FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 069

DEMACLI THE LEGION DEMONIAC
33 AD – The Last Supper – Jerusalem, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

“Demacli, look!” Elpida relunctantly disturbed him. When he stood, she pointed toward the western gate. “Those two men walking to the gate. I recognize one of them.”

Demacli easily spotted the two men she was pointing at. They were struggling against the flow of people coming through the western gate. He recognized both of them to be members of the chosen Twelve. One of them was named Philip.

Demacli and the other Greeks headed toward the western gates. With the crowd impeding their progress, it took some minutes to reach the gates, but by that time, the two disciples had already gone down the western stairs. They pursued after them. When they reached the bottom of the Temple Mount, they came upon a wide plaza. Demacli looked left and right but could not see them. The left was the city perimeter wall, a dead end. To the right, across a deep gully was an entire city of tightly clustered houses against a steep slope.

Demacli was not liking the idea of getting lost in there. He then looked straight ahead and saw another part of the city that was closer. His wife told him that it was named the City of David. The structures were grander there than those houses at the east. He decided to take the chance and headed toward it.

As they entered the city’s porticos, his choice to come this way was rewarded when he saw Philip talking to another before a three story structure. He approached the disciple by himself.

“Sir,” Demacli said bowing to him, “we… that is, we are Greeks from the free cities, would like to see Jesus.”

Philip looked at him curiously.

“You do not recognize me, do you, sir?”

“Of course! Now, I recall,” Philip said.

“A group of us from Hippus have come in search of him.”

Philip looked up at the building then smiled and said, “Well, your timing is not fortuitous. For this is the time of the Passover Meal. You wait down here while I go up and ask.”

Demacli watched Philip disappear into the house. Several minutes had past when Philip reappeared at the double doors of the house and happily gestured for all of them to enter.
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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 068

DEMACLI THE LEGION DEMONIAC
33 AD – The Last Supper – Jerusalem, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

This was his first time in Jerusalem. The city was larger than any in the Decapolis. Demacli and his newlywed bride, Elpida were captivated by this sprawling metropolis. He, Elpida and four others traveled here from their own city of Hippus, southeast of the Sea of Galilee. It took them three days to cross the great lake, traverse through Galilee, the Samaritan territory, the northern escarpments of the Judean highlands until eventually they crested over a hill and there was Jerusalem. They came to find Jesus of Nazareth. But they were strangers in the city and knew not where to find him.

“I did not expect this many people,” Demacli said. “How will we find him in this bustling city?”

“It is their most important holy feasts,” Elpida explained. “I have been here before. Every year, Hebrews from all over come here to congregate up there.” She pointed up to the Temple Mount which towered over the city. “If we are to find the Son of David, we surely will find him there.”

After they settled in a house of a Greek trader, an associate of Demacli’s father, they went up to the Temple Mount. They went in through the western gates. If Demacli was impressed about the size of the city, he was even more impressed when they entered the Temple court.

“This is the Court of Nations,” Elpida said.

“And you said we are only allowed here?” asked one of their companions.

“Yes,” she acknowledged. Then she pointed to the tall gleaming structure at the center of the vast courtyard. “That is the Temple where the sacrifices are offered. Only Jews are allowed in.”

“What is this Passover celebration all about?” asked Demacli.

“It’s in their history, back when they were under the enslavement of Egypt,” Elpida said. “It was more than a thousand years ago. According to what I heard, their God sent a man named Moses to go to Pharaoh and demanded their freedom. When the Pharaoh refused, God sent ten plagues to change his mind. The tenth plague was so devastating, that Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go.”

“But why is it called the Passover?”

“Well, you see, the tenth plague was that death will come upon all the first born of Egypt. But to protect the first born of Israel, God commanded that every family kill a male lamb and put its blood on the door frame.”

“Why?”

“So that, when the Angel of Death came upon Egypt and found a door smeared with the blood of a lamb, he passed over that house, sparing the first born of that house. The Angel of Death took a great toll of Egypt that distant night and only Israel was saved. To commemorate it, God commanded the people to celebrate annually the Passover Feast.”

“You know wife, your stories of the history of these people are opening my eyes even more. What I always appreciate more is how much you know about them,” Demacli said to his wife who smiled back warmly.

Looking at her fondly, he considered himself quite lucky… no, he corrected himself… since he met Jesus, he stopped believing in luck. The word that came to mind is ‘blessed’… yes, that is the right word. Marrying Elpida was a gift that he knew he truly did not deserve. He faced the Temple, went down on his knees and bowed his head to the ground whispering, “Thank you, Lord God.”

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 067

SIMON THE LEPER
33 AD – The Day of the Lord – Mount of Olives, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

“There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

Then Jesus’ face turned somber.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Simon felt disturbed and by the expressions on the disciples’ faces, they were feeling it too. Then Jesus stood and looked toward that Temple and said, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ as spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak.”

He sat again and his eyes were teary.

“How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.

“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

“Immediately after the distress of those days ‘ the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. ‘

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” [Matthew 24:4-35]

Then Jesus stood, as well as everyone else and started the long trek back to Bethany. When they reached Simon’s house, it was an hour past sunset. After the evening meal, it was Philipp again who broached the question that was in their minds.

“Master, when the end comes, will we know or recognize that time?”

“About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [Matthew 24:36-51]

When Simon retired to bed, the Lord’s words weighed heavily in his mind. Just as his eyes closed, he knew that much preparations for the future required his attention.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 066

SIMON THE LEPER
33 AD – The Day of the Lord – Mount of Olives, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Simon thought they were going to follow the road back to Bethany, but then Jesus led them off the road unto a path that went even higher up the mountain. The path led them through a large orchard of olive trees and an out-building where olives are pressed for its oil. When they reached the top of the Mount of Olives, one of the disciples gestured towards the city. From their vantage point, they can see above Eastern ramparts of the Temple Mount into the Court of Nations and the Temple Complex in the center. The Temple itself rose high up with its massive doors overlaid with gold flanked by two tall bronze pillars were very visible from where they stood. A thick column of smoke rose from within the Temple complex.

“Master, see how magnificent the Temple and the other buildings are.”

When Simon looked at Jesus to see his reaction, he was weeping.

Jesus cried out, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ ” [Matthew 23:37-39]

“If only you had known on this day what would bring you peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” [Luke 19:42-44]

Simon heard stories from his grand father that were handed down by generations of how the Babylonians encircled this ancient city and eventually subdued it and then stone by stone, tore it down. And now he was disturbed to think this will happen again. He wondered when this will happen. He was about to ask but Philip beat him to it.

Philip asked, “Master, tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

Seeing a granite rock sticking out of a patch of grass, Jesus went to it and sat down. He invited everyone to sit before him.

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”                  [Matthew 24:4-8]
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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 065

SIMON THE LEPER
33 AD – The Day of the Lord – Mount of Olives, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Some of the Pharisees were loudly protesting, while some were trying to maintain decorum. Simon and some of his followers were probably relieved that things were calming down. But apparently, Jesus was not done yet. This time, he turned to the Pharisees and scribes and delivered some very scathing rebukes each attacking their hypocrisies.

Every one of the rebukes started with “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees. Hypocrites!” For every ‘woe’ exclaimed, Simon Peter visibly cringed knowing what an explosive situation they were in. He signaled the rest of the Twelve to be at a ready. They formed a protective circle while there were about twenty or more other disciples between them and the crowd. Some of the disciples were leading women to retreat deeper among the colonnades.

Like the pounding of a nail into wood, every rebuke touched a sensitive nerve most in their pride, but some in their conscience. For about half an hour, Jesus continued his scathing rebukes. On Jesus’ third set of woes, which triggered the Pharisees to make even a louder commotion, out came High Priest. From the Temple, he strode through the crowd with his priests making way and joined the already seething members of the Sanhedrin. He had a satisfied smirk in his face.

Jesus continued on with four more rebukes from their hypocrisy in tithing to finally their hypocrisy to honor the prophets forgetting that their ancestors were the ones that killed them and that even now they are doing the same by plotting to kill him.

Then with dramatic flair, Jesus points ominously at the Pharisees, the scribes and the High Priest, and declared, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” [Matthew 23:33-36]

Like the breaking of the damn, the courtyard broke out with indignant voices. Everyone was up and shoving each other. Some of the angry priest were calling out for the guards. People were saying he is the Messiah. Others were calling to have him stoned for blasphemy. It was this time of the chaos that Jesus was whisked away by his disciples. They went down the Eastern stairs the lower gates below the Temple Mount. They quickly crossed the Kidron bridge. Jesus hid his face to keep the thousands encamped in the valley from recognizing him. They maneuvered through the crowded valley, then up the Mount of Olives.
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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 064

SIMON THE LEPER
33 AD – The Day of the Lord – Mount of Olives, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

For Simon, the past three days of the Passover was a blur of intense tug-of-war between the Jewish leadership and Jesus. Everyday he came into the Temple court and taught the people on the steps of Solomon’s Columns. He taught much and soon even the elites of the city came to hear him teach. Of course, as expected, his lessons were always interrupted by those who sought to discredit him, mostly the priesthood lackies trying to catch him in either blasphemy or reasons to betray him to the Romans. To the relief of his followers and the delight of the crowd, he brilliantly thwarted their attempts to no avail. Simon felt though that they will come at Jesus with such greater endeavor before the Passover day tomorrow.

Jesus was finishing the latest parable he was imparting to the crowd, when Simon saw an exceptional group of scribes and Pharisees, many of whom were of the Sanhedrin, were approaching for another bout. Jesus saw them too. Then he stood up like he was about to orate. He turned first to Peter and the others. He smiled and Simon knew that Jesus is going to say something controversial.

Then he turned to the crowd and said, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.

“They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.

“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” [Matthew 23:1-12]

Angry murmurs were coming from the Pharisees and scribes, while confusion was coming from his own group. They were caught off guard. They didn’t expect and understand why he was attacking them. Jesus criticized them for taking the place of honor at banquets, for wearing such ostentatious clothing, for encouraging people to call them Rabbi. For this he reminded the people that it was not them who are their true leader but only Christ. He was telling people that the true servants of God are not them who exalt themselves but those that humbles himself.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 063

NAHAN THE PRIEST
33 AD – Enter the King – Kidron Valley, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Jesus and his entourage were still some distance away but slowly getting closer. And he could now make out what the people were calling out to him as being the Messiah.

Below the platform where he stood were a group of minor officials of the Sanhedrin. They, being Pharisees, were grumbling obviously because of the ‘Son of David’ reference. They being strict obedients to Jewish laws and traditions were appalled to the idea that this man from the northern provinces where they believe Jews were culturally contaminated by strong gentile influences can ever be the chosen Messiah. Their idea of a Messiah is a Joshua, who conquered the Canaanites … a Samson who was endowed with supernatural strength… a wise and successful Solomon… a strong and feared David… all in one. But then, what Nahan found amusing was that even with the Pharisees who considered themselves holier than most, they forget about the humbling beginnings of David being a lowly shepherd boy. Then, there is Solomon’s heritage of being the product of the heinous act of his father, David, who murdered his mother’s first husband to get her. As to Samson, he was a common womanizer.

The parade was closer. Jesus was smiling, waving to the people and shaking the hands of those that came near. Young people and children ran before him yelling in loud voices, ‘Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!’ [Matthew 21:9]

Their shouts echoed off the cliff walls of the Temple Mount. Nahan again looked up at the battlements and could clearly see a lot faces were looking down. He could just imagine the High Priest peering down and seething under him turban.

Some of the Pharisees tried to unsuccessfully quiet those shouting out their praise. One of them went to Jesus, finally pleaded with Jesus saying, “Teacher, rebuke them.”

But Jesus joyously laughed and said, “I tell you, if these become silent, the very stones on the ground will cry out!” [Luke 19:40]

Nahan hastily clambered down from the guard’s platform as Jesus and the crowd of people crossed the bridge. He pushed his way closer to them. When they reached the East entryway gate, Jesus got off the animals and entered followed by his disciples and the crowd. It was about sixty feet from the entry gate, up several flights of stairs, to another gate through Solomon’s columns onto the temple courts.

The court was cluttered with traders’ stall and money changers. He observed Jesus pulling up his sleeves and picking a coil of rope. He approached the nearest money changer’s table and started to tip it over. Coins scattered everywhere and the money-changer screeching like an old woman scrambled after them. He went next to a peddler of birds and tore into the soft baskets releasing the birds that took flight. He turned over more tables then turned his attention on breaking the pens that held the animals and using the cord of rope like a whip drove them and the corrupt merchants away.

“It is written… My House shall be a House of Prayer,’ but you have made it a Den of Thieves.”

From the colonnade’s vantage point which was slightly elevated, he saw, as expected, a squad of Temple guards dispatched to arrest Jesus but were thwarted by an excited and ever so growing crowds that surrounded Jesus hailing him the son of David. As the dust settled, Jesus went back up the steps of the colonnade and sat down to teach the people.

When Nahan entered his office, he thought to himself that this will be an interesting week.

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