THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 6

City of Tiberius, Galilee

CG-book-cover-w

It was twilight when Cornelius entered the cellar below the stables. There were three guards and two other men in ragged tunics sitting on the floor next to a bolted door with a small grilled window. The two men were followers of the Baptist that the Tetrarch allowed to serve his need. An oil lamp was handed to him by one of the guards. Cornelius then handed to Cestus his sword and dagger.

“Sir! You must not go in there unarmed. According to some of these blokes, it took seven of them to subdue him when they arrested him.”

“I’ll be alright.”

He walked to the door. The two followers stood up and backed up out of the way. He unlatched the door and swung it in. Not knowing what to expect, he braced himself for violence. He entered with the oil lamp held high. It took a short while for his eyes to adjust to the dark. Then he saw him standing calmly with hands at his side palms out; to show that he was unarmed. Cornelius beheld not a bulky warrior that held off seven soldiers nor did he see what he’d always imagined was the chosen mouth piece of God. The Baptist was somewhat shorter than he was. He was muscular but not bulky. He had extremely long hair and his beard went all the way to his navel. It was long but not disheveled. His hair and beard were unexpectedly cleaned, oiled and tightly braided into tied bundles. As he scrutinized his camel’s hair clothing with a leather belt around his waist and his hair, he recalled another desert prophet from the book of the Kings of Israel. Elijah was his name and it was he who singlehandedly confronted four hundred fifty Baal prophets on a contest on whose god is the strongest. It was a favorite of his. One man versus four hundred fifty and he prevailed against them. It was written that he did not die but was taken up into the heaven on a fiery chariot. When he asked Jacob why? He said that God would send Elijah back one day to fulfill a task. ‘Could it be true?’ he thought, ‘is this him?’

He broke the silence. “You have questions, I see,” he said in Greek. He gestured to a bench, while he sat on the floor.

“Yes, I do.” Cornelius sat, “Shalom,” he greets in Hebrew. “Peace be with you. I am Cornelius Metellus, Senior Centurion of the Italian Regiment of the 9th Legion. ”

The Baptist smiled. “Greetings, Centurion”, he returns. “Blessings be upon you.”

“Forgive me for staring… May I ask who are you? It is said that a prophet of old shall return. Are you Elijah?”

He started to chuckle. “I am pleased that you know about one of my people’s greatest legends. That is unusual for a Roman.” He peered closely at him like he saw something. “But I see that you had some education.”

“My name is John, son of Zacharias, also known as the Baptist. To answer your second question,” he continued, “it is not for me to say but this… ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.‘”. [Mark 1:1-3 NASB]

Cornelius blinked. He remembered reading those words… just recently, in fact. “Is that from Isaiah?” Cornelius asked in amazement.

The Baptist was pleased. He took his sash and ceremoniously draped it over his head. Cornelius have seen Jacob do this when he ritually sings from the Scriptures. Then the Baptist sang in Hebrew.

“A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’” [Isaiah 40:3-5 NASB]

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 025

MARY, THE FAITHFUL ONE
31AD – Bethanyfaithful-encounters-cover-w

Mary always liked butterflies. This is why she had pots of colorful flowers on her window. There was one particular butterfly that she was paying very close attention to as it hovered over a lavender flower that still had its morning dew. It had orange wings with little black spots. The body was grayish with black stripes on its abdomen.

“Well, my winged friend, what adventure has the Lord have for you this fine day?” Mary asked with dreamy eyes. Then she looks past the butterfly, that had finally landed on the flower to extract the nectar, to the blue skies. After a long while, she whispers to the sky, “Lord, what new adventure have you for me this day?” She smiled.

But her revery was soon intruded upon by a demanding voice. “Mary… Mary! The food in the kitchen will not be done by itself!” It was the voice of her oldest sister, Martha.

Mary flinched at the thought of helping out another day in the kitchen with Martha ordering her around. She can just hear her in her head. ‘Mary, do this! Mary, do that!’ Ever since Lazarus left about two weeks ago, Martha had been ruling the household like a queen.

“No! Today, I am sneaking out like a thief,” she said to herself.

And snuck out, she did. Avoiding her sister and the servants, she dashed out the back gate hearing her sister shout for her. Feeling free as a butterfly, Mary giggles as she skips and a hop straight to the village gates. She knows she’s not a little girl anymore but she was so happy to escape, she didnot care if she acted a little childish.

She headed for a hill that overlooked the road. There was an old oak tree there that she liked to sit under and daydream. As she got there, she sat down on her favorite spot which was a cushion of grass between two roots. From her vantage point, she can see the road wind down the highlands. She can almost see the great river that divides the green region of Judea and the brown arid region of Perea. There was hardly any traffic on the road except for a lone wagon heading for the city and what looks like two men riding donkeys still some distance away.

Mary wondered if that could finally be Lazarus returning home with her father. He said he was going to where father exiled himself and bring him to that healer they heard rumors about. That was about two weeks ago. She had hoped and fantasized he would be miraculously healed. But then she could not help remembering Martha’s words saying that no leper had ever been healed. Even her uncle didnot believe the stories coming down from the north.

“Oh Abba! I miss you so,” she sobbed and her eyes were teary. She got on her knees and turned at the direction of Jerusalem, to where the Temple of God sat on that holy mountain. She bowed down and prayed, “Dear Lord… I beseech you again for your incredible mercy to bring my father home. I recall the story of how your servant Elijah lain upon the dead body of a boy and brought him back to life. Oh Lord, oh Lord. If Elijah can bring a dead boy back, well Lord… I am sorry, Lord. I am too presumptuous. Forgive me, Lord. I am not deserving. I am just a girl who misses her Abba.”

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 23rd segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 024

SIMON THE LEPER
31 AD – Cleansed – Galileefaithful-encounters-cover-w

Then, the pounding stopped and he heard like a long roaring sound. When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw were beefy legs. He looked up in wonder to find what he thought was a giant of a man swinging his staff in a wide circle driving the angry attackers back. Then, the angry voices quieted down.

He slowly and painfully stood up amazed as he watched the Nazarene calmly walking over to the giant and placed his hand on his arm. He looked up at him half-scoldingly and said, “Peter…” He didn’t have to finish the sentence. The big man returned a half grin and a shrug. He smiled shaking his head and then turned his attention to Simon.

Simon took two steps forward and then like he realized who he was facing threw himself on the ground and asked, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

“I am willing; be cleansed.”

Then the Nazarene started to reach down and was actually going to touch him. The crowd simultaneously gasped and Simon flinched back. But the Nazarene was quicker. Before Simon could back away, his right hand was on his back, his left was gently grasping his arm and helping him up.

Simon felt a warm sensation through out his body. Then the first thing he noticed was that he had feelings in his feet. He actually could feel the grass under his toes. Even his fingertips were tingling. He looked at his arms to find normal skin color rather than the expected sickly white flakes and bleeding sores.

“Look at his face!” exclaimed an awed voice from the crowd.

Simon hesitated for just a moment, then lifted trembling hands to his face. What his probing fingers revealed was a whole nose restored and no sign of sores.

Then, the valley was filled with celebratory singing and dancing. Lazarus, who had witnessed everything from among the crowd, went directly to his father and embrace him. They both wept.

“Come, follow me,” said the Nazarene.

Simon, still hugging his son, followed the rabbi to a nomad tent under the trees.

“Please, sit down,” the rabbi gestured to a matt on the ground. He went over to a low table and poured water into three clay bowls. He served the two bowls first to them, took the third bowl and joined them on the matt. “Drink first, then we talk.”

A woman brought in a large plate of flat breads, fruits, some meats and placed it in the middle of them. After they ate, the rabbi called for the men that were just outside the tent. Twelve men entered including the big man called Peter.

“Andrew, please take a couple of men and follow this young man to their camp and bring everything back here.”

“Yes, master.”

When they left, the rabbi gestured for the big man and two others to sit down with them while the others sat in other parts of the tent.

“Lord, what is your name? I only know of you as the Nazarene.”

“I am Jesus.”

 

In the morning, Simon came out of his tent feeling invigorated. They were planning to pull up stakes and make the return trip to Bethany.

“Well, father, when we get home, we have to tell as many people that we found the Messiah… and show them how you were healed… and then…”

“No, I will not.”

“What! What are you saying, father? People must be told.”

“I agree, but it will not come from me.”

“Why, father?”

“Because the master asked me,” Simon said solemnly. “His words to me last night were ‘Tell not anyone about this. Go, instead to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering as is according to the law passed down by Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. It is most important that this will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.’ ”

“We cannot even tell the girls?”

“Of course, we can.”

“Good. I cannot wait to see Mary’s face when you get home.”

 

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 24th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS. We will take a pause on Simon the Leper’s story and visit him again some 20 years later. Our next story is about young Mary, daughter of Simon the Leper.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 5

City of Tiberius, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

“Ah Centurion, welcome my Roman friends,” he said grandiosely in Latin with both hands raised high.

Cornelius saluted and said formally, “Hail Tetrarch! We bring greetings from Governor Pontus Pilate. He sends his warmest regards.”

“I am sure he did,” he said a little too sweetly. “I have received a dispatch that your unit will be policing my region of Galilee. I am so gratified to hear this. This region is crawling with Zealots determined to uproot my good relations with Rome and my good friend Caesar Tiberius. They are ever a thorn at my side. Why, just last week, they attempted to despoil the statue I erected of our beloved emperor. My own name is besmirched by these wild brigands among my people.”

“May I ask, Tetrarch? Who are these zealots?” asked Cornelius.

“I am sorry to say that I don’t know. I have no specific names to provide.” Cornelius noted some reluctance in his voice. “I have reports of wild religious fanatics rousing the countryside that a king from among them will lead them to freedom. In the jurisdiction of Jerusalem, there is a highwayman, a self-proclaimed man named of Barabbas, said he was a Zealot and had made a reputation of himself by robbing your tax collectors even in daylight and eluding your pursuits. These zealots are everywhere.”

As Herod drone on with his prattle, Cornelius so wanted to meet the prophet before Herod takes him down south. “Ah, Tetrarch?” he asks. “I have heard that you are holding a dissenter here. I have orders to question all insurgents.”

“Oh… How did you… Ah well… He is not an insurgent. He is just a desert teacher. He is harmless.”

“Why is he your prisoner?”

“He is not! He is a guest but under guard… for his protection, of course. He will not reveal anything because he does not know anything.”

“Nevertheless, Tetrarch,” He brings out his baton. “I must see this man!”

“Very well, Centurion, I will arrange a translator.”

“No need, Tetrarch,” Cornelius said in fluid Aramaic.

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 023

SIMON THE LEPER
31 AD – Cleansed – Galileefaithful-encounters-cover-w

The hill was a little steeper, so Simon had to slow down his descent. Lazarus was following a short distance behind. He looks up and saw that the Nazarene was already in the valley approaching the creek, working his way through the crowd. He was approaching the edge of the crowd on his side of the valley. He paused to figure out where to go. Should he skirt the edge of the gathered mass of people? It looks like the only way to get to him was through all those people. Simon hesitated.

“Father, what is going on?” His son asked as he gasped for air.

“I have to see him, Lazarus.”

Lazarus looked at him then he looked at the crowd.

“Father… No! Those people will kill you! You do not have to see you him today.”

Simon looked at him then said, “Yes, I do.”

Simon started to walk towards the crowd who were still about thirty feet away. Lazarus, not able to block or physically detain him, followed from behind.

When he was about ten feet from the crowd, Simon started to shout out to them. “Unclean! Unclean! Make way! Unclean!” At first, no one turned around, but then a young woman heard his shout. She turned around and screamed out loud. Apparently, Simon’s veil was uncovered and all the woman saw was a leperous face with no nose. Her scream came to the attention of other women and they too joined in the screaming. When people saw a leper walking purposely towards them, they scrambled out of his way. Simon managed to successfully penetrate through the crowd, so he thought he was going to make it. But then their initial surprise and panic quickly turned into anger.

Simon had to slow down because the angry shouting crowd was not moving aside as much. Then, they started to pelt him with stones. Some of the bolder ones started to come at him with long sticks. One of them hit him in the back of the head and Simon collapsed on his knees. Then they started to pound on him, hitting him on his back and his head.

Simon was dazed and his head was ringing. At one time, he thought his son was calling for him but his voice sounded so distant. Then, the pounding stopped and he heard like a long roaring sound. When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw were beefy legs. He looked up in wonder to find what he thought was a giant of a man swinging his staff in a wide circle driving the angry attackers back. Then, the angry voices quieted down.

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 23rd segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 022

SIMON THE LEPER
31 AD – The Sermon – Galileefaithful-encounters-cover-w

Simon thought he ended his sermon there, for the Nazarene paused for such a long time. But then he spoke of entering God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate and then of being wary of false prophets by deeply checking their fruit. Somehow, the delivery was a little different and Simon wondered if the narrow gate had something to do with him.

And sure enough, the Nazarene spoke of himself and said something that may be construed as blasphemous.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” [Matthew 7:21-27 NLT]

Then, the Nazarene stood up indicating he was done. The people started to clap and call out to him.

For Simon, the words of the Nazarene was heaven in itself. He had almost forgotten that he was stricken with a flesh eating disease that will sooner or later take his life. He so wanted to live not because he was afraid. But because he wanted to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven. He watched the Nazarene work his way down the hill through the crowd. It looked like he was making his way to a copse of low lying trees on his side of the stream. It was then he noticed some tents among the trees. A thought occured to him.

Suddenly, he was up and rushing down the hill with his son asking a little surprisingly on where he was going.

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 22th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 4

City of Tiberius by the Sea of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Tiberius was somewhat a surprise to Cornelius and his mounted men. As soon as they rode through the northern gate, it was like they entered into a Roman city in Italy. From the gate, they followed the traffic of wagons and a lot of pedestrians on a wide boulevard of cobblestone, lined with tall palm trees and in interval, statues of Greek gods in their divine poses. The city sat on a graded slope from a high rocky mount all the way to the shoreline of the lake. It was lined with a fortified wall with battlements with two main gates, north and south. On the lip of the mount, overlooking the city, is an amphitheater, the size of which can be seen from any part of the city. The population of it is close to eighty thousand people the majority of which… obviously observed by the Centurion… seem to be made up of non-Jews.

“It’s almost like home, sir,” commented Cestus who rode next to him. He and the cavalrymen had grins on their faces and were looking around everywhere.

Asking direction from the city guard, Herod’s palace was about midway down the wide boulevard, then turned left on another avenue which would take them close to the waterfront. Riding in two columns, they entered through the gates into a fairly impressive palace complex. They were greeted by Herod’s chamberlain. Cornelius and Cestus were led to an antechamber to wait on Herod who was having a heated discussion in the next chamber. His discussion were with two other men and a woman whom Cornelius surmised was Herodias, his wife. Originally, he stole her from his brother. The story goes that Herod Antipas divorced his Nabataean wife, the daughter of Aretas IV, king of the desert kingdom adjoining his own, to marry Herodias, formerly the wife of his half brother. The marriage, of course, offended his former father-in-law and alienated many Jewish subjects.

The discussion was loud and agitated, but Herod was probably not worried about the Romans overhearing their conversation because they were talking in the common tongue. However, Cornelius understood what was said for he grew up learning Aramaic. Jacob taught him the languages of the land. Hebrew is the exclusive language of the Jews; Greek is the trade language used among the foreigners; and then Aramaic, the most used language in the entire region.

“Why did you have to bring him with us? “You should have left him at Machaerus,” wailed the woman.

“Herodias, my dear,” Herod spoke melodiously, “He is a prophet like of old. The words that come out of his mouth are the very words of God himself.”

Cornelius picked up on it quickly. His ears were burning.

“Do you not hear what he says about us? …about ME?!” She was screeching.

“He cannot help saying it. He is the mouth of God after all.”

“I do not care! I want him DEAD!”

“NO!” He lifts his voice angrily. After a moment of silence, he goes to her sweetly and said, “I cannot kill him, my dear. He is the very messenger of God. If I had him killed, I’d hate what would happen to you. …to me. My father was a great king, but when he crossed God… he died a terrible death. Do not pout, my love. I promise you… as long as he is locked up, he cannot say another word against us.”

“You do not fool me, Antipas,” she said. “I know you send for him to your private chamber at night. I know you listen to him. You are a fool. He is even more dangerous now. This is not over.” She walked away still angry.

“My king, there is another matter that we must discuss.,” said one of the men with him. “There is another fanatic out there. We thought it was one of the Baptist’s followers but they seem to have dwindled and gone to this new one.”

“Who is he?”

“We don’t know. He seems to move from one place or another preaching. And the people are protecting him.”

“Is he arousing the populace?” He gave Cornelius a quick glance.

Cornelius had to maintain a straight face but his mind was racing. He has to talk to what he hope is a genuine prophet. He also have to investigate this elusive teacher and magician who may potentially move the people to revolt.

“He seem to only limit himself here in Galilee. Also, there are some reports of miraculous healings but nothing substantiating.”

“Really?! I must know more.” Herod glanced toward the Roman. “Are we set to leave for Perea tomorrow.”

“Yes, your majesty.”

“Make sure the Baptist travels with my caravan. Now, leave me while I meet with our guests.”

The two men bowed and left, while Herod gestured for Cornelius and Cestus to join him.

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 021

SIMON THE LEPERfaithful-encounters-cover-w
31 AD – The Sermon – Galilee

“You are the salt of the earth,” He said. “But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets.” [Matthew 5:13-17 NLT]

Simon’s ears perked up when hearing about the law of Moses.

“No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” Simon almost wanted to shout out, ‘how?’.

“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Matthew 5:18-19 NLT]

Then he said something that almost stopped his heart.

“But I warn you,” the Nazarene paused. “Unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” [Matthew 5:20 NLT]

Simon looked out at the crowd to gauge their reaction. From what he could see, a tiny number at the edge of the crowd reacted in silent protest. Clearly, there were probably some members of the ruling class in there.

To emphasize his outright blatant statement, he began offering a long series of achievable challenges on how to divinely deal with anger, adultery, and divorces. He spoke of on how holy vows are in the eyes of the Lord. He even tackled a subject that every Jew would find hard to swallow, loving their enemies and of revenge.

The Nazarene communicated to every sort of person. To the stingy and the attention seekers, he says to offer alms for the needy and to do it in private, so that only the Father, who sees everything, will reward them. He talked about the hypocrisy in how people pray and fast, then he would show them how. To those who work so hard to gain wealth and to toil even harder to keep it, he revealed unapologetically that it was temporary and even quite futile compared to true and everlasting treasures.

He told them of not judging others but looking deep in oneself instead. Finally, he summed up all that he spoke about with the golden rule – “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 7:12 NLT]

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 21th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 020

SIMON THE LEPERfaithful-encounters-cover-w
31 AD – The Sermon – Judean Wilderness to Galilee

The next day, they reached the southern end of the sea of Galilee. Because there were many boats available for hire, many of the people decided to make their way to Capernaum by the sea. However, because Simon is a leper, no boats would take them. Instead, they forded the Jordan River and continued on by land. This added another day and a half to the journey. They found themselves north of the village of Gennessaret just a few miles from the city of Capernaum. Lazarus spoke to a few people from a group of villagers heading north. He found out that they were heading to a meeting to listen to a very charismatic rabbi in the hillsides near the city. So, they followed those people from a discrete distance.

The sun was just rising to its zenith, when the group turned off the road to join an even larger group that came from the city. From what Simon could see, the people were gathering in a dale between three hills. He knew that the people would become very violent if they found a leper in their midst. So, he and his son, instead found a goat’s trail that went up the slope of the hill on their left. When they climbed about halfway, Simon saw that they had a good vantage point to overlook the whole valley. The valley was actually a small hollow, a shallow basin with a winding stream down its middle. Except for a copse of trees, the valley floor up to the foot of the hills were blanketed with a dull yellowish brown grass.

Simon and Lazarus dismounted and tied their animals to a short stunted tree. As Lazarus set up camp, Simon watched the people below. From what he can see, there must’ve been about two thousand people. At first, he thought that the people were just idly standing on both sides of the stream. Then, he realized that they were all looking up toward the hill that was opposite from where they were. Simon followed the direction of their gaze up the hill to an outcrop of rocks sticking out of the yellowish grass. Some of the people started to climb the hill and gathered around the outcrop. Then, a group of men, about twelve of them, were coaxing people to sit on the grass. At the top of the outcrop, a man appeared. Simon knew he must be the Nazarene, but whether he was the miracle worker, he saw no sign of any miracles.

31 AD – The Sermon – Galilee

The Nazarene started to look at the people. His head turned to scan those who sat nearby, then to the people in the valley. Then, Simon saw that the Nazarene was looking at his direction for the longest time, or at least, he thought. His followers finally got the majority of the people seated. The Nazarene himself sat down on a rock and began to teach. For Simon, he was not sure what to expect. Then when the Nazarene spoke, he was surprised that his voice carried across quite clearly.

He gave nine proverb-like proclamations starting with the word, “Blessed.” The first set of blessings were adressed to an unusual group of unfortunates; the lowly, the mourners, the meek and those desperate for righteousness. Then, he realized that he himself is one of those unfortunates. Is the Nazarene saying that the kingdom of heaven is his for the taking? Simon was really listening to every word uttered.

The other set of blessings were adressed to the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and then a twice mention to the persecuted. When he ended that the latter was to rejoice and be glad, because great is their reward in heaven, Simon was flabbergasted.

“Lazarus!” Simon called out.

His son walked over from setting up the camp. “Have I missed anything? What is all that noise coming from the valley?”

“Oh that. The Nazarene instructed the people to discuss among themselves about a marvelous declaration that he just spoke about.”

Simon retold his son about the Nazarene’s ‘blessing’ dissertation.

“I tell you my son, never have I heard any man offer such hope to the hopeless. And he speaks with such authority,” Simon said amazed. Lazarus was about to talk… “Wait! He is speaking again.”

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 20th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 3

The Fort, Bethsaida, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

The fort was in shambles. It sat on a low rise that overlooks the lake. Located about three miles from Bethsaida, it’s design is typical of most Roman forts. It was built rectangular with rounded corners and can accommodate six hundred men – two cohorts. This one was built over forty years ago to guard the fertile valley from desert raiders from the east. The walls, made from timber, were supposed to sit above an earth rampart but because of forty years worth of erosion with practically little to no maintenance, Cornelius noted several sagging breaches along all four sides. If they were attacked right now, the fort would be inevitably lost. There are six towers set in intervals along the perimeter but two of them are in such disrepair that it’s not safe to man them. Cornelius didn’t even bother inspecting the ditches outside the walls because they were non-existent.

It’s been two days since they arrived. After Cornelius had a heated discussion with the fort’s commander (who was of lower rank) about the unnecessary destruction of the village’s prayer place – called a Synagogue – and the incredibly shabby condition of the fort, he gave him his relief orders and the next day, the auxiliary troops packed up and left the fort to return to Caesarea Philippi. This left his own troops at least a week’s worth of clean up duty and the proper refurbishment of the fort. Cornelius stood watching the ongoing progress on the third level of the only sturdy structure situated at the center. He heard familiar footsteps approaching.

“How is the work going, Flavius?”

“We are focusing on the outer defenses first. We commandeered over a hundred locals to dig out the ditches. Our own lads are using that dug-up dirt to shore-up the breaches on the earth ramparts. I have men in the forest getting us timber to replace the rotted wood in the palisade and also repair the towers. I figure we will complete the repairs by week’s end.”

“I have to the go and pay my respects to the Tetrarch of the region, Herod Antipas. I’ll be riding to Tiberius.”

“Tiberius?!” Flavius’ eyebrows went up mockingly.

“Yes… he named his city after our glorious emperor hoping to curry more favors. He still hopes that the emperor will give him control of Jerusalem and the Judean region. But the emperor will not give it back to the Herods… ever, I think.”

“Hold on! We are stationed in his region. Do we get ordered around by this… Jew?”

Cornelius was smiling inside. He was tempted to correct Flavius and tell him that the Herods were not really Jews. However, there was a kin relationship. The old Herod king, who ruled this entire region because of his close friendship with Augustus Caesar, was originally Idumean. In the first book of Moses, the miracle son of Abraham and Sarah was Isaac. He married Rebekah and gave him twins, Esau and Jacob. Jacob became Israel, the chosen of God. And Esau became Edom, the rejected. There was enmity between the two brothers that have been passed on to generation after generation. Idumeans are the final descendants of Esau. It is ironic, Cornelius thought to himself, that Esau’s desire was to rule it over Israel. Generations later, his descendants succeeded.

“No! We are here to keep the peace. Our presence is for show only. We are a reminder to Herod that Pontus Pilate is the Governor,” Cornelius said. He then turned and walked towards the stairs that led to his quarters. “I will take Cestus with me and twenty cavalrymen. You get them ready to ride in half an hour.”

“Yes, sir.”

When they descended into the second floor, just as Flavius was about to go down to the ground floor, Cornelius turns to him and said, “Oh, Flavius… try not to lose the fort while I am gone.”

Flavius laughed as he went down the steps. Cornelius walked briskly down the corridor and entered his quarters. Jacob had laid out his formal armor. He cringed a little at the prospect of wearing that heavy armor which is good only for pomp and ceremony. He also noted with trepidation that the red cape was laid out as well. “Jacob?” he called.

His old tutor came from a curtained alcove with Trax obediently following. They then started to help him put his armor on.

“I will be gone for two days. Why don’t you go to the village and visit your kin? And to keep this rascal out of trouble, bring Trax with you.” Cornelius playfully shoved him away. Trax clapped in excitement and grinned.

“It will be good to visit my brother.”

“While you are at it…” He goes to a heavy chest and pulled out a pouch of coins. “Find the elders of the village and give them this. There should be enough there for them to rebuild their Synagogue.”

“You are a good man, Cornelius.” He did not think so. His motives for the money is to work his way into the hearts of the locals, so he can spy on them better. Jacob noticed him brooding in thought. “Is it right with you, my boy? Are you worried about something?”

He shook his head clear and smiled reassuringly. “I am fine, my old mentor.”

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

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Thank you

Johann Q