THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch15 – part 6

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

So Jesus spoke loudly to those that surrounded him, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

One of the elder priests called out to Jesus, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

The crowd quieted down and Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 

“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill me, because my word has no place in you. I speak the things which I have seen with my Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.”

Then a number of them exclaimed loudly to Him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father.”

We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on my own initiative, but He sent me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear my word.

“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Cornelius cringed and braced for violence. He scanned their faces. Most looked at him with daggers coming from their eyes. A few though looked disturbed.

“But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

One of the priests answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. But I do not seek my glory; there is One who seeks and judges. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he will never see death.”

Pharisees in the crowd called out to Him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste of death.’ Surely you are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do you make yourself out to be?”

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.”

So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

“Truly, truly, I say to you,” Jesus paused for just a moment, then said, “before Abraham was born…

“I… Am.”        [John 8:31-58 NASB]

The whole court went deathly silent. Cornelius understood way to well on the implications to what Jesus had openly declared. He just claimed himself to be God. Like a bell ringing in his head the words of Isaiah came to him, ‘And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father…’

Cornelius suddenly felt very exposed. Then the crowd erupted. There were men shouting to stone him but the bulk of the crowd were those who believed and they again surged forward in loud exultation. Altercations broke out as a group of men with stones in their hands tried to force their way to Jesus. This gave Cornelius and the others the chance to pull Jesus into the columns.

Leading the way, Cornelius quickly headed to the nearest exit which was the eastern portico. They followed a panic group of people, who did not know what had happened, through the gates. The guards were overwhelmed to try to stop them. Going down several flights of stairs, they eventually emerged through the lower gates unto the Kidron Valley, east of the Temple Mount. They crossed a stream to the opposite side of the valley and walked up a path that led that will bring them to the top of the Mount of Olives.

Jesus looked up the towering wall of the Temple Mount for a long moment, then he looked at the disciples and said, “It is done! Let us return to Galilee.”
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch15 – part 5

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

Jesus then stood up and gave him his answer! Cornelius whispered to himself, “Here we go!”

“My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me,” Jesus said. “If anyone is willing to do his will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who is seeking the glory of the one who sent him, he is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”

Jesus then directly points at the orator but shifts his gaze towards the leaderships.

“Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill me?”

“You have a demon! Who seeks to kill you?” cried out the orator.

Jesus answered, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. For this reason Moses has given you circumcision not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers, and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

The high priest and a number of the leadership angrily walked back into the temple. Meanwhile, the crowd was busily debating among themselves on whether Jesus is the Messiah or not. Some of the people therefore, were shouting, ‘This certainly is the Prophet.’ Others were saying, ‘This is the Christ.’ Still others were saying, ‘Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was from?’

So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Cornelius saw about twenty temple guards shoving their way through the crowd towards them, led by two of the chief priests. But they stopped at their tracks when Jesus spoke again.

“You all know me and know where I am from; and I have not come of myself, but he who sent me is true, whom you do not know. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” [John 7:15-29 NASB]

The priests leading the guards were coaxing them to move in, but the guards feared what the crowd will do to them. The crowd was elated.

“I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”

“You are testifying about yourself,” cried the orator who accompanied the temple guards. “Your testimony is not true.”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. But even if I do judge, my judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent me. Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am he who testifies about myself, and the father who sent me testifies about me.” 

Someone in the crowd then called out, “Where is your father?”

Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my father; if you knew me, you would know my father also.”

Then he said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.” 

The temple guards, the orator, the chief priests and the Pharisees who were there to take Jesus looked at each other questioningly. One of them asked, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”

“You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”

They asked him, “Who are you?”

“What have I been saying to you from the beginning? I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but he who sent me is true; and the things which I heard from him, these I speak to the world. When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” [John 8:12-29 NASB]

Then the crowd surged forward most with exaltation and belief written on their faces. Cornelius and the other disciples were hard pressed to keep the crowd back from swamping him. Meanwhile, the guards and the Pharisees retreated back into the temple. Several minutes later as the crowd calm down the chief priest and the leadership came back out. The orator too went to confer with the chief priests.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch15 – part 4

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

At his usual spot, on the steps of Solomon’s colonnade, just across from the steps that led into the Temple, Jesus was again teaching the people. But this time, there was a greater number of the ruling class occupying the platform and steps just across from him. It was John who spread the word among the disciples that Annas, the former High Priest and unspoken leader of the ruling class, and his son, Caiaphas, the current High Priest were among them. As he taught, the people and many who were there to oppose him were astonished with his words. Cornelius who kept his eyes on the leadership noted that the High Priest was showing concern that even his people were being swayed. He turned to someone just below him and gave a single nod, like it was a prearranged signal.

Then a teacher of the law stepped up to the edge of the platform wearing a rich robe of purple with gold trimmings. Cornelius surmised that probably he was their best orator. But instead of talking to the crowd, he loudly addressed himself to the leadership.

“My Lords! This man here is no teacher of the law; for he has never been among us who have spent everyday of our lives studying under the great rabbis of our time. He is uncouth and lacks the sophistication of anyone of our learned teachers. He is, after all, just from Nazareth and a carpenter’s son at that.” The men around him laughed. “How can this man be the Messiah? He openly consorts with sinners! Even one of his closest followers is a notorious tax collector.” There was more laughter. The orator continued on maligning the character of Jesus, but this time he was talking to the crowd. For fifteen minutes he twisted the teachings of Jesus and mocked them as nonsense. “It is better that you return to Galilee and teach to the sheep and goats.”

Cornelius scanned the faces of the crowd and saw that most were frowning and not happy with the orator’s words. The orator too noticed that he was losing the crowd and looked nervously back at his superiors. Jesus on the other hand was of picture of calm and serenity still sitting on the top of the steps politely allowing the other to make his point. Somehow, it had occurred to Cornelius that Jesus was waiting for this moment. Jesus made the decision to a stay a week longer beyond the festival; teaching everyday at the temple courts. Now the leadership of the ruling class was there standing across the court yard from them. This was what Jesus was waiting for. He knew he was going to go head to head with them.

The orator, needing to illustrate that Jesus is a false teacher, brought up one of Jesus’ controversial lessons that he gave some months back in the synagogue of Capernaum. This was the hard lesson when Jesus openly declared unless they ate his body, they can never enter eternal life.

“The nerve of this man!” the orator exclaimed quite dramatically. “Do you not see how ridiculous the things that this man teaches? Again I ask you all, how has this man become learned, having never been educated?”

Jesus then stood up and gave him his answer! Cornelius whispered to himself, “Here we go!”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch15 – part 3

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

Nicodemus chuckled, “This boy stood there confused when Gamaliel said you were a sinner. He answered him, ‘Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ So again Gamaliel demanded that he repeat what you did to him and how you opened his eyes. The scene was somewhat comical. There stood Gamaliel, looking so self-righteous, blustering away, while this young man just stood there somewhat amused about this room filled with the wisest of men and yet they could not comprehend the simplicity of what you did.

“He answered them, ‘I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again?’ And then he asked of the whole room with such sincerity, ‘You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?’

“I tell you the room erupted and they reviled him saying that he was your disciple, and they were disciples of Moses. Gamaliel started to angrily point at him and say out loud, ‘We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.’

“Do you know what he finally said to them?”

The disciples nodded their heads expectantly while Jesus just smiled. But Cornelius was sure that he saw a gleam in his eyes.

Not able to hold it in any longer, Nicodemus blurted it out laughingly, “Well, this young man answered and said to them, ‘Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.’

“Gamaliel was about to rip his coat but instead he screamed angrily, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?’ Two of us had to escort him out lest they all fall upon him. I am afraid that young man will not be welcomed into any of the synagogues within a twenty mile radius.” [John 9: 1-34 NASB]

An hour later, Jesus and the disciples were walking the streets of the city. He was determined to find that young man. Interestingly enough to Cornelius, he did not inquire of anybody of his whereabouts. From the upper city, they followed him down the narrow streets of the lower city, across one of the bridges then up into the walled in City of David. They found the young man standing in the very same spot where he was healed. He seems to be waiting expectantly. Cornelius realized that he did not know what Jesus looked like.

Jesus told most of the disciples to wait at a distance, as he with Peter, James and John approached the young man. They both talked for awhile. Cornelius knew not of what. Then the young man fell to the ground before Jesus and kissed his feet. Jesus bent down to help him up and the young hugged Jesus in gratitude. He followed Jesus and the others back to the waiting disciples. By then, a small crowd gathered and Cornelius noted there were Pharisees among them. Jesus seem to have noticed them too for he addressed them and said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”

Sure enough, the Pharisees responded, “We are not blind too, are we?”

Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” But before they could respond again, Jesus was already climbing the stairs to the temple. [John 9: 35-41 NASB]
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch15 – part 2

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

No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question. Cornelius noted as the Pharisees walked away that the one called Nicodemus kept looking back at Jesus, and he wondered if maybe Jesus reached him. Sure enough, he did.

That night, like all the nights that Jesus spent in Jerusalem since the festival, they were in the house of Simon the former leper. Cornelius remembered Simon as the leper that he witnessed healed when Jesus gave that Sermon on the Mount last year. Simon’s house was in the village of Bethany, a rich community two miles south of Jerusalem. He had a son, his name is Lazarus and two daughters, Martha and Mary. As they finished their evening meals, a servant of the house announced the arrival of a visitor who wanted to see Jesus. It was Nicodemus. Jesus then asked if they can use one of the upper rooms. Simon nodded his head in the assent. He and Nicodemus started for the stairs. He also called Peter, James and John to follow. It was a long while until they came back down. Cornelius wondered what went on up there, but Nicodemus had a perplexed look about, like he wasn’t so sure about himself.
It was the day after the Sabbath. They were in the home of a rich merchant who invited Jesus and his followers for a noon day meal. The rich merchant was a friend of Nicodemus who was also expected to join them. Nicodemus rushed in to where they were all lounging around the dining table. He went to Jesus and told him of an impromptu meeting of the Pharisees that was held yesterday regarding an incident of him healing a blind man on the Sabbath.

Cornelius recalled what happened yesterday. They were walking through the City of David towards the south entrance of the Temple Mount when the disciples came upon a blind man begging for alms at the bottom of the wide marble steps. Inquiring about him, they discovered that he was born blind.

Some of them asked, “Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”

Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

As he said this, he bent down, spat on the dirt and made clay of the spittle; after which he applied it to the blind man’s eyes. Cornelius was intrigued for Jesus only had to speak and he would see but yet he was doing something different and unusual. Then Jesus told the blind man to go to the pool of Siloam and wash the mud away and he will see. That was the last time they saw him.

“The Sanhedrin was summoned to the hall of meeting, but we knew not why,” Nicodemus said. “As I entered and took my place, Gamaliel, the head of our section, was already questioning this man. He asked how he received his sight. The young man who was excitedly joyful spoke of how you applied clay to his eyes and told him to wash it away and then he can see.

“But a number of my colleagues started to protest, ‘This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.’ While others were saying, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ I tell you that there is division among us over you.

“Then Gamaliel called the assembly to order and asked the young man about what he says about you, since you opened his eyes. And he said, ‘You are a prophet.’ Now some in the gallery started to accuse him that he was never really blind and that this was a trick. So, they summoned his parents.

“So, when they entered the assembly room, they looked fearful; for the word had gone out that anyone who publicly support you as the Messiah will be put out of the synagogues.

Gamaliel questioned them, saying, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?’ His parents answered that he was their son and that he was born blind. But at how he is able to see, they could not say.

“The assembly was divided and could not agree on what action they were to take against you. So, Gamaliel told the young man, ‘Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.’

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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 CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch14 – part 5

THE OPPOSITION – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

The Feast of Tabernacles eventually ended after seven days of celebration. Everyday Jesus went to the courts of the Temple to teach and every day the religious leaders would send their people to pepper him with questions of the Law in the hopes that he would stumble enough to accuse him.

The chief priests and religious lawyers tried to trap him by getting him to break Roman law. They asked him if it was lawful for them to give a poll-tax to Caesar or not. Cornelius was worried on how he would answer. But then Jesus came back with an answer that stumped them and even amazed him. He asked for a coin. He asked, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”

They answered, “Caesar’s.”

Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” [Luke 20:19-26 NASB]

In another day, Jesus was sitting on the bottom step of Solomon’s colonnade telling a parable to a group about forgiveness. Cornelius observed an angry mob heading their way. They were led by a handful of scribes and Pharisees dragging a woman by a rope tied to her wrists. A number of them were carrying rocks and stones. When they came close, one of the older Pharisees shoved the disheveled woman so that she fell in front of Jesus. She was sobbing in fear.

“Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act,” said the Pharisee who had pushed the woman. The others called out “adulterer… sinner!”

“The Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do you say?”

Cornelius was no lawyer but he did know that Levitical Law stipulated that the adulterer and the adulteress together must be put to death. This was definitely a plot to discredit him. Jesus could argue this point but yet they can counter that the adulterer got away. They do however have her. He was concerned that maybe they have gotten one over Jesus. If Jesus showed mercy, and he will, thought Cornelius, they would accuse him of being above the Law. First discredit him to the masses and then they will have no fear of arresting him.

But Jesus was still sitting on that bottom step calm and no hint of concern. He stooped down and with his finger he started to write something on the ground. Cornelius could not make out what he wrote but he did note that a couple of the instigators looked nervously at each other. The other instigators goaded the crowd to persist on an answer.

Jesus straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and continued to write on the ground.

The whole crowd quieted down. The leader of the instigators, the one who looked guiltily at what Jesus was writing, looked at the rock he held tightly. He relaxed his grip and let the rock fall to the ground and quietly walked away. One by one they walked away.

Jesus stood and helped the woman up. As he was untying her hands, he asks her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”

She looked around to find that the accusers were gone and said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus then said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” [John 8:1-11 NASB]

He and the disciples then climbed the steps and went into the shade of the columns to get out of the heat of the sun. Cornelius looked down at what Jesus wrote. Most of it was wiped away except for a partial sentence written in Hebrew, ‘Thou shalt not…’
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