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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