THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch23 – part 6

THE HARDEST CHOICE – Golgotha

Then it started to rain heavy, like the heavens itself were weeping. But the downpour was short lived. The crowd had left, leaving the soldiers and a few of Jesus’ followers left behind.

After awhile Bragga came riding over with instructions to break the legs of the crucified so that they can die quickly and their bodies brought so as not to disturb Sabbath law.

Both prisoners howled in agony as their legs were broken. As the guards were about to break Jesus’ legs. Cornelius called a halt and told Bragga he was already dead. Bragga wanted to make sure, so he passed a spear to one of the soldiers and ordered him to pierce his side. As the soldier lunged the spear into Jesus’ side, blood and water spewed out like it was under pressure.

Not long after, a small wagon driven by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea was coming up the hill. They had gotten Pilate’s permission to claim the body of Jesus for burial. As the soldiers took down the bodies of the dead thieves, Cornelius, Cestus, John and Joseph with some of the women first secure his body with long lengths of fabric tied on the cross. Then the men worked on prying off the nails that pinned his wrists and feet. When they finally got them off, they gently lowered his body to the women below who lovingly wrapped his body. His mother was in the wagon when brought his body was laid on her lap. She was in tears as she gently stroked his hair.

“My family’s tomb is nearby,” Joseph said. “We have to hurry for the Sabbath is almost upon us.”

The tomb was a carved out chamber of limestone. The opening was about four feet high and two and a half feet wide. There was a massive wheel of granite stone about five feet in diameter. It took three of them to force-ably roll it up a slanted carved track. While the men rolled the stone, the women extracted the crown of thorns and washed him. Then they rubbed his body with myrrh and aloes, then they wrapped him with linen. When that was done, they carried his body into the tomb and laid him on a stone slab. Then Mariam came in, kissed his forehead and covered his face with a cloth. Then the men rolled down the stone.

They were about to leave when eight auxiliary soldiers assigned to the chief priest march in. The squad leader reported to Cornelius being the ranking officer there. They were there to guard the tomb. Apparently, the chief priests went to Pilate and told him that Jesus’ followers might steal the body to fulfill a prophesy that he might come back to life on the third day. So, Cornelius helped them seal the tomb. They pounded four ringed nails into the wall around the stone. Then they strung the rope through the rings and criss crossed it on the stone and tied a very tight knot in the center. Then they applied a lot of melted red wax on the knot. Finally, Cornelius pressed the impression of his ring seal on the wax.

Then, the waiting starts.


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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch23 – part 5

THE HARDEST CHOICE – Golgotha

Hours past and the sky starts to darken. Cornelius noticed a commotion at the trail that came to the top of execution hill. The guards were blocking the way of some women and a man. Then he recognized the mother of Jesus and John, the youngest of the Twelve, brother of James.

Cornelius approached them and ordered the soldier, “Let them pass. It’s the condemned man’s mother.”

As he guided them up, he whispered to John, “Where are the others doing?”

“Hiding, I believe.”

“Why is she here?”

“She insisted.”

John and Mariam came close to the cross. The other women held back and wept. It was such a strain on Mariam. Her legs weakened as she looked up at her son whose face was caked with dirt and blood, almost unrecognizable.

When Jesus then saw His mother, and John supporting her, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to John, “Behold, your mother!” [John 19:26,27]

The sky became even more darker and in the distance thunder can be heard. The crowd was thinning out. By Cornelius’ reckoning, it was around the ninth hour.

Then Jesus’ chest spasmed up and he shouted, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”

Some of the bystanders heard what he shouted and they wondered if it was Elijah he was calling. And if so, will Elijah come and save him?

Jesus then called out again, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” After he begged for a drink, he uttered one last time, “It is finished!”

The Praetorian centurion in charge was standing nearby as Cornelius went to confirm he was dead.

“He is dead,” Cornelius said.

“Certainly this man was innocent,” said the other centurion. “I was there when he was flogged. He made no sound, not even a whisper. I thought how brave he was but now, after watching all that had happened, truly this man was the son of the gods!”

Cornelius whispered to himself, “No… he was the Son of God.”


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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch23 – part 4

THE HARDEST CHOICE – Golgotha

By the time Jesus reached the top of the hill, they already hung the two thieves who were wailing in pain. The executioners quickly took hold of him, stripped him down to his loin cloth and laid on the cross. Cornelius had to fight the urge to not drawing his weapon on them, but instead stood there stone-faced as they drove nails into his wrists. He expected him to scream in pain, but as they pounded on the nails all he did was quietly moan. Once his feet was nailed onto the post, it took eight men to maneuver the bottom of the cross to the hole on the ground and lift the cross on a standing position.

The north-road and the environs around the execution hill were filled with people. Many of them were the chief priests and their lackies. When a soldier climbed a ladder to mount a sign on Jesus’ cross that said ‘Here is Jesus, King of the Jews’, they protested loudly. They demanded that the sign be changed to ‘Here is Jesus who claims that I am King of the Jews.’

Cestus was quite disgusted about the festive mood of the passers-by and those who came to watch Jesus on a cross.

“Just last week, they hailed and welcomed him to the city. Now, they celebrate him hung on a cross. Disgusting!”

The chief priests and their lackies fed this festivities by continually hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” Others were mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” [Mark 15:29-32]

The people laughed.

The soldiers too were enjoying themselves by dividing up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take.

Then Cornelius heard Jesus speak as he called out, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34]

Cornelius’ heart broke to hear him who is in agony think kindly of those who are mocking him and even those who are killing him.

Even the thief who hung on Jesus’ left was mocking him, calling to save him from the cross. But then the other thief rebuked saying, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he looked at Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”

Then Jesus weakly said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” [Luke 23:40-43]


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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch23 – part 3

THE HARDEST CHOICE – Golgotha

“Sir! There he is!”

Cornelius could just make out Jesus struggling with the heavy cross. Then his foot tripped and he stumbled to the ground with the weight of the cross pinning him down. For just a fraction of a second, Jesus’ eyes and his eyes met. And in that fraction, Cornelius realized that Jesus had seen him struggle. Cornelius made his choice.

“Sir! We have to attack now.”

“Stand down, Cestus. I now understand that this what Jesus want to happen.” Seeing the confusion in Cestus’ face, he said, “It will be hard to watch him die like this. But like Lazarus was brought back from death, God will resurrect him. We only have to believe and trust. Do you trust me, Cestus.”

“Always, sir. Always.”

“Thank you. Send the men back.”

Cornelius and Cestus pushed their way through the crowd to find one of the guards whipping Jesus to get up.

Cornelius shouted, “Stop!” He looked around and spotted a man built like a bull. He called the man over, “Name?”

“Simon of Cyrene, your honor.”

“Can you carry the cross for him?”

“Yes, your honor.”

Cestus helped Jesus to his feet as the big man from Cyrene picked up the cross and easily put it on his shoulder. Cornelius and Cestus helped Jesus walk the rest of the way.

Golgotha was a hill that was part of an abandoned quarry. It was about a quarter mile from the city wall. It was suppose to be another burial site for the rich but the Romans chose it as their execution hill because the North caravan road ran right next to it. It was known as Skull hill because from the perspective of the road the hill looked like a half buried skull.


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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch23 – part 1

THE HARDEST CHOICE – GolgothaCG-book-cover-w

“What are your orders, sir?” Cestus asked with no hesitation.

“Thank you, Cestus. How many men can we count on?”

“Four, they were with us in Spain.”

“That makes six of us. That should be enough to hit the guards and pull Jesus away. We have to do this quick. By the looks of it down there, we have twenty minutes before they start the procession through the city. They will bring him through the city to the Northwest gate and crucify him on the hill of Golgotha. They will use the straightest way through. We have to hit them on the narrowest street on their route and I know where. You get the men and meet me at the portal gate that leads to the North wall. Now, go.”

Cornelius wished he had time to send word to Jacob or even to the Lady Pheobe who he so wanted to spend more time with. But then it would be better to stay far away, since he will soon be branded as mutineers and deserters.

When he and his men got onto the city wall, they watched as the procession was already on the move. Twenty Praetorian guards were assigned to this task. Ten lead the way, making a path through the compacted crowd. After them, two other prisoners were also driven by three guards. Each prisoner carried on their a thick length of plank lumber. Their hands bound tightly on the ends of the planks. The next was Jesus who was burdened under the weight of an entire cross. The length was a little less than double of his height. Jesus had to carry the crossed part on his shoulder as the tail end dragged behind. Cornelius eyes teared as he thought on how that righteous man would have to tortuously carry that roughly hewn cross on his already bloody torn back. Too add to the insult, two soldiers with whips stayed close to him to keep him moving. This gruesome scene drove Cornelius on, to do what he had to do. So, the six of them, armed only with swords jogged for about a mile and half of the city wall. The Roman soldiers that manned the walls and towers of the city did not suspect anything of what they intended and because of his rank they were not challenged.

When they reached the third watch tower, Cornelius led them down unto the city street. They then sprinted into a maze of tightly packed houses. Cornelius figured that they should take the narrow lanes that went West until they intercept the main route the procession is taking. As they sprinted through these lanes, any persons they ran into would quickly retreat back into their homes. Then Cornelius slowed down his men when he heard just ahead the noise of the crowd. The lane they were on had a bend that right. Cornelius halted his men and peered right on the bend. The lane they were intercepted the right street of the procession which have yet reach them. But he could hear by the crowd’s reaction that the forward guards clearing the way were close.

He turned to his men and said, “What we are about to do is mutiny. We will all be branded as deserters and traitors. That means death by hanging. If any of you want to back down, do so now. No shame will be placed upon you by me.”

The men responded by bringing their swords outs. They were with him. Cornelius nodded his gratitude. Then he laid out his plan for them. As soon as Jesus came into sight, they will strike the three or four guards guarding him. Two of them will have to carry Jesus to safety because of his weakened state. With the lane they were on was very narrow, two or three of them can delay any counter attack by the Praetorian who were no match against hardened veterans. The plan was to carry Jesus to the North tower which was currently garrisoned by Flavius and other veterans from the Spanish campaigns. Cornelius, the mutineers and Jesus will have to hide there until nightfall. Then they will try to find their way to the free cities.
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