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 – Ch20 – part 2

STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK – Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

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 exult themselves but those that humbles himself. Some of the Pharisees were loudly protesting, while some were trying to maintain decorum. His own followers were probably relieved that things were calming down. But apparently, he was not done yet. This time, he turned to 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’ shouted Cornelius cringed knowing what an explosive situation they’re in. He signaled Cestus to be at a ready. He checked on his dagger that was hidden under the sash of his back but decided not to pull it out. They positioned themselves on Jesus’ left flank two steps lower from him. The Twelve formed a protective circle while there were about twenty or more other disciples between them and the crowd. Cornelius also sent Jacob, Trax and some of the women to retreat far behind Jesus deeper among the colonades.

Like the pounding of a nail into wood, every rebuke touched a sensitive nerve most in their pride, but some in their conscience. When Jesus accused the Pharisees for being energetic to make proselytes of the Jewish religion and when they succeed, Jesus charged, “You make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” In other words, the Pharisees and their proselytes both would end up in eternal damnation. Most protested by jeering and calling Jesus a devil. But there a few who were notably disturbed.

On Jesus’ third woe, as he ridiculed the trickery of the Pharisees, who held that swearing by the gold of the temple bound the oath. Just as Jesus was denouncing them as both fools and blind, the increasing angry commotions attracted the attention of the 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 court yard broke out with indignant voices.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch20 – part 1

STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK – Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Two days had passed since Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city. 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. The day before the celebrated Passover Meal, an exceptional group of Pharisees many of whom were members of the Jewish governing body, the Sanhedrin, were there. When Jesus saw them gathering, he finished the latest parable he was imparting to the crowd. Then he stood up like he was about to orate. He turned first to Peter and the others then toward Cornelius. He smiled and Cornelius knew to be ready because Jesus is going to say something controversial that can lead to violence.

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 exult themselves but those that humbles himself. Some of the Pharisees were loudly protesting, while some were trying to maintain decorum. His own followers were probably relieved that things were calming down. But apparently, he was not done yet.

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The story continues on in my next post.

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BIBLE Q & A with Johann – #4

What did Jesus mean ‘Do not judge’ in Matthew 7:1-5?

In the first verse of Matthew 7, Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Frankly, how can we not judge especially when we need to ascertain things about other people? By definition, a judgment is an opinion or decision based on thoughts, feelings and evidence. We human beings, regardless of race or creed, can not help making hundreds of judgement calls every day. I mean consider…

“Within the first seven seconds of meeting someone, our brain makes 11 different decisions about them including their intelligence, socioeconomic status, education, competence and trustworthiness,” said corporate image consultant and personal brand strategist Anna Hinson.

Making judgments is built in our subconscious. So, is Jesus asking us to curtail what God Himself had created in us? Of course not. So, what was Jesus really talking about? Well, let us again look at the context of the passage.

Matthew 7:1-5 happened to be part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which started in chapter 5. His famed sermon had a recurring theme.

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:20]

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were the ‘super religious’ of the Jewish nation. They were so highly educated that Jesus told the people to learn from them and take advantage of their abilities to impart scriptures. However, these Pharisees had an incredible flaw, so much so, that when Jesus was talking about them to the people, he shared this parable.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

When Jesus said, ‘Do not judge…’, he really meant that we should not form such a haughty opinion of others just like the Pharisee in the parable above. There is a cost if you do.

There is a biblical principle that says what you sow, you will also reap. In other words, what goes around comes around. So, if you judge other people badly you will eventually be judge badly by not just someone of your peer but by One who is greater, God Himself.

So, take heed.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch15 – part 1

GOING HEAD TO HEAD – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius was concerned. The Pharisees, scribes, priests and even the Herodians have stepped up their confrontations with Jesus. The reason was quite obvious. Jesus’ popularity has increased in the city while theirs have waned due to the fact that his teachings lately had focused on their collective hypocrisies.

To the crowd he would say, “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 yet do not do them.” [Matthew 23:2 NASB]

So far, Cornelius saw that the religious hierarchy has only been sending their lackeys to try to trap Jesus. Two weeks after the festival, Jesus had continued to teach and work miracles in the Temple court, but yet no sign of the High Priest or any of the leadership to offer challenge. But Cornelius knew it was just a matter of time.

One day, as Jesus lounged in the shade of the columns and the crowd have dispersed, he noticed another group of men loudly debating among themselves not too far away. Jesus went over to listen. Cornelius saw that the men who heatedly argued among themselves actually belonged to separate factions in the ruling class. The distinction between them was quite obvious. One group was obviously Pharisees who tend to be long bearded and traditionally garbed. The other group was more cosmopolitan and younger. A number of them sported the Greek look; that is short hair and clean shaven. This group belongs to the faction called the Sadducees.

The Sadducees as Jacob at one time explained is actually a political group that have gained control of the priesthood at about a time of Rome’s conquest of Palestine. Their views are totally opposite of the Pharisees. Much of Scripture they believe has to be interpreted literally. One of their favorites is the literal interpretation of ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth’. They also do not believe in the resurrection, hence the source of the argument that Cornelius is watching right now.

One of the Sadducees, a young arrogant priest who did most of the talking saw that Jesus was watching them. In his excitement he called out to Jesus, asking, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother as next of kin shall marry his wife, and raise up children for his brother.’ “

Cornelius again noticed that Jesus had an amused look. He nodded his ascent. Arrogantly, the young priest approached Jesus and the rest of the men gathered around them.

“Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.”

The young priest strutted around like a proud rooster of the chicken coop thinking that he had the upper hand. The other Sadducees applauded him as the Pharisees jeered.

Jesus stood up and positioned himself in between the two factions. When they quieted down, he faced the young Sadducee and answered him, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Astonishment was on the faces of both factions as Jesus calmly walked away. Even the young Sadducee appeared unsure of himself. The Pharisees who were pleased in Jesus’ answer talked among themselves, a few of which kept gazing towards Jesus. They all seem to come to an agreement and approach him again.

One of them, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, asked Him a question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 

And Jesus said to him, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

As they consulted among themselves, Jesus asks them a question: “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?”

Nicodemus was quick to answer him, “The son of David.” 

Then he said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until i put your enemies beneath your feet’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?”  [Matthew 22:23-45 NASB]

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The story continues on in my next post.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 043

ZACCHAEUS THE LITTLE PUBLICAN
32 AD – Guess Who’s Coming For Lunch – Jericho, Jordan River Valleyfaithful-encounters-cover-w

The luncheon was a grand one. Food and drinks were served in every open courtyard of Zacchaeus’ vast villa. Though his house had the distinction of being the home of the hated tax collector, it did not deter many of the town folk to eat his food which was openly provided. Jesus and his entourage with their host had finished their meal under a covered raised pavillion facing the already overcrowded courtyard. Zacchaeus, Jesus and three others were huddled together listening to a confessed story told by their host.

When Jesus smiled and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, the people began to mutter among themselves. Then a young Pharisee among the crowd, spoke out loud, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” [Luke 19:7]

Zacchaeus stood up looking at the grumbling crowd, then he looked down at Jesus who was smiling encouragingly. He came to a decision that had suddenly unburdened his heart.

“Look, Lord!,” He excitedly announced. “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor.”

The people were stunned to silence. But Zacchaeus felt that he had to do more. He saw among the crowd the man that had bullied him and he took revenge on him by cheating him greatly out of his land. Zacchaeus went to him and said out loud, “If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” [Luke 19:8] Then he reached out a hand. The man’s lofty demeanor softened and slowly he took his hand and shook it.

There was a smatter of clapping among the crowd still stunned by the tax collector’s declaration. But the clapping increased as Jesus himself came down happily laughing and clapping.

Jesus said out loud, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” [Luke 19:9,10]

But then the young Pharisee who boldly stood up among his peers challenged Jesus by saying, “Teacher, your teachings are inconsistent!”

Jesus faced him calmly. Emboldened, the Pharisee continued. “I heard you speak to a young rich man. He came to you and asked if he could enter eternal life. You replied to him, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ He declared he had kept them all since he was a boy. Then you said that he lacked one thing; told him to go sell everything and give to the poor; and then follow you. After which he walked away sad. You concluded with, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’ Such were your words.” [Mark 10:17-23]

“It is not my teaching that is inconsistent. It is your conclusion that is in error.” Jesus offers no other explanation to the Pharisee who returned to his companions unsatisfied.

Jesus led Zacchaeus into the house with the disciples close behind.

“Master?” It was the disciple Philip asking, “What is the difference between the young rich man and our friend, Zacchaeus?”

“The young rich man’s problem was always his riches. His money was his idol… his god. And most importantly, he was without faith.” Then Jesus took Zacchaeus to the side.

“Zacchaeus, my friend, I must go,” Jesus said.

“Lord, I will follow you,” Zacchaeus begged.

“A time will come when you will. Stay here and be strong in your faith. Soon all things will be made clear.”

“Where will you go, Lord?”

“To see a young girl under a tree.”

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Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 43rd 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.

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