THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 2

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ENCOUNTER WITH A PROPHET

Galilee

A whistle was blown below. The men were picking up their gear and moving back into formation. Jacob went back to the wagon he rode with Trax. Cornelius got back on his horse and rode at the head of the column. As he rode, he thought more on the son of this impossible virgin birth whose name would be Immanuel. He learned early on when studying Scriptures, to pay special attention to the meanings behind names. Immanuel in Hebrew means ‘with us is God.’ There is no other way of interpreting these words. God will be born among men and the sign for mankind will be that His birth will be through a woman who have not known any man. Impossible as it sounds, Cornelius thought it made sense. He recalled another impossible occurrence in the book of Moses where God intervened and caused the barren wife of Abraham to give birth in her eighties. This was written as fact, as something that had already happened. There were a lot more supernatural events recorded in the Scriptures. Others would say that they were nothing more than tall tales… exaggerations, but not him. In his heart, he always believe them to be true.

 

A few hours later, the column reached the crossroads. To the right, the road goes to the city of Capernaum. According to Jacob, it is the trading center of the Galilee region with a population of thirty thousand people. The column turned left on a bridge over the Jordan River toward the village of Bethsaida. Bethsaida is a farming and fishing village with an estimated population of about four thousand people mostly Galilean Jews. The main village is about a mile from the lake and is enclosed by a perimeter wall. However, the fishing community preferred to keep their homes closer to the water where their boats lie on the pebbly shoreline.

The road they were on went through the main village then out the east gate. As Cornelius rode through the gate, he noted how the populace watched him and the column with outright disdain. The other towns and villages they went through, the people mostly stared with blank faces, but here their looks can almost be construed as rebellious. The reason becomes clear as the column enters the village square. The column came upon a crowd of angered men and weeping women. But they were not looking at his column. Their focus were mostly on a squad of thirty auxiliary soldiers** who were tearing down an unrecognizable building. But Cornelius figured by the reaction of the crowd that this building was significant to them. He signaled for the column to continue on through the crowd. The crowd who then realized that a greater number of Romans were there, began to disperse fearing greater violence. As his column marched by, he called to one of the Legionaries that always stayed with Cornelius.
** auxiliary soldiers are Roman Legionaries made up of foreign descent

“Cestus. You come with me,” ordered Cornelius “The rest of you march ahead with the column”

Legionary Cestus was a head taller than him. He was a veteran of the Spanish campaign and was one of the survivors who closely fought side by side with Cornelius in the trap that almost decimated their whole unit. Ever since then, he loyally followed Cornelius. Still on his horse, Cornelius rode through the remainder of the crowd with Cestus making way for him. He approached the soldiers that were tearing down the building.

Cestus then snapped to attention, took two steps ahead of Cornelius and with a commanding voice he shouted, “Auxiliaries! Cease what you are doing, NOW!”

The soldiers realized the presence of an officer, they halted in what they were doing.

“Who is in charge here?” Cornelius asked looking around menacingly.

Two soldiers stumbled out of a house hurriedly fixing their clothes. A sobbing sound can be faintly heard coming from the inside of that same house. An elder woman that was held back by some men of the village quickly dashed to the house and entered it. A scream of agony was heard within. Cornelius kept his focus on the approaching men, one of them clearly the squad leader – an optio.

“Sir!” They came to attention and saluted sloppily.

“What occurred here?” asked Cornelius. “Why was this place torn down by your men?”

“Your honor, serr. We were ordered to by our commander,” the squad leader spoke with a deep accent of that of a Syrian descent.

“Why?”

“Serr, one of our patrol was ambushed by Jewish rebels. The commander believes them from here. So, we destroy their praying place.”

“I see,” Cornelius could not fault them for following orders. “Well, you completed your task. You are done here!” He then turns to Cestus, “Cestus, take command of this men.”

“Auxiliary!” Cestus called in a commanding voice, “Alright lads. Form up into three lines and get ready to march like real Legionaries.”

“Halt!” Cornelius pointed at some of the men who were going to gather some bundled items that came from the collapsed building. He saw among the loot a large bounded scroll nicely covered in deep colored felt trim with silver tassels. He recognized what it was. It was the holy copy of the Scriptures, the Torah. He ordered, “No loot today. These items stay!”

The soldiers grumbled but they quickly went silent when the hulking figure of Cestus stared them down. The auxiliary unit was soon filing by, joining the column. Cornelius scanned the crowd until he spied a cluster of elderly men helping another older man sitting on a bench nursing a bleeding cut on his head. Cornelius called to them in Hebrew, “Please, take back what was taken.”

He did not wait for them to respond. He wheeled his horse around and went to the head of the column at a trot.

 

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

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Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch2 – part 1

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Galilee

The Cohort actually made good time. Four days out from the Phoenician city, Cornelius could just make out the inland sea, the Sea of Galilee. Of course, the sea was really a great lake of fresh water. From North to South, it is about thirteen miles in length then eight miles at its widest. The column of three hundred soldiers have been traveling on a caravan route following the tributary, Jordan River, which feeds the north side of the lake. The column halted and the men were lying about on the sides of the track getting some well earned rest. As they rested, Cornelius was standing on a shelf just above the track with a panoramic view. To the north were the Lebanon mountains. To the east was a wilderness of rocky hills, canyons and deserts. Then to the south toward the inland sea on the east side of the river, lies the lush green farm lands of Bethsaida. They were on the west side of the river following the rough craggy hills of the Galilee region. Though he could not make it out yet, his destination is a fort made by the first expeditionary Legion that conquered this land some fifty years ago. The fort lies about a few miles east of Bethsaida.

Cornelius saw Jacob climbing the shelf to join him.

“Look there, Jacob,” Cornelius pointed. “You are almost home.”

“I think I still have kin in Betsaida, farmers and fishermen both. I wonder if my brother is still living in Capernaum?”

“I have important work to do here, Jacob. They are your people and I am coming here as their conqueror and as another Roman oppressor.”

“An oppressor, yes. But that is not new for the people especially for those of us in the north part of the old kingdom. After the last exile into Babylon, those of my people who returned to Judah to rebuild the Holy city also remembered the lands of Zebulun & Nephtali, the lands of our ancestors. So, when the holy city was done, my family and many more returned to this area but the lands were already occupied by gentiles. There were some of the Israelites that were not exiled, the Samaritans, but they forgot the traditions of our people and generations of them intermarried with gentiles. Today, there is still deep enmity between our peoples. Anyway, we did re-establish the many settlements that were lost to us but had to learn to live with the gentile communities for they were protected by Persia at the time. Eventually, we became an independent province again but we were conquered by the Greeks, Egyptians and finally the Romans. So, we are not strangers to oppression but yet there is hope.” Then Jacob noticed Cornelius’ brooding look. “I have known you since your childhood. I have watched you grow into the man that you are today. I have surmised the difficult task you have to undergo to fulfill the orders of your superiors. I know you will be torn inside. All I can say is that when I chose bond servitude to you, it means I will support you. Does that help?”

Cornelius nodded and smiled.

“Now, how goes your study of the Prophet Isaiah?

“I have to reread the first quarter again. I did read something odd, though. ”

“What is that?”

“King Ahaz was king of Judah and it was reported to him that the king of Aram had made an alliance with the king of Israel. Both kings waged war against Jerusalem at that time. The Lord had prophesied to Ahaz that Judah will prevail against them and revealed a future that sixty five years from then both Aram and the north kingdom of Israel will be no more.”

“Yes, I recall that passage.”

“Right after that, God spoke to Ahaz again and gave him an opportunity to ask the Lord for a sign… which Ahaz foolishly did not ask, inviting a scathing rebuke. Then God gave him a prophesy anyway of ‘a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.’* I’m a little puzzled by this prophecy. I am not sure if this is literal or figurative.”
* Isaiah 7:14 NASB

“When it comes to prophecy, my boy, expect it to be both.”

“If it is literal, how can a virgin be with child?”

“I’m afraid I cannot answer that. It is an impossible mystery. However, when it comes to the impossible, it clearly belongs in the purview of the Spiritual. To be candid, I don’t think you or I will ever be a witness to any of the prophesies. I have been in this life for over sixty years, I have not seen any fulfillment. But I can hope.”

 

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Johann Q

 

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch1 – part 6

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Tyre

General Gaius was a burly man in his mid fifties. He was reviewing some dispatches when Arturos and Cornelius entered his tent.

“Gentlemen, stand at ease,” said the General. He read for another minute or so. Then he stood up, walked around the table and greeted both men with the shake of their hands. “Centurion, you have come highly recommended from your last commanding officer and Tribune Arturos. Also, I believe I met your father one time or another.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You are probably wondering how you have rated the senior rank of Primus Pilus at your age?”

“The thought did occur, sir.”

The General walked over to a large map of Palestine and the surrounding region. “Our Governor General is the prefect of this entire region.” The General was gesturing on the map from north area of the Lebanon all the way down to the Red Sea and Egyptian border of Gaza. “Do you see the problem?”

“Sir, that is a large area to cover with only our twelve cohorts that we brought in plus the eight cohorts that were already here.” Arturos said.

“Precisely, gentlemen. The territory is about the size of over a fourth of Italy but worst since the entire eastern border is open with the Jordan River valley as the only natural barrier. The main problem for the moment is not external. It is internal,” he said tapping in the Judean part of the map.

“This country is riddled with rebellion,” said the General as he sat back at his table. He picked up a scroll and opened it. “According to this, our forces had to quell about thirty uprisings since the old Herod died. The last one was just two years ago. An upstart called Bar-Jesus who claimed to be the Jews’ messiah was able to recruit the gullible fanatics… they call themselves zealots… and it were they that almost brought the populace to rebel almost successfully that the eastern trade to the empire was disrupted. It was by sheer luck that this Bar-Jesus was inept in his own country’s politics. It was the greed of the Jewish leadership that gave up his hide out and we were able to quash this rebellion. A thousand crucifixions still line the north caravan road to Jerusalem. But most of the zealots have blended back among the masses. We don’t know who they are.”

“This is where you come in, Cornelius” said Arturos.

“Me? How so, sir?”

“The Tribune came to us and said that not only can you speak the language of the Jews but you have a working knowledge of their culture and religion. An education that took up most of your youth. That makes you an expert. With what your former commander have written on his assessment of your command capabilities and your specialized education, the Governor had approved your advancement and commissioning you with a very important assignment.”

“General, I am gratified to serve. What are my orders, sir?”

“The Emperor Tiberius has his eyes on us. Pontus Pilate must succeed in not just subjugating this province but to prosper it. He will need up to date intelligence. He must not be caught unaware like his predecessor. You requested to garrison in the region of Galilee. That is good. That area is currently a hotbed of zealot activity. Root them out, Centurion. Establish a base of operation there. Get us that intelligence. The Governor will be at Caesarea Philippi for a year or so. Then he will take residence in Jerusalem.” He reached into a drawer and took out a short white baton with a silver wolf emblem on its crown and handed it to Cornelius. “This will give you governorial authority to make request of any military command in this region.” He hands a sealed leather bound packet. “Here are your orders and signet ring. Any questions?”

“Where will you be, General?”

“While the Governor is up north, I will be at the port city of Caesarea down south. I will sail with the fleet in a forth night. Dismissed, gentlemen.”

Cornelius and Arturos saluted and then exited his tent.

As they were walking slowly back to their respective tents, Arturos broke the silence. “Well, Cornelius, it seems that you got your wish to be assigned in the Galilee region. I’m a little concerned about this assignment. This assignment can make or break your career. The General didn’t say it outright but the implication is clear. Failure is not an option especially for you. And lately, I could not help but notice that you have been occupied with something.”

Cornelius paused and was about to reveal his thoughts but instead… he said, “No problems, Tribune. I will not fail.”

“Very well, Cornelius. The gods seem to favor you. So, let us hope that you will be successful in all the things you do.”

‘The gods,’ thought Cornelius. In his mind, he really is having a hard time believing that the gods have any influence at all. In about a week from now, he will be in a land where the people were given a promise of true hope by a god that supposedly has no equal. He will find out the truth.

 

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The story continues on in my next post a week from now.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

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Johann Q

 

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch1 – part 5

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Tyre

Cornelius saw that his ship was steering to shore north of the city. He saw anchored in a wide bay many other Roman ships busily unloading supplies and men unto a flotilla of small boats going back and forth to the shore. The other ships of his fleets were beginning to weigh anchor too but not his galley and the two other large galleys. All three ships had furled their sails and started to row closer to shore. At first, he thought the ships were going to be beached, then he saw several floating piers jutting out from the shore. His ship steered itself to one. Flavius who had come up to join him at the bow pointed at the pier ahead. Cornelius had to shade his eyes and peer at what he was pointing at. He finally focused on an officer waiting for his ship to dock. It was his commanding officer, Tribune Arturos, who arrived days earlier with the other three cohorts that sailed ahead of them.

Tribune Arturos was the son of a senator and belonged to one of the high class families of Rome. When Cornelius met him for the first time, he was unsure of the ways of the military. But he liked him. Unlike some high born commanders, he was not haughty and he was willing to learn. Eight months in, training and commanding two cohorts, Cornelius felt he will be a good commander.

“It looks like our young Tribune did not farewell on the sea voyage here,” commented Flavius with a little humor.

Cornelius smiled a little as he saw that Arturos’ armor was noticeably larger for his wiry body. He took a mental note to speak with Arturos that he does not have to use that ornately decorated breast plate except for ceremonial purposes.

“Flavius, you better get our standard ready. Looks like, we will be going formal.”

The ship gently moored itself on its port beam and the sailors secured the gang lines. Then they laid out the gang plank. Flavius, two other sub-officers and the cohort’s Signifer, a legionary garbed with a gray wolf head and pelt over his armor stood attention by the gang plank waiting for Cornelius. The Signifer carried the standard – a tall staff with the cohort’s emblem on the top. The emblem had the carving of Rome’s eagle encircled by a wreath. There were four medallions in a line below the main emblem. Cornelius put on his helmet and worked his way to mid-ship where they waited. Then they followed him off the ship. They formed up and together in step, they marched toward the awaiting Tribune. Then they stopped in precision. Cornelius saluted by banging his right fist against his chest then extended it with his palm facing out.

“Hail, Tribune.”

“Hail, Cornelius,” smiled Arturos as he reached out to shake Cornelius’ forearm. “Well met, indeed. How was the journey?”

“We encountered a storm last week but no ships lost. How was your trip over?”

“I don’t mind telling you. I was sick all the way until we arrived two days ago.” Both of them laughed about it. “The camp is only three miles up the coast. The city of Tyre is about twelve miles south. City is off limits by order of the governor.”

“Tribune?” asked Flavius. “Why did we have to land here? I thought there was a Roman port farther south. What was the name of that port?”

“Caesarea,” answered Cornelius.

“Governor Pontus Pilate wanted to hold court at Caesarea-Philippi in the mountains of Lebanon. Tyre was a lot closer than our base down south. So far, our three cohorts plus five other auxiliary cohorts will bolster the old Ninth Legion there. The rest of the fleet with the rest of our forces will sail south tonight and garrison Caesarea. Meanwhile, Flavius, you disembark the rest of our men from those ships and get them settled at our camp. Cornelius, you and I have a meeting with General Gaius tonight.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch1 – part 3

 

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Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Palestine

The fleet sailed a southerly course hugging the coastline on their left for better half of a day. Cornelius returned to the bow and watched the sparse land slowly passing by. The land revealed mostly high sandy dunes going down to the water. There were also clusters of short gnarly trees breaking the monotony of sand and rocks.

Cornelius heard heavy steps approach behind him. “The master of the ship says that we have another hour or so before we spot our destination.” The one who spoke was another Centurion.

“How are the men, Flavius?”

“Only two or three are still wrenching from the rough seas we went through yesterday. Most of the men are fairing well but everyone are eager to reach land after three weeks in this bucket.”

“Get the men ready.”

“Yes, sir.”

Cornelius cast his eyes out at the passing barren coast again then lost himself in thought. He was always deep in thought contemplating on the things of life. Even as a child, he would often go off by himself to just think instead of playing. Lately, he had been wrestling with questions of meaning. The search for meaning started when Cornelius was a survivor of his Roman unit that was almost slaughtered by barbarians in the mountains of Spain.

He was an officer under a commander who had no military experience and only attained his office because of his family’s wealth. He was leading about 150 men in search of a brigand tribe that have been harassing Roman villages in Spain. The commander had heard that the marauders eluded him into a canyon. Elated, he ordered his whole unit to quickly march in after them. Cornelius pleaded with him to send in scouting parties first but the commander wanted a surprise attack and a quick victory. But it ended up being a disastrous trap. More than two thirds of the unit were slaughtered including the inept commander. Cornelius then rallied the survivors and fought their way back out of the canyon. He lead them to a nearby mountain lake where a small rocky knoll jutted out on a finger of land onto the water. He saw that the knoll can be defended because there was only one narrow entrance with water and rocky shelf on both sides. But out of the forty men left, only fifteen were still able to bear arms. The rest were wounded with only a few who can shoot arrows. So, he ordered the wounded to the top of the knoll. Cornelius and the remaining men barricaded the narrow track with a couple of big drift wood trunks and some boulders that were easy to roll. They used the extra shields of the wounded and embedded them in a line to form a crude shield wall. By the time of the first attack, they were ready. The barbarians rushed the narrow track but only six to seven can hit the improvised shield wall at a time. Some tried to attack through the water but were hindered by mud and deadly arrow shots. For two days the attacks were repelled and dead bodies were so piled up high that the attackers had to climb over their dead comrades to get to the defenders who fought back ferociously. But Cornelius and the remaining ten soldiers that were still able were exhausted. When he saw the barbarians form again, he knew they were all as good as dead. But no attack came, instead the leader came to shouting distance and called to Cornelius. The leader spoke. Though Cornelius could not understand the language, the intent of the leader was clear when he saluted Cornelius with his weapon. Then he and his marauders disappeared into the dense forest. When reinforcement finally arrived, Cornelius moved among the dead barbarians and his men. He looked at their calm but dead faces and saw that there were no real differences between his men and theirs. So, he asked himself why? Why do men have to die like this? Why did this have to happen? All sorts of why questions raced through his mind but one kept coming back to him even unto this day, ‘why am I still alive?’

When he returned to his home in Italy after four more years in Spain, he confided with his tutor and mentor, Jacob.

“You are not alone in your search,” Jacob said. “I am afraid the gods of Rome will provide you with no answers that will satisfy your desire for the kind of enlightenment you seek.” Cornelius saw a twinkle in his old teacher’s eye and knew what was coming next. “However, the One true God may provide you the answer.”

Cornelius, of course, had decided to study more what the Scriptures had to say.

“Since you were a boy, you have studied and even mastered the books of Moses, Joshua, Judges, Ruth and the collected histories of the Kings of Israel. The love of history was always your strongest suit. Of course, keeping you awake in the study of the Psalms and the books of Wisdom was always trying. I have to admit that as a boy, I too struggled with the songs, but I persevered and gained a closeness with my God especially when I sing the songs in prayer. You should try it. However, I know you are more into the intellectual and not much into the spiritual. But it is in the spiritual that you’ll gain your answers. The writings of the Prophets is where you and I must venture.”

“You?” Cornelius asked quizzically.

“Of course, my boy,” Jacob said delightedly. “Besides, it had been ages that I closely studied the Prophets. We can journey together.”

“Tyre ahead”, a shout came from above.

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The story continues in my next post a week from now.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch1 – part 2

Chapter 1 –¬†Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Palestine

“My inquiries have come back from the Senate,” he spoke in a conspirator voice. “The governor general position of Syria and Palestine had been given to Pontus Pilate.”

“I don’t know him,” Cornelius said.

“I met him once in Rome. He is a career politician who is also trying to impress Tiberius and the Senate. The talk is that with the volatility of that region… with its increasing insurgent problems and foreign intervergence, the eastern trade supply had been steadily strangled. For Pilate, this governorship may be a career maker or breaker. He is taking a real risk.”

“Father, what have you heard about my sudden promotion? I don’t think I am senior enough in the roster to merit the Primus Pilus position.”

“All I know is that a General Gaius had put in the request. I remember meeting him many many years ago. He was a Tribune then but quite popular among the public masses because he also rose through the ranks.”

“General Gaius is in command of my division. I don’t remember ever meeting him in Spain nor in Rome,” Cornelius sat down on a marble bench. “So, why would he petition for my promotion especially a rank usually reserved for men in their fifties.”

“Ah remember… this rank is also awarded to those who have special skills. I believe you have been chosen for a task that is unique only to you. This assignment may advance you or break you. Be wary.”

“Be wary,” Cornelius repeated to himself as he stared from the bow of the ship blankly looking out into a foggy sea.

 

“The wind!” A voice shouted from the stern which brought Cornelius out of his deep thoughts to the present. He looks around as several commands were shouted unseen from the stern and he watched the sailors run to their stations; a number of them climbed the rigging like monkeys. Then they would precariously crawl out to the ends of the yard arm with both ends extending out about thirty feet from the center. The massive sail unfurled which slowly expanded and fluttered in the wind. Things became clearer as the fog swirled away and steadily dissipated. Cornelius could now just make the other ships in the fleet. The galley started to roll on increasing swells. Another unseen command was given and sailors as well as loitering legionaries from his own command were mustered roughly into two line on opposite sides of the ship. One line faced the stern with each man grasping a thick rope. The other line was facing the bow also grasping a rope.

The command was given. “Heave!”

The two lines started to move in the respective direction with every hand pulling and grunting. Cornelius looked up as the yard arm ponderously pivoted to the port side in a more or less 45 degree angle allowing the fluttering sail to suddenly balloon as it caught the wind. Another command was given and the ropes were secured. Cornelius felt his balance shift as the ship picked up speed. The other sail smaller than the first was also set until it too billowed into the wind.

Cornelius turned again and looked out into a hazy horizon. He knew there is land there and sure enough a voice from above, a look-out on the crow’s nest, on top of main mast hailing, “Land ho!”

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Johann Q

 

FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 002

Simon the Leper – S1 – Jerusalem

Jerusalem is about two miles from Bethany. Simon and his son were on the Jericho road riding on a wagon. The ancient road went from the Jordan River valley city of Jericho up the Judean Highlands over the Mount of Olives to the southern gates of Jerusalem. As Simon rode through the gates, he looked up at the towering ramparts of the old city of David sitting on a prominant narrow ridge overlooking the Tyropoeon Valley to the west, the Hinnom Valley to the south, and the Kidron Valley on the east. In those walls is his destination. He owns an old government building that he uses as both storage and trading.

“Hello Imraam,” Simon hailed a crippled man being carried on a palette by two men across a crowded cobbled stone street. “I thought you would be at the north side of the city at this time?”

As the wagon slowed down by him, Imraam answered nonchalantly over his shoulder, “I was there, my old friend, but I was summoned to my relatives.”

“What for, Imraam?”

“What else, Simon? They are wondering why I have not gone to the bossoms of my fathers.” He chuckled loudly. “But as you could see,” he raised himself up on his palete showing a wide grin. “I may not be able to walk but I may live longer than them.” They both laughed out loud.

Well, I going back home and tomorrow… back to my spot at the pool of Bethesda. Maybe, that will be the day that the angel will stir the waters and I’ll be lucky.”

“Well, Imraam… I wish you luck.” Simon coaxed the mules to turn right. Imraam and his servants was soon disappeared amongst the heavy traffic of people and animals.

“Poor Imraam,” Simon shook his head as he chuckled himself.

“Father? Do you ever think that an angel of Lord would stir the water as the legend states? And do you think, Imraam can ever get into the water first ahead of the others?”

“He has been going to that pool for about thirty years now since he became crippled. Can you believe it? I really hope he does.”

They weaved their wagon up a noisy busy street. To their left rose the jam packed square houses of the lower city of Jerusalem. According to a trader friend of his, over three hundred thousand people live in squalor there based on the last census by the current Roman governor. To their right was the shored up canal creek the water of which ran down from the temple mount and was lined with chattering women doing their laundry. The creek then collected at the pool of Siloam before draining out under the city walls.

“Father, look!” Lazarus was pointing at a flapping banner hanging on the side of a long tall structure across the canal creek. “The chariot races are coming back in a week from now.”

“I know, son. I do have eyes.”

“I know father how you hate the sport. But surely, those of our people who race in the arena, do they not bolster the pride of our people?”

“Pride, you say. Be careful, my son, remember what the prophets says, ‘Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.’ (Proverbs 16:18 NLT) And trust me, I have seen many racers fall, both of our people and foreigners.”

Simon coaxed the mule to turn right. They went over a wide bridge that crossed over the canal and started up a gentle incline with the arena to their right. And as his habit, Simon looked to his left and his eyes followed up a grand staircase the went up about 40 feet then it dramatically turned right as it bridged over empty space and went up another 30 feet to the Temple Mount. This architectural feat have never failed to impress him. The mount itself took up most of the view of the sky. They rode unto the landing of a vast plaza with the massive southern walls of the Temple Mount rising over 90 feet tall looking down upon them. They rode by a busy market place then stopped by one of the stall which he own. After Simon spoke with a the stall merchant who worked for him, he and his son drove their wagon into the old City of David.

In the days of King David to the Judean exile to Babylon, the city was both his residence and government buildings. Most of the palaces were torn down by the invading Babylonians. Only a few government buildings were still standing. Then, when the exiles returned, the old city was rebuilt but remnants of David’s line did not rebuild the palaces. By the time the Romans came, the City of David was mostly made up of the residences of the rising middle class.

They rode through the old city’s porticos, then Simon stopped the wagon infront of one of the surviving 3-story government building which he had taken over. A servant came out to tie the mule to a hitching pole. Both Simon and Lazarus alighted off the wagon and entered the building.

“Master?” said a stout man slowly getting up from behind a wide desk. “We were not expecting you for a couple of days.”

“I know, I know Joral,” Simon said. “Lazarus and I are here in the city to see my cousin at the Temple. Since we were in the neighborhood, I thought I’d check on the rennovations upstairs.”

Joral trailed behind them as they crossed the lower floor where laborers were busy unpacking bundles of processed wheat husks. Some of them carried several bundle to an adjoing room where a millstone can be see moving in circle.

“How many bags of flour produced today?” Simon asked Joral as they ascended a grand staircase.

“Only about 9 bags. One of our asses became ill. We had to wait for a replacement.”

“You see, my son,” Simon said to Lazarus. “This business requires constant overseeing. If Joral was not here, there could have been a longer delay in fulfilling the order. This is why you must pay more attention and remember that the clothing you wear and everything else comes from this business.”

“Yes father,” he said with a slight hint of exaspiration.

Simon was smiling inside when they reached the second floor. The went down a hallway a little to where they can hear hammering. Jorel pushed open ornately carved double doors to reveal a vast room.

“As you can see, Master. They took down the walls of 3 large rooms to form this large room. I believe this room can hold over a hundred people.”

“Excellent, Jorel. This large room should bring in some extra revenue. When will they finish the rennovations?”

“In 3 months or so, Master.”

“Good… just in time for the summer festivals. Very well, we must go. It will be a long climb to the top of the Temple Mount.”

 


 

Hello readers,

Again, I would like to invite your comments with constructive inputs which I’ll look forward to put into good use as I direct my creative thoughts.

I hope you enjoy what I hope will be the product of my Spirit sanctified imagination.

Until the next post,

Johann Q

Please help me go mobile, donate at or share this link to others: https://www.gofundme.com/quadriplegic-needs-mobility

 

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch1 – part 1

Chapter 1 –¬†Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Palestine

There was no wind and the fog was thick upon a calm sea. Then from the midst of the fog, a ship emerges like a ghostly apparition. The ship was a Roman galley, a long warship propelled by three rows of oars along the length of its beaten up hull. It had two masts but the sails were furled because of the lack of wind. Protruding from the bow just inches above the waterline is a bronze-sheathed battering ram. The ship was silent except for the usual background sounds made by almost 200 rowers and the vibrating taut ropes that holds the masts up. Then from the stern, a loud horn sounded with two short burst and a long steady blow until it faded down. From a distance another horn blew, then another even farther, several more but fainter. There were other ships out there in the fog communicating their location. As the sun rose higher, the dense fog dissipated and more ships became visible. It was a fleet of twenty ships of varied sizes three of which were of the heavy trireme galley warships.

On the prow of the first galley, stood a man in his late thirties. He was clearly a military man. His armor with its chain-link suit and six intricate molded circlets embedded on his leather-strap vest indicates that he was not a low ranked legionary but an officer. Point of fact, his helmet with its white horse-hair plume arcing left to right says that he is a Centurion of senior standing which elevates him to be in command of three cohorts which makes up of 900 men. In the Roman Legion, a regular Centurion whose helmet would have either a red horse-hair plume or red feathers would only command of about 100 men. To this soldier, it also means his elevated rank points to a special assignment. And it is to this special assignment that he was focused on, deep in thought… in the past.

It was 2 months ago, in the garden of his father’s estate some 30 miles south of Rome overlooking the sea, that a modest ceremony is being held for him.

“It has been bequeath to Centurion Cornelius Metellus the advance rank of Primus Pilus for his successful and long service with the 9th Legion who vanquished the Basque marauders in northern Spain,” his father read the scroll with his chest puffed up high in pride. “No father can be so proud.” He held up the scroll again and sighed.

As the family and relatives retreated back into the coolness of the house, his father led Cornelius to a corner of the pavilion next to a babbling fountain.

“Well, my son, you have gotten your wish after all.” Cornelius’ father said quietly. “Palestine!” He said regretfully.

“Originally, father, it is called Judea. Palestine which means the land of the Philistines was the name originally given by the early Roman conquerors to mock the Judeans some forty years ago.”

“You sound like Jacob your ol’ tutor,” his father chuckled quietly. “Speaking of which…” His father then turns towards a large column engulfed with clinging vines. “You can come out now, Jacob, from behind that pillar where I know you were hiding.”

A short gray-haired bearded man dressed in a long brown homespun tunic gingerly stepped away from the ivy covered pillar and slowly approached them then bowed before them. “Forgive me, master, but I felt that I should be close by…”

“Yes, yes Jacob,” his father said, laughing out loud. “I was about to tell him.”

“Cornelius? It was strongly suggested to me…”, he gestured to Jacob whose head is still bowed on the ground. “…that you must not journey to the most eastern edge of our vast empire lacking knowledge of what you’ll need to be successful in your venture there. Your esteem teacher of many years felt that since he is a Jew after all that you would need his vast…,” he gestured with hands spread far apart rolling his eyes up. “…wisdom.”

“Frankly, Cornelius, If I were you…”, winking at him. “I wouldn’t take him at all!”

“Oh Master!” Jumps up on his feet.

His father laughed out teasingly, “It’s true. When I first rescued you from the debtor’s prison in Athens some 30 odd years ago, even after I paid for your debts, you had the audacity to ask if I would also purchase back all your books as well. You were not a very good slave. To this day, I still wonder if I invested wrong.”

Jacob’s face had that dramatic expression of dejection. Of course, Cornelius heard this same story repeated so many times.

“It was your good fortune that you were classically trained in Greek. For if it were not so, I would never have kept you and trusted you to the education of all my children.”

Cornelius remembered too well how Jacob would teach them Greek history, literature and the language itself, but he would also regaled them with fantastic stories of his people and their relationship with their one God. Though his siblings were entertained by his stories, it was Cornelius who wanted to learn more. So, after gaining his father’s permission, Jacob started to teach him first Hebrew so that he can delve into very same books that his father had purchased back from the debtors. The books were actually a cherished and revered collection of holy script of the Israelites that dated back thousands of years. These Scriptures were usually restricted to the priesthood. When Cornelius asked him, how was it that Jacob had a copy for himself. Jacob told him that the he was once a scribe, a member of the priesthood charged with the copying of the Scriptures. Since there was no more Synagogue in Athens back then, he kept them.

His father placed his hand on Jacob’s frail shoulder. “I will truly miss you around here.” He then turns to his son. “Cornelius. The paperwork is complete. Jacob, as requested, is now legally your bond servant.”

“Father… thank you”, Cornelius was not altogether surprised. He and Jacob often spoke of it. When Cornelius found out about 2 Legions being formed to bolster the already exhausted and dwindled 12th Legion at the region of Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. He put in his papers to join them. Jacob, on the other hand, wheedled and cajoled his father to accompany him back to his homeland.

“Come now, Jacob. Leave us alone for awhile. We have much to discuss.”

Jacob smiled and bowed. Then he shuffled back to the house.

—————————————————–

Author’s Note:

Every week, I will post short segments of my ebook, The Centurion’s Gospel, in sequel. If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

Thank you

Johann Q

Ebook in Amazon

CG-book-cover-wCornelius Metellus is a Roman Centurion who is a veteran of the conflicts in Spain. He had been in countless battles and the experience had caused him to search for deeper meaning in life. That search will lead him to arrive in First Century Palestine with several cohorts of legionaries under the command of Governor Pontus Pilate. He is given a special assignment to establish a spy network to gather intelligence on the insurgent activity in the region. Eventually, he will investige Jesus of Nazareth as a possible insurgent against Roman rule. As he closely follow this wandering rabbi and miracle worker, he is led down a spiritual path of Discovery and Faith.