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 2

THE HARDEST CHOICE – GolgothaCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius ordered his men to stay out of sight. He and Cestus took up positions where they have a clear sight of where the lane intersected the street. The street itself was a gradual slope going up. The street itself was not level but were actually steps. There were a number of people looking down hill that had their backs on them. By the sound of the crescendo of the people’s voices, they both could tell that the forward elements were close.

Cornelius was unusually anxious for some reason. Normally, when he makes a decision he focuses on the task. But right now, he is on edge. In his mind, memories of his time with Jesus would crawl its way up to the forefront of his thoughts.

He was back on the tall hill overlooking a moonlit glistening of the Sea of Galilee.

“When Moses told the people, ‘Thus saith the Lord, that if they want to live from the deadly snake bites, all they have to do was look at the bronze snake on a pole and they will live,’ what do you think was the real reason they lived? Was the idol of the bronze snake magical? Some would think so, but they will be surprised that believing that will not save them. So, tell me Cornelius, what really saved them?”

“They were saved because they believed the message… the promise of God… and they acted on it.”

“That Cornelius is faith.”

“Sir… the front guards,” whispered Cestus.

Cornelius came back to the present. He saw the crowd being pushed back by the front elements. Then when the the first prisoner came in sight. To Cornelius everything seem to slow down.

This time he found himself hearing Jesus saying to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind in God’s interests, but man’s.”

This is when Jesus revealed, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

Then the words of Isaiah came floating up.

But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief… [Isaiah 53:10a]
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. [Isaiah 53:6b]

It hit Cornelius like a splash of cold water to sober him up so that he can remember that God had intended this to happen to Jesus.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.     [Isaiah 53:5]

Jesus has given himself over to pay for our sins.

If he saved Jesus from the cross, would he not be, Jesus said, guilty of him not setting his mind in God’s interests, but man’s? He has to act in faith. But what is it that he putting his faith on? Then the words of Jesus came forefront again.

“The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

Then it hit him. Jesus will die but he will be resurrected on the third day. His task is to believe in this and let everything happen as God intended.

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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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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 6

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 5

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

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

“Hello boy. Is the Lady in?”

“Yes, sir. She’s been expecting you.”

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

“My Lady, forgive my intrusion.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 4

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

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

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

They brought Jesus closer to him.

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

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

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

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

“So you are a king?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 3

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch22 – part 2

THE TRIAL – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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