THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 6

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius angrily shouted, “ENOUGH!” Then he and Cestus pushed and tossed those men away from him. “What is going on here?! This man was suppose to be flogged. Not maimed close to death!”

Bragga, who was in the shadows watching it all, came forward. “Cornelius… Cornelius, why are you upset? He is just another Jew. The men were just having a little fun.”

Cornelius was closely examining the crown of thorns and saw no way to just pull it off without causing more trauma.

“Well, bring the prisoner top side. The Governor is waiting,” Bragga ordered. As soldiers dragged Jesus to his feet, Cornelius was about to follow when Bragga stopped him. “You are ordered by Tribune Marcianus not to be present.”

Cornelius so wanted to be there and plead more with Governor. They instead raced to the Northwest tower where they can view the proceedings from a side narrow vertical aperture called an arrow slit. They arrived just they were bringing out Jesus and the other prisoner Barabbas. When Pilate saw Jesus’ grisly condition, he cast his eyes toward Bragga in disgust. All Bragga did was shrug.

The crowd was murmuring but Cornelius could not tell whether they were angry or not. Pilate stood and gestured to Jesus.

“You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. So, I had him flogged.”

The crowd, coaxed by the priests, were shouting back their protest. The High Priest shouted that this man declared himself king which is against Roman Law. Others chanted out that there is no other king but Caesar. Some shouted out, ‘If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.’ Some of the Jewish leadership started to threaten that the Senate will hear of this. Cornelius could tell that Pilate was wavering to their threats. He raised his hand for silence.

“It is in the tradition that a prisoner will be released on the Passover. Here is Jesus of Nazareth who you say called himself the King of the Jews. There is Barabbas, a known brigand and murderer…”

Before he could finish, the crowd started to chant, ‘crucify him and release Barabbas!’

Pilate pleaded, “But this man is with no guilt. I cannot have his blood on me.”

The priests and the crowd called out, ‘let his blood be on us… crucify him! crucify him!’

Pilate shook his head in resignation. His servant brought to him a basin and a decanter. The servant poured the water as Pilate washed his hands. He announces out to the crowd, “I wash my hands of this.” He gave orders to hand Jesus over for execution and have Barabbas released.

Cornelius softly said to Cestus, “I have made a decision… I am going to save him from the cross.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 5

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

As Cornelius grudgingly climbed the steps to his quarters, he saw Jesus being led underground. Cornelius, however, did not go to his quarters. He ended up knocking on Lady Pheobe’s door instead. It was Trax who answered.

“Hello boy. Is the Lady in?”

“Yes, sir. She’s been expecting you.”

Cornelius was led to where the Lady Pheobe was being served by Jacob.

“My Lady, forgive my intrusion.”

“No, Cornelius. Jacob, Trax and I were concerned for you. You must be tired.”

“My Lady, I am a little tired. But that is nothing with what Jesus is going through below. My Lady, I fear for his life. Can the Lady Procula intervene with the Governor?”

“She did try. Last night, she had a disturbing dream of him. She wrote a note to her husband to have nothing to do with that righteous man. She pleaded for his release.”

“That is something, anyway. I pray that all Jesus will get is just a flogging. He’ll heal from that. But I fear the Governor is being pressured to execute him because of the political weight the priesthood have with the Senate.”

He stayed with the Lady for about thirty minutes when there was desperate knocking on her doors. Cestus quickly entered with disgust written on his face.

“Sir, you must come down and stop those Praetorian scums before they kill him.”

Both men rushed down to the lower levels, where Cornelius was faced with a grisly sight. Jesus was sitting slightly bowed being mocked by a handful of men. The grisly part was that Jesus’ back was grossly torn to a bloody shreds. His face was swollen and bloody with a deep cut over his right brow. But that was not the worst part. Someone fashioned a crown of thorns that were about one inch long. The crown was probably pounded into his head because the thorns were dug in half way. Blood was gushing from his scalp down his face. His face was unrecognizable. The soldiers started to laugh wildly as one of them roughly placed Herod’s purple robe on him and started declaring “Hail, King of the Jews.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 4

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Back at the antechamber, Pilate was reading a note when they entered with Jesus dressed in a royal robe.

“So, Herod made no judgment call and is leaving it all to me.” Raising the note up, he said, “Even my wife says that I should not get involved with him. Bring him closer.”

They brought Jesus closer to him.

“So, tell me, Jesus of Nazareth, are you truly the Kings of the Jews?

Jesus spoke softly, “May I ask? Is this your own question, or did others tell you about Me?”

“I am not a Jew, am I?” Pilate retorted. “Your very own people and the priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

“My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus answered. “If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

“So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked rhetorically.  [italics – John 18:33-38]

Then he stood up and they all started for the gate. Again the trumpets blared. Pilot took his place on the gilded throne.

“The Tetrarch Herod had made no judgment on this man. For myself, I find that this man had not warranted death. However, for the sake of peace and order, I am ordering that he be flogged.”

The High Priest and his followers demanded more. They moved among the crowd and riled them to chant. Though many knew not what they were chanting for. Meanwhile, Cornelius was protesting to the Governor about the flogging.

But then the Governor turned on him, saying, “Enough Centurion! You are losing your perspective. I think you are too close to this. Be content he is just being flogged. Now, you go to your quarters and stay there. Dismissed!” To Marcianus, he ordered, “After the flogging, have him brought back and also have Barabbas brought here as well.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 3

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Then Caiaphas stepped forward and called out, “Hail to you, oh glorious Governor. We have brought before you a man who we found misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and a blasphemer of our God by saying that he himself is King.”

Pilate then asks, “Why do you not take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law?”

Caiaphas answered, “By your own declaration, we are not permitted to put anyone to death by our tradition. We demand that you execute him as is according to Roman justice.”

“Priest! By Roman justice I find this man is not guilty because he has angered your God.”

“But Governor, this man stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place.”

“Hold! Is this man from Galilee? Well, well priest. You have brought him to the wrong court. He is under the jurisdiction of the Tetrarch Herod Antipas. Fortunately for you, he is here now as our guest. We will do you the favor by sending this man to him. Let him decide.”

“But, sir,” Cornelius said in protest. But Pilate raised his hand for silence. Leaving no room for silence.

Bragga pushed Jesus toward the gate escorted by eight of Bragga’s men. Cornelius took his leave and followed with Cestus in tow. They went up two levels and entered the Northeast tower. They entered a large room. Herod Antipas was there enjoying his breakfast on a well laid table of food. He was festively surrounded by his people. When Herod saw Jesus, he was extremely pleased.

“So, you are Jesus! I have been so wanting to see you for a very long time. I heard you once called me a fox, but you are the fox. I have sent many men to hunt you down, but you have managed to elude them every time. And now you are here before me at last!”

He laughed gleefully and started to clap. His people started to clap as well.

“You know, my father so wanted to get his hands on you, especially since he missed killing you thirty years ago. I remember how he and my brother gloated so much on how they were so clever to kill all those children to make sure prophesy did not come to pass. Well, the joke was on them. God struck them down and now, you are here before me. So come, Jesus, show me a sign. Do a miracle.”

Cornelius watched helplessly as Herod and his lackies pelted him with questions and demands to see some magic for twenty minutes. But Jesus just stood there and stayed silent. Finally, Herod who was obviously drunk mocked Jesus about being King of the Jews. He called for his robe made from some kind of deep purple silky material told them clothed him with it. Then they bowed mockingly to him until Herod tired of the sport and so had him returned to Pilate.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 2

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Then he turned to Arturos. “Tell me, Tribune. Was it not his task to keep me from these kind of surprises?” He again looked at Cornelius and asked, “Who did you bring in?”

“I’m sorry, sir. The prisoner is the Nazarene, sir”

Pilate looked at him questioningly. “The Nazarene? You mean Jesus of Nazareth? What in the name of Jupiter is going on? Why did you arrest him? I thought he was no threat.”

“Sir, he was not really my prisoner. I took custody of him from the High Priest.”

“The High Priest! Talking about a thorn on my side!” After some silence, he said, “Wait! He is out there, isn’t he? He is the one that riled up the populace to gather at our footsteps, didn’t he?”

“Yes, sir. I believe that may be his purpose.” Cornelius suddenly felt a little hopeful.

“Very well,” Pilate said. “Let us get ourselves outside and play along in their charade.”

Just as they were to go through the main gate, several trumpets blared out announcing that the Governor General is about to hold court. Pilate, striding with all the dignity of his office, took his place on a gilded throne under a canopy. He was flanked on both sides by his officers and sitting on a stool below him was a court recorder.

Pilot then called for the prisoner to be brought before him. Jesus was brought to the ledge of the platform so that the Governor and the people can both see him. Then the Governor lazily raised his hand to Tribune Marcianus to proceed.

Tribune Marcianus stepped forward and announced to the crowd, “By the authority of our glorious emperor and the senate, the Roman prefect and Governor General of all Palestine hereby declare that this court is ready to accept any grievances for judgment.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 1

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

The old city of Jerusalem was originally known as the ancient city of Salem way back before Abraham walked the lands of the Canaanites. It was a small walled-in city built on short rolling hills. The streets were extremely narrow with the houses stacked up high and close together. There was also not a single street in the old city that ran straight. Half the time, the streets wound up a hill then down. A couple of the narrower lanes ascended to an abrupt stop on a ledge then you have to descend a number of very steep steps to another narrow lane below. This was what Cornelius and his entourage had to contend with as they traversed through Jerusalem’s old city.

The crowd following was getting larger and somewhat festive. Cornelius was thinking that most of those following were not even aware why they were. People in the houses would peer out and shout to the crowd below inquiring what was happening. Some would say that the Nazarene was arrested by the Romans. Others would call out that he was going to claim his kingdom and push the Romans away. By the time they came out to the grand plaza fronting the fortress, it seemed that the whole city was pouring in to fill it.

Cornelius noted that the entire Praetorian garrison was out and lining the city wall. Another detachment was lined up cordoning off the grand stairway to the main gate and the observation platform where the Governor usually held court. Cornelius led his men and Jesus to the platform. Caiaphas and Annas got out of their litter. They and the members of the Sanhedrin ascended the steps about halfway then waited.

Meanwhile, at the top of the platform, Tribune Marcianus and Braga came through the gate.

“This is a big mess you brought us, Centurion,” Marcianus said.

“Sir, where is the Governor?”

“He is waiting in the antechamber. He is not really happy with you, today. For the mean time, Bragga will take custody of your prisoner.” Before Cornelius can object, he said, “No arguments, Centurion. Governor’s orders. Now, move. The Governor is waiting for you.”

“Yes, sir.” Cornelius motioned to Cestus to stay close to Jesus. He nodded in acknowledgment.

The antechamber was adjacent to the main gate. When he entered, Pilate was eating breakfast while Tribune Arturos was also there waiting. Cornelius stood at attention for a long time as the Governor continued to eat. It was Arturos who broke the silence.

“Good job in bringing in that brigand, Barabbas. He is one thorn out of our side.”

Then Pilate slammed his bowl of food on the table.

“Oh yes, congratulation Centurion! Good work!” Pilate said sarcastically. “But tell me this, how did you manage to bring a bunch of prisoners just last night and then while escorting another, you also brought the entire city to my doorstep in so early in the morning?”
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch21 – part 4

A NIGHT OF REGRETS – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius and the others left Judas sobbing uncontrollably at the perimeter walls. To get to the upper city they had to use the old north wall, called the Zion Way, that ran from the Western side of the Temple Mount over the Tyropoeon* to the upper city. They quickly climbed the stairs of the Temple Mount to the level of the Court of Nations. Then they went to the Western wall and found the portal that led to another set of stairs. They followed those stairs until they emerged unto the old north wall. The height of the wall was about twenty feet high. Battlements lined both sides of the path which was wide enough for three men to walk abreast. Roman guards held all the perimeter walls of the city. They told Cornelius that they can descend to the upper city about half way up the path and get directions to the house of Annas from the post commander.

[ * Tyropoeon was once a narrow deep terrain valley that was filled in during King Solomon’s reign. Parts of the old city was later built over it.]

The commander was helpful to direct them to the house of Annas which was the way at the Southern end of the upper city. By the time they reached the street where the house was, the roosters were crowing and the sky was paling. As they had the house in sight, Cornelius called a halt. He saw someone he knew in an alley way. It was Peter. But before he could talk to him, Peter saw him then ran away the other way. Cornelius decided not to chase him.

When they finally got to the house, they found a lot of men milling around the gate. Cornelius knocked on the doors and and demanded entry in the name of the Governor. When they were let in, they found more people in courtyard warming their hands in the braziers. They were led through some double doors into a large anteroom. Then another set of tall doors opened with a lot of prominent Jews coming out. Among the men was John, brother of James. He was wondering how he was able to be inside this residence but then he remembered his family was related to Caiaphas. When they locked eyes on each other, John minutely signaled for Cornelius not to show that they knew each other. Then he blended among-st the exiting people. Then Caiaphas, the High Priest, and a shorter older man came striding out. When they saw the Romans waiting in the anteroom, they nonchalantly approached Cornelius.

“How may we be of service, Centurion?”

“I believe you are holding a prisoner here. In the name the Governor, I order you to hand him over to me.”

“We are fortunate you are here, Centurion. We do have here a man guilty of blasphemy and instigating the people to revolt against Rome. Since the Governor had declared that we have no authority to execute blasphemers, we hereby formally hand over our prisoner to you for judgment before the Governor. We will also be accompanying you as you escort him to the governor.”

Cornelius grudgingly nodded his head in ascent. He had no choice now but to bring Jesus before Pilate. Two men came out of the same room with Jesus bound between them. His face was bruised under the right eye and some blood trickled down from his nostril. Cestus stepped forward hulking over those men, they quickly handed Jesus to him.

“I’ve got you, Master,” he whispered to his ear. Jesus gave him a very slight smile. Then he addressed himself to the six soldiers, saying, “Form up, lads.”

They quickly formed two lines with Cestus supporting Jesus in the middle.

Cornelius ordered, “Let’s get going.”

With Cornelius leading the way, they marched out of Annas’ house followed by Caiaphas and his father who rode a litter carried by twelve servants and the crowd of people who were milling around the house. As they walked down a wide avenue, the city was coming to life in the early morning light. There was about a hundred people following and they were attracting a lot more people who were wondering what was going on. As they approached the Zion gate that separated the upper city from the old city, there must have been over a thousand or so people trailing. The guards on the wall were all at alert. The post commander ran to Cornelius and he gave him instructions to signal the fort to expect him and a high profile prisoner for trial.

There was a lot happening but Cornelius was determined to save his life.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch21 – part 3

A NIGHT OF REGRETS – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

The city of David was a fortified walled city built on a long ridge shaped like a finger protruding from the Temple Mount. The ridge overlooked the bottom end of the Kidron Valley in the East, the lower city in the West and the tip overlooked the main Southern gate of Jerusalem and the Pool of Siloam. The city of David was originally built by King David and held the royal residences. Now, the palaces, located at the fingertip of the ridge were mostly used by visiting dignitaries and it many halls used by the ruling class. The rest of the ridge were houses of the rich.

They found the halls empty. Cornelius was frustrated. They back tracked to the plaza under the Temple Mount. The city was quiet with very few people wandering the streets. Then Cornelius spotted a figure crouching against the tall perimeter wall. When he came closer to him, by the light of the torches they carried, Cornelius recognized Judas Iscariot.

Judas saw them closing in and all he perceived was they were Romans, so he tried to run. But Cornelius cornered him. Judas was panicked and his face was riddled with guilt. Cornelius knew he was the one that led the High Priest’s henchmen to arrest Jesus.

“Judas… Judas! It’s me, Cornelius. Tell me what happened.”

Judas seem to calm down a little. Seeing that it was someone he knew, he told his story. He was disappointed with Jesus for sometime now. He was really hoping Jesus would use his heavenly powers to claim his rightful kingship. But Jesus would not. For weeks he was disillusioned. So, he met with the High Priest’s people to see what deal he could make. Then during the Passover meal, Jesus said that one of them will betray him, he panicked and went again to the High Priest and told them that he can lead them to where Jesus will be alone.

So, he led the High Priest’s servants and Temple guards to the Garden of Gethsemane. He betrayed him with a kiss. He told them that whoever he kissed is the one they wanted. Then Judas cried out.

“I looked at his face when I betrayed him! I looked into his eyes. There was no condemnation in his eyes. I cannot stand it. What have I done?”

Cornelius had no more time to console him. “Judas!” He had to shake him a little. “Judas, where did they take him?”

Judas pointed to the upper city and sobbed, “The house of Annas, the father of Caiaphas, the High Priest.”

“Listen, Judas. The Lord will forgive you if you let him. I’m going after him. Look for the others and wait. I have to go.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch21 – part 2

A NIGHT OF REGRETS – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

“If Temple guards have Jesus, they’ll hold him in a cell at the other end of the Temple,” Cornelius said more to himself. He turned to Cestus and said, “Cestus, you get six of our men, full armor and weapons. Wait for me at the Temple portal gate, South tower.”

Cornelius brought Jacob and Trax to the Lady Pheobe’s quarters. He knocks at her door and did not have long to wait. It was the Lady Pheobe waiting for him expectantly.

“My Lady, thank you for your assistance. May Jacob and Trax stay with you?”

“Of course, Cornelius.”

“I must be off.”

“Be well.”

Cornelius rushed to the South-West tower of the fortress where Cestus waited with six of his men. Putting on his helmet, he and his men went through the portal gate that led to the North West corner of the Temple battlement walkway. They had to go to the other end of the Temple Mount. Cornelius figured it was about a third of a mile away which they can jog it in less than ten minutes. Along the way, Temple guards stood at their posts and dared not interfere with the Romans. When they reached the Southern buildings, they went down two flights of stairs and waylaid a patrolling squad of guards to demand where they held the Nazarene. The guards expressed no knowledge of this. Then Cornelius spotted a group of four men coming in through the gate. One of them had a big blood stain on his tunic but no visible wound. Cornelius angrily grabbed him and shoved him against the wall.

“Who’s blood is this?”

“It… it’s mine.”

“Tell me… Tell me what happened?”

“We went to the garden following the lead of one of the Nazarene’s closest disciple. We caught them unaware. They were sleeping except him. I and my companion were tasked by the High Priest to bind him but then I was attacked. My ear was cut off. There was so much blood and the pain… the pain was so unbearable until… until there was no more pain. I opened my eyes to find that the Nazarene’s hand was cupped over my ear which was whole again. He healed me even after all that.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. After he healed me, I didn’t want to partake anymore.”

“What did the High Priest intend?”

“A trial tonight. He has reconvened those members who are loyal to him and find the Nazarene guilty. They intend to have him killed.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know.”

Cornelius figured that they’re probably holding the trial in one of the great halls in the ancient city of David where the Sanhedrin usually met. They quickly descended the Southern stairs that brought them to the base of the Temple Mount unto a grand plaza.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch21 – part 1

A NIGHT OF REGRETS – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

It was late in the afternoon, Cornelius’ bottom was sore as he was driving the first wagon for hours on a bumpy road some twenty miles from the city. He was beginning to wonder if Barabbas was going to hit soon. Then Cornelius saw a signal on a ridge, a reflected light. That means Barabbas was spotted. He kicked the back of the bench.

“Get ready men.”

Groaning and metal scraping against metal was audible under the tarp. Cornelius signaled the other wagon which was driven by Lyca. They were coming around a bend and was rolling down a dip when about fifteen shouting men brandishing crude weapons jumped out from hiding. As soon as they appeared, he and the hidden soldiers went into action. Cornelius kicked a brigand in the face as he tried to climb on board. He then jumped on another one and quickly disarmed him. The skirmish was quickly over with a few who escaped but was later captured by a closing ring of soldiers. It was Flavius who brought a surprise prisoner all trussed up for Cornelius.

“We caught this one two miles out. He said he was a farmer on his way to his home. He had no weapon, so I almost let him go, when out came Nacob and said that we captured Barabbas. Nacob was trailing him from Ephraim. Well, Cornelius, here he is.”
It was late when they rolled into the Fortress Antonias with the prisoners. He was about to ride back to Emmaus when he heard his name called. It was Jacob and Trax.

“Jacob, what are you doing here?”

“We came looking for you. The guards would not let us in, but the Lady Pheobe, who was returning with the Governor’s wife, recognized us. It was she that gave us leave to wait for you here.”

“But why did you come looking for me?”

“We were staying with the kin of Simon the Leper in the city of David for the night. We were about to retire when John Mark burst in with his clothes all torn. He said they have the Master!”

“Who got Jesus?”

“He was not very clear, but he thinks there were some Temple guards there. That was all we could get from him, I’m afraid.”

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