundation of this synagogue lies another foundation made of basalt, and it was suggested that this is the foundation of a synagogue from the 1st century.

According to Luke’s Gospel, the Capernaum synagogue at the time of Jesus’ ministry was built or funded by a Roman centurion based there. He was the same centurion who’s beloved ill servant was healed by Jesus in Matthew 8.

One other event that happened here was when Jesus was teaching, He controversially healed the withered hands of a man on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-13).

Click LINK 6d – CAPERNAUM DOCK

Jesus had taught much in this town. When He went to the shoreline followed by a crowd, He found Peter and Andrew cleaning their nets after a failed night of fishing. Jesus climbed onto their boat and taught the crowd the parable about the farmer sowing his seed unto 4 types of soils (Matt 13:1-9). [The lesson, of course, was that the Word of God cannot work in our lives unless we have receptive hearts.] After the lesson, Jesus convinced Peter and Andrew to push their boat out back onto the lake to go fishing. Peter was skeptic until they started to haul in a net full that almost swamped their boat. That was when Peter really believed and followed Him (Luke 5:1-11). Now, speaking of fishing…

A Fish of a Tale

Have you heard a fishing yarn* lately? Well, I think some fishermen would probably love this biblical story in Matthew 17:24-27, except that this was no yarn.

Some tax collectors came to Peter one day inquiring if Jesus ever paid the two-drachma tax. He told them yes. When Peter went to ask Him about it, Jesus asked him first, “whom do the kings of the earth collect poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” After Peter gave his answer, Jesus rightly said that He and him should pay their taxes anyway. How? He instructed Peter to go fishing and in the first catch he got, just inside the fish’s mouth he found four-drachma coins. 

[* Yarn – a long or rambling story, especially one that is implausible.]

Speaking of tax collectors, it was also here in Capernaum that Jesus called Levi the tax collector to leave his counting table and follow Him. Levi was renamed Matthew and became one of the chosen Twelve. He also wrote one of the 4 Gospels of the New Testament.

A little over a mile, west from Capernaum is a mountain top where Jesus gave His…

Click LINK 7 – SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Again, you are looking at a 360 aerial view 0f what tradition claim to be the site of where Jesus gave His sermon. Technically, this is not really a mountain but a large hill known as Karn Hattin. Below is the Church of the Beatitudes.

The Sermon (Matthew 5-7)

So, one day while He was traveling near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus decided to speak to His disciples about what it means to follow Him. Jesus went up on a mountainside (5:1) and gathered His core disciples around Him. The rest of the crowd found places along the side of the hill and at the level place near the bottom in order to hear what Jesus taught His closest followers.

The Message

The Sermon on the Mount is by far Jesus’ longest explanation of what it looks like to live as His follower and to serve as a member of God’s Kingdom. In many ways, Jesus’ sermon represent, even today, the major ideals of a true God-centered life.

For example, Jesus taught about subjects such as prayer, justice, care for the needy, handling the religious law, divorce, fasting, judging other people, salvation, and much more. The Sermon on the Mount also contains both the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).

In the end, Jesus made it clear that His followers should live in a noticeably different way than other people because His followers should hold to a much higher standard of conduct — the standard of the love and selflessness of Jesus Himself.

[www.learnreligions.com]

By the way, in this same neighborhood, to my surprise, is a place that I thought was located south-southeast from Bethsaida. But according to tradition, it was located a lot closer to where Jesus gave His sermon. What site was that? I’m speaking of the event of the…

Click LINK 8 – FEEDING OF 5000

Welcome to the Tabgha Church of the Loaves and Fish. Neat name for a church, isn’t it? It was named after the biblical reference of the boy who had a lunch basket of 5 loaves and 2 fish.

In Mark 6, John the Baptist was just executed by Herod Antipas. When Jesus heard, He withdrew in a boat to a secluded place. People followed Him on the land. When He came ashore and saw all the people who followed Him, His compassion only saw sheep without a shepherd (6:34). When the disciples wanted to send the multitudes away to the nearby villages for food, Jesus saw a lesson opportunity for them on how God provides BIG time. A lesson that Jesus used to drum into them repeatedly.

[Note: Scripture said ‘5000 men’ were fed, but if you add women and children in the mix, there may have been over 10,000 that were fed.]

After the mass feeding, Jesus had His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side… to Bethsaida (6:45). He went up to what I call…

Click LINK 9 – PRAYER HILL

You are standing on Ein Nur Observation which is the closest hill to the Tabgha Church. This hill is the logical site where Jesus went to pray and to get a high vantage view of His disciples straining at the oars—for the wind was against them (6:48). Jesus walked on water to give them a hand.


Now, Jesus’ ministry was not limited around the Sea of Galilee. Sometimes, He went home.

4 – Western part of Galilee

Click LINK 10 – NAZARETH

Set on the outskirts of old Nazareth, the Nazareth Village is built on ancient agricultural land that boasts the area’s last remaining first-century wine press. The original farm has been restored with its ancient wine press, terraces, irrigation system and stone quarry, and exact replicas of first-century houses, a synagogue, a watchtower, mikveh and olive presses have been carefully constructed using the original building methods and materials.

Click LINK 10a – PHOTOS OF VILLAGE MUSEUM

At Nazareth Village, bible scenes are brought to life by “villagers” who populate the farm and houses, living and working with the same type of clothing, pottery, tools and methods that Mary and Jesus would have used. Gifted and knowledgeable guides lead visitors through a living representation of the parables of Jesus within their original context before offering the opportunity to seal the experience with an authentic biblical meal.

Click LINK 10b – MT PRECIPICE

You are standing on the edge of a cliff on Mount Precipice located just outside the southern edge of Nazareth. What are we doing up here? It may be that Jesus may have climbed up and down these cliffs once upon a time. He did have a practice of going up to high places like this to pray in solitude. We just don’t know, but what we do know was that He was almost thrown off this precipice.

Luke 4:16-30

One day, Jesus and His disciple came home to Nazareth. As was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and He read a famous Messianic passage from the Prophet Isaiah. After that, Jesus rocked the very foundation of that synagogue when He boldly declared that what was just read had been fulfilled. Everyone there knew what was implied. It was an incredible thought. Is Jesus the Messiah? At first, the people spoke well of Him, but surprise and admiration soon gave place to a spirit of unbelief. Was he not a local boy? …a rather insignificant one being just a son of a carpenter? How had he gained such eloquence, such learning and poise? However, when, as he continued speaking, he pointed to their disbelief and compared it to stories of earlier biblical prophets, their puzzlement turned to anger. In the end, they vainly sought to throw him from a cliff near the town. But He passed through their midst and went on His way.

Six miles southeast from Nazareth is the biblical site of…

Click LINK 11 – NAIN

Nain was a fortified town built on a hill. From our high vantage point, Nain was located at the modern day Arab village of Nin just ahead.

It was there, according to Luke 7:11–17, Jesus raised a young man from death and reunited him with his weeping mother. According to Luke’s account, this young man was the only son of an unnamed widow. When Jesus saw the dead son being carried out and the mourning widow, he felt compassion for her. He walked towards the bier or stretcher, touched it, stopped the funeral procession and told the man: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The man came alive, sat up, and began to speak. The people who were standing around were all struck by the event, seen as a sign that ‘a great prophet’ had arisen among them, and the report of it spread widely across Judea and the surrounding region.  [www.wikipedia.com]

Nearby is another mountain… a very important high-place… for this was where Peter, James and John were allowed a vision of who Jesus really WAS, IS & IS TO COME.

Click LINK 12 – MT TABOR

You are virtually standing before Church of the Transfiguration which is a Franciscan church located on Mount Tabor some 6 miles east from Nazareth. 

The Transfiguration was the glorification of the human body of Jesus. On this occasion His body underwent a change in form, a metamorphosis, so that it shone as brightly as the sun. At the time of the Transfiguration, Jesus’ earthly ministry was coming to a close. He had acknowledged that He was the Messiah and predicted His death and resurrection. Now He was to reveal, to a select few, His divine glory. [Don Stewart – http://www.blueletterbible.org]


Jewish villages and enclaves were not the only places that Jesus made His appearances.

5 – Gentile Country*

[* A Gentile is a person who was not Jewish]

Click LINK 13 – CAESAREA PHILIPPI

You’re standing on the ruin courtyards of what was once the Sanctuary of Faunus (Pan). It was a Roman pagan worship center of the Roman city of Caesarea Philippi which was about 26 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.

It was in this area that Jesus asked the question that needed to be asked of His disciples. It was the question of, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ Only Peter got it right with the answer that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13). Then Jesus declared that upon this rock… that is, the FAITH expressed by Peter (as well as all believers)… He shall build His church (16:18).

Click LINK 14 – TYRE

These are the ruins of Tyre which was an ancient Phoenician city in modern-day Lebanon. It was in this vicinity, that Jesus brought His disciples for a ‘weekend get-away’. But Jesus’ healing reputation had preceded Him even here deep in Gentile country.

Upon entering a house of an acquaintance, He was noticed by a woman of Greek descent* who had a daughter inflicted by a demon. She loudly pleaded for His help but Jesus said nothing until His disciples urged that she be sent away. Then, I believe, Jesus saw a teaching opportunity for His disciples; a lesson of grace and relentless faith. So, Jesus and her had an exchange of what can only be described as banter.** He said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she countered with an undeniable and logical reply that even the dogs feed on the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. I can just imagine Jesus with a pleased expression on His face when He told her that her faith was great. She went home to find her child free of possession.

[* Syrophoenician woman; ** banter: playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks.]

Again He left the region of Tyre and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. (Mark 7:31)

The Decapolis in Greek translate into the Ten Hellenistic cities established during the post days of Alexander the Great. They were also known as the Free cities, that is, independently governed outside Roman rule. And one of those cities was located on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was called…

Click LINK 15 – HIPPOS

As you can see, Hippos was a city built on a high hill overlooking the inland sea. On that shore, Jesus freed a gentile who was tormented by a legion of demons (Luke 8:28-30). Unfortunately for the residences of Hippos, there was a shortage of pork when the demons that were in the man went into a herd of pigs that went crazy and drowned in the lake (8:33). The man freed from the demons became a missionary for Jesus to Hippos and the surrounding region (8:38,39). It was probably because of his testimony that when Jesus returned, that people from throughout this region brought their sick and impaired to Him. For 3 days, He ministered and taught them. Just like the feeding of the 5000, He fed 4000 men in this location (Matthew 15:29-38).

One other place, we must visit is not exactly Gentile. However, to the Jews, it was worse than worse than being Gentile. Our next stop is to…

Click LINK 16 – SYCHAR

You are virtually inside an Eastern Orthodox church and monastery, in the Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank. The well of Jacob can be viewed in a chamber under this chapel. Jacob dug this well back when this town was once called Shechem. During Jesus’ time, it was the Samaritan village of Sychar.

In John 4, Jesus and His disciples were on their way back to Galilee. Instead of going back via their traditional route, Jesus surprised the disciples by leading them through Samaritan country which to a Jew was somewhat taboo. Why?

Here’s a quick background. There was great animosity between Jews and Samaritans. You see, the Jews considered the Samaritans as ‘half-breeds’; that is, half Israelites, half Assyrian exiled rejects (2 Kings 17). Back when Solomon’s Temple was rebuilt by the returned Judean exiles, the Samaritans were rejected as true Israelites. So, they went their own way. The Jews took great pains to avoid their territory.

Jesus arrived just outside Sychar where Jacob’s well was. While the disciples went to find food, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. She was there to quench her thirst but instead got an everlasting lesson on ‘Living Water’. She became a believer and her testimony convinces an entire town to believe, too. [4:15-42]

For over two years, Jesus focused His ministry in the north country. For Him to complete the work for the salvation of us all, He had to take…

6 – The road to Jerusalem

His first stop was…

Click LINK 17 – JERICHO

You are facing what is called the Tree of Zacchaeus which is located at the Al-Jummezeh Square in the City Center of Jericho. Is this the remains of the tree where a short tax-collector by the name of Zacchaeus climbed to get a glimpse of the Messiah? Well, this particular sycamore tree is more than 2000 years old. Even if it wasn’t, it was alive here in Jericho when Jesus walked the streets.

Imagine, if you will, Jesus walking the streets of Jericho, surrounded by a crowd. As He was walking under a tree, He looked up to find a rich man straddling precariously on a big branch. With a chuckle, He called him by name and told him that He was dining at his house. During the meal, there were critics that questioned Jesus’ wisdom of being a guest of a sinner. Well, Zacchaeus surprised them by testifying out loud that he was giving half his possessions to the poor and making it right for those he cheated. Then Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9,10)


Click LINK 19 – JERICHO ROAD to JERUSALEM

This is Highway 1. This goes from Jericho to Jerusalem and it probably follows the ancient caravan road that Jesus used. And it is on this road that we…

This ends our tour of Module 5. Thank you for joining me in  Walking the footsteps of Jesus – Part 1.

Click here to go to MODULE 5a: Walking the footsteps of Jesus – Part 2



THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch24 – part 5

THE PROMISE OF LIFE – Site of the Tomb, Emmaus, Galilee

It had been twenty days now and yet no other word of Jesus had reached Cornelius. He had heard that Jesus made an appearance twice to the Eleven disciples. He also heard that they retreated to Galilee. So, Cornelius decided to ride to Galilee alone, while Cestus was to take Jacob and Trax to Bethany.

Cornelius went to the one place that he thought he would find Jesus. It was dark when rode to the same copse of trees which was the campsite they used when Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. But there was no campsite. There was no tent and camp fire. There was no one about. He sighed and walked up the hill to same place he and Jesus talked that first time. Under the stars, Cornelius stood on the top of that hill that overlooked the glistening water of the Sea of Galilee praying to see Jesus.

“Cornelius,” a voice said his name from behind.

He quickly turned around to find Jesus standing there. His face was not the same ordinary face. It was clean and had no marks or scars at all. His face looked majestic and there was a glow in it. In fact, his whole body emminated a soft glowing nimbus of light.

Cornelius went down on his knee and said, “My Lord.”

“Well met, Cornelius. My Father in Heaven is well pleased with you. Come, sit with me.”

When he sat by him there was no more glow about him.

“I know your heart’s desire, Cornelius. You wish to accompany me. I tell you that where I go, no man can come until I again return. For now, you must abide your time for a little while until you receive that I promised you. There are many things that must happen. The first of which will be unto those Chosen few who believed unto me. Then your time will come. For now, maintain your faith.

“One other favor, I ask. At the time of the Pentecost, send Jacob, your tutor, to be with my disciples and watch the will of my Father take fruit. Then you too will join in to reap the harvest.

“Fare well, Cornelius.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch13 – part 3

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

The Festival of Tabernacle is only a few days away. Jesus again received a message from his brothers that he should go to the festival. But he again declined. Instead, Jesus, the Twelve, Cornelius and others crossed the Sea of Galilee to the region of Decapolis. There, they went up to the top of a small mount. As always it was not long before a large crowd gathered and, of course, they brought their lame, crippled, blind, dumb, and many others, and they laid them down at his feet; and He healed them. It was also here that Jesus again challenged the disciples to feed the multitude. To Cornelius’ surprise, the disciples gave the same excuse of how. Doing the same way that Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand several months ago, he again broke bread and giving thanks to God, then starting passing bread and fish to his disciples who in turn distributed them to the multitude. Over Four thousand men with their respective families were fed that day.

They returned to the boats and again crossed the sea to the region of Magadan. Jesus was again approached by another group of Pharisees and Sadducees^^ who wanted to test him. This time they came demanding for a sign from heaven.
[^^ The Sadducees believed in almost the opposite issues from the Pharisees. They were the liberals of their day.]

Jesus then sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” Then they went back to the boats.

As they worked their way up the coast, Jesus told them, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

Andrew whispered to his brother, Peter, pointing at an empty basket which was held by Thaddeus. It was the basket that usually carried bread in. A few of them started to discuss among themselves occasionally pointing at it. It occurred to Cornelius that they think that what Jesus said was because they have forgotten to bring bread.

It too occurred to Jesus, for he rebuked them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? ‘Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?’ And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?”

They answered him, “Twelve.”

“When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?”

And they sheepishly answered Him, “Seven.”

“Do you not yet understand?” [Mark 8:11-21 NASB]

They sailed to Bethsaida where he healed a blind man. After which they returned to Capernaum.

“The festival is at hand. Tonight we leave for Jerusalem. Speak to no one of our departure.”
For three days, they followed the pilgrimage route on foot trailing two donkeys that carried their supplies. Traditionally, pilgrims mostly from Galilee who annually partake of the three major festivals in Jerusalem would travel to the southern end of the inland sea. There the waters flow into several small rivers that snake their way through a swampy delta until they all eventually cascade into the beginning of the Jordan River. The pilgrims would ford the river there then follow a well used southerly caravan trail that ran the length of a barren escarpment which took two days to travel by foot.

It was when they were about a day on the trail and the heat was unbearably hot, that Cestus asked why they were traveling such a strenuous route. “We could have easily gone by the King’s Road near the Mediterranean to the Judean highlands where the climate is comfortable.”

Jacob explained that the King’s Road, though it would have been a shorter route, went through Samaritan country which the Jews would take great strides to avoid. Cornelius knew the reason why.

Jacob continued, “You see the Samaritans today are descendants of the Israelites who intermarried themselves with Gentiles. This was way back when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was finally conquered by the Assyrian Empire some six hundred years ago. They exiled most of the Israelites and those that were left which were few, were forced to intermarry with a foreign people, dregs mostly, imported from through out their empire. About two hundred years later or so, the southern Judean kingdom who were also exiled, but this time by the Babylonians, returned to Jerusalem after seventy years. They rebuilt the Temple which was destroyed. At the time of the Temple’s re-dedication, all the Jews gathered including those who considered themselves Jews. They were mostly the Samaritans who kept up some of the Jewish traditions. But because the Samaritans could not prove their Jewish heritage by genealogical account, they were out right ejected from the holy assembly. The Samaritans returned to their country hating the Jews. To spite them, they continued to practice their version of our religion on their holy mountain even up to today; hence the animosity between our people and theirs.”

Simon, who was walking close enough to listen to Jacob’s explanation, also said, “Hear this. I, a Jew and a former Zealot, would rather invite you, a Roman, to my home than any of them.”

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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 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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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch11 – part 5

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

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.”

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. Some men near him were questioning, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?”

Jesus then stood before the Pharisees who did not even notice him approach. He said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”

Then he got on the platform and loudly enunciated each word slowly and purposely, “I… am… the… bread… of… life!” The whole room was quiet. “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.”

The whole room erupted! There were voices of elation but many more were angry. They began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” As Elan and the other elders tried to bring the assembly to order, Cornelius watched Jesus in amazement as he just calmly stood there, with no hint of nervousness of how this crowd may react next. Then their eyes met and Cornelius knew that Jesus was not done. Jesus was purposely goading them.

As the room was settling down, Jesus finally said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, 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]
As Jesus was saying these last words, the Pharisees and their followers angrily pushed their way out of the synagogue. Others followed suit until only about a hundred not counting the women in the galleries were left on the main floor. Jesus said his farewell to Elan and some of the elders who were only too eager to show them all out. As they were heading back to Peter’s house, Cornelius could not help but sense that many of those that were following were still baffled and were grumbling among themselves. It was no surprise for Cornelius that Jesus, who would be conscious of their feelings, called all of them to come close.

“Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe. For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

Then, he continued on walking with the Twelve and few others behind them. Everyone else with their heads shaking dispersed and did not follow.

You do not want to go away also, do you?” Jesus asked Peter.

Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

“Did I myself not choose you, the twelve,” Jesus paused, “and yet one of you is a devil?” [John 6:61-70 NASB]

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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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