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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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch10 – part 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No. I volunteered.”

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

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

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

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

“How did you hear of that?”

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

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

“Come! The master awaits us.”

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