THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch18 – part 3

THE ANNOINTING ANSWER – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

It was the night before the beginning of the Passover Festival. The city is overflowing with Jewish pilgrims. The Kidron Valley, just under the gaze of the Eastern battlements of the Temple Mount, was startingly packed with multicolored tents. Smoke from thousands of camp fires formed a hazy blanket that rose as high as the controversial aqueduct that crossed the valley from the Mount of Olives. Cornelius, again with Jacob, Trax and Cestus were invited to the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany. When they arrived from Emmaus, Cornelius was happy to find Jesus and the Twelve, the women who always provided support to the group, and a few other followers like young John Mark. Also present were a few Pharisees friendly to Jesus. Nicodemus was there talking to one that Cornelius didn’t recognize. He was a little taller than Nicodemus and brawny but not like Peter. When he saw him, they approached.

“Centurion, allow me to introduce you to a colleague and friend of mine, Joseph of Arimathea.”

“Oh, yes!” He said as Cornelius grasped his forearm with a smile, “We have common acquaintances. I believe you know the Lady Procula and her hand maiden, Lady Pheobe.”

“Most interesting ladies,” chuckled Joseph. “They have such a zeal to learn. I also have heard that you yourself is a student of the Law and a proselyte. Wonderful!”

Then Simon the former leper called for everyone to the pavilion.

“My brethren, we have come unto miraculous times. Even more so, here in this household. Just a week ago, my son was buried four long days, but now, see my son!”

Old man Simon hugged his son, Lazarus. There was clapping and hugging until the men broke out in celebratory music and Jewish line dancing. Cornelius and Cestus decided not to join in the dance, however Jacob could not keep hold of an excited Trax who jumped right in. They were clearly enjoying the show and was clapping away with the rhythm. This went on for several minutes until Martha came from another part of the pavilion and rang a gong like bell to announce the evening meal. Some of the men moved a number of low tables to the center of the pavilion. Cushions were quickly strewn around the tables and the men started to lounge on them.

Cornelius was content to take the furthest table when Jesus came and led him to the main table. It was the largest there and that it could accommodate about twenty or so people. Jesus led him to a place next to him. Cornelius looked at the faces around the table. Jesus was on his right with old man Simon, Lazarus and a few men he didn’t know sitting next. To his left, the Twelve, Simon, Andrew, Peter, Judas, John, Philip, Matthew, James, Matthew, Thomas, Nathanael and Thaddeus. Before him were bowls of flat breads, salt and a pale yellowish paste that tasted tangy. Simon said before they bring out the main meal, they start with this. Simon broke off some flat bread then dunked it first on the paste then in the salt. He waited for Cornelius to follow suit before they ate it. Cornelius enjoyed it. He was in his fourth serving when Martha and an army of women brought in the rest of the hot food to all the tables.

As the dinner progressed and conversations got more busier, Jesus leans over to Cornelius and said, “Come, I’ve sensed you wanted to talk to me all night. Let us retreat over there for awhile.”

They went over to an adjacent courtyard and sat on opposite benches. Peter and Simon probably figured out that they needed privacy, so they stationed themselves to the entry way of the courtyard.

“I see you have found the passages I told you to find in Isaiah,” Jesus knowingly said. “But you feel you are at a lost.”

“Yes, very much so,” Cornelius said. Then he started telling him everything what he felt and shared his frustration to Jesus who had that silent power to just listen, encouraging him to speak with no reservations.

After what seem a long while, he finally asked, “Lord, I am still unclear on what I am suppose to do?”

“My Father had shown those things for you as a way of understanding and preparation, but it is for you to act or not act. Do not despair, Cornelius, you will do what is right in the long run. Let us return, for you must witness what comes next.”

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 8

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

So, Peter and Andrew positioned themselves on the right side of the stone. The round stone was resting in the bottom of an inclined groove carved into the rock. Grunting profusely, they rolled the heavy stone up the slight incline, revealing the small opening into the dark chamber. Except for Jesus, those on the ledge and steps as well as those gathered below the ledge covered their noses and mouths from the obvious smell of decay. They quickly retreated down the steps leaving Jesus alone on the ledge.

Then Jesus raised his eyes, and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

Then he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”

The crowd was silent. When after awhile nothing seem to be happening, some in the crowd started snickering. But then a woman gasped and with a trembling hand pointing, she said, “Look!”

Cornelius had to take a few steps back to get a better look inside of the tomb. At first, all he saw was pitch darkness. Then he could just make out some slight grayish movement deep inside. He felt the hairs on his back stand up. The crowd was startled with a few women screaming out loud as a bound hand came out of the darkness grasping the entrance wall. Jesus reached in, grasped the other hand and helped the struggling bound man out. It was Lazarus alive after four days in the tomb. He was wrapped from head to foot with linen wrappings. The bound wrappings were hardened and stiff from the herbal ointments applied when he was buried.

No one moved. Jesus, who was holding him up, called out to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

It was the sisters that reacted first as they both rushed up the steps and embraced Lazarus. Other men rushed up to the ledge and started to tear at the hardened wrappers. His father handed his robe to cover his nakedness. He was still pretty weak, so they had to carry him down.

The people were amazed and were calling loud praises to God. Those Jews whom Cornelius noted who had laughed at him bowed their heads in respect when Jesus and his disciples walked by following the happy family. There were a few, however, who were concerned about this event. They did not cheer nor praise. Some of them went ahead of the crowd, probably to report what they just witnessed.

When they finally reached their house in the village, Jacob was there waiting for them with the others. Cornelius filled him in on the incredible event. Jacob was no less astounded.

That night, they received word from Nicodemus, that the religious leaders wanted Jesus dead.
[note: quotes in italics are from John 11]
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 7

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

They spoke privately while Cornelius and the disciple kept the crowd away. Then she hurried back to the village with her servant in tow. About fifteen minutes later, a sizable crowd was seen coming out. They were following Mary, the youngest sister of Lazarus, who was walking fast ahead of them. Martha and her father were just behind her. When Mary spotted Jesus, she sprinted the last twenty yards to him. Then she threw herself on the ground at his feet weeping loudly.

Her tear streaked face lifted to look imploringly at him and she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus helped her up on her feet and she fiercely embraced him, burying her face unto his chest weeping loudly. As Jesus returned her embrace, Cornelius saw anguish in his face. The women among the crowd were also weeping loudly.

Then he looked at Simon the Leper and his daughter, Martha and asked, “Where have you laid him?”

“Lord, come and see.”

They led him south of the village into a small canyon. The canyon walls only rose about fifteen to twenty feet up. It was narrow with only enough room for four men to walk abreast of each other. As they followed a well worn winding trail, Cornelius saw signs of excavations into the recesses of the walls. A number of them had carved circular stones about three feet in diameter covering the openings. They were burial chambers for the rich families of the nearby villages. They reached the end of the trail that opened up into a wider enclosure where Simon the Leper’s clan maintained a garden. The garden which was fenced in by a short rock wall about three feet high, fronted several burial chambers some of which were carved out halfway up the canyon walls. Rough steps were carved into the rock that led up to several ledges. Lazarus’ father told Jesus that he was entombed inside the chamber of the first ledge about five feet above the canyon floor. The ledge was only wide enough for about five to six people.

Jesus climbed the steps to the ledge followed closely by Simon the Leper, Peter and Andrew. The sobbing sisters also climbed the steps but stopped part way. Jesus placed his hand on the round stone and wept openly.

There were a number of Pharisees among the crowd and Cornelius could hear one of them whisper, “See how He loved him!”

But someone else also said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have kept this man also from dying?”

Jesus took a step back and spoke to Peter and Andrew, “Roll the stone away.”

Martha gasped and said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Mary’s head came up and looked on him with a desperate hope.

Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

[note: quotes in italics are from John 11]

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 5

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

Jacob stood up and started to slowly pace the floor. “There is much to absorb on what you said. The traditional Jew in me is cringing on some of your concept but I do find it intriguing, maybe because I have lived for so long away from the local prejudices. If Jesus is going to offer himself as the guilt offering then there can only be two questions to ask, how and when?”

“For the when, it may be a long way off, for Jesus may still have much to do to usher in the kingdom. I pray he will be an old man by then. As to the how, I believe I may know how. But I would rather not discuss it now. I have to find Jesus. You and two of our men take one of the smaller wagons and meet me at Bethany at the house of Simon the Leper. I will take Cestus with me and ride ahead. Bring enough supplies for three days and if the lad wants to come, bring him along.”

On the rode halfway to Bethany, they slowed their horses down to a canter. Cornelius was not paying too much attention to his surroundings. He had been thinking on the how question. He is convinced that sometime in Jesus’ future he will be crucified. He recalled him mentioning how the Son of Man would be lifted up and even specified the cross to his disciples. Crucifixions are Rome’s answer to dissension. It is not just an instrument of death but agonizing torture. He had seen hundreds of crucifixions in Spain so much so that he does not pay too much attention to them nor the crying pleas for a quick death. He had reasoned that they all deserved it.

When they sighted Jerusalem, they were on the road that led to the North West gate of the city. About a quarter of a mile from the gate was a fork on the road. Just off the road was a large rocky knoll the shape of which looked like a sunken skull. Cornelius looked at the top of the knoll and saw two roughly hewn poles sticking up from the ground. This would be an ideal location to execute punishment, he thought. It was high up and in sight from the city and the busy traffic on this road. As he looked at the empty poles, he shook his head thinking that this was no kind of execution for Jesus. In the back of his mind, he would not allow it. He would rather plunge his sword into him, in honor, rather than see him tortured on the cross.

They took the left fork which led them to another road that skirted the north city wall. Cornelius noted signs of the city expanding. There were already a number of structures built on the wide plain north of the city as well as an army of workers building sections of a new perimeter wall. They soon reached the other side of the city and took the road that went to Bethany. When they arrived, Simon the leper was there to greet them. There was sadness in his eyes and Cornelius noted that his robe was ripped from the neck down. Then he can hear wailing cries from inside.

“What has happened, Simon?”

“My son, Lazarus, succumbed to his illness four days ago.”

“He is dead?! I grieve for you, my friend. He will be sorely missed,” Cornelius said as he placed his hand on Simon’s shoulder. “Where was Jesus?”

“We heard he was in the area of the Jordan River Valley. Probably still is, I think. We sent messengers to him but the master had not come. I just do not understand why.”

“I will go seek him out.” He and Cestus mounted their horses. “Jacob and some others will arrive here soon. Would you tell him to await for us here?”

“Of course.”

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 070

DEMACLI THE LEGION DEMONIAC
33 AD – The Greek Visitors – Jerusalem, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Recap Part 68 & 69

Several minutes had past when Philip reappeared at the double doors of the house and happily gestured for all of them to enter.

Looking about the large entryway of what Demacli could tell was once a grand residence of old. But instead of ornate furniture, the room had bags of grain stacked all the way up to the ceiling. Rows of worktables were pushed up against another wall.

“Who’s house is this?”

“It is mine.” A man about the same age of his father and a younger man came ambling through a side door carrying trays of flat herbal breads. He handed the tray he was carrying to a passing servant who was also bringing food up the stairs. “Welcome,” he said, “I am Simon of Bethany. The master told us to expect you and your group of believers from Hippus.”

Demacli blinked. Simon chuckled at his reaction. “Yes, I know. The master still surprises me the same way. Come. Let us go up.”

They all started to ascend the broad stairs case.

“I have done business at Hippus in the past,” Simon said. “At that matter, I do a lot of trading in the free cities.”

“You probably dealt with my father, then,” Demacli said.

“Oh, I have,” Simon said.

Demacli turned to look at him.

“As soon as I set my eyes on your face, I saw a younger image of him.” Simon was chuckling again. “Your father and I were dealing with each other since before you were born. But I have not seen him in the past ten years. Oh, I still deal with him but through my merchants that treks back and forth. I’m afraid I’m just a little too old taking those long trips through a scorching desert and fighting off robbers. And then I had to deal with your father. He was a shrewd man. Those were good days.”

“Demacli!” A voice called as they reached the top of the stairs. “You have arrived.”

Demacli saw it was the Master waiting with some of the disciples by tall ornately carved double doors. He and the other Greeks rushed up to him and quickly got down on their knees bowing to him.

“Get up, my friends,” Jesus said. “You have arrived on time for our celebration.”

“Thank you, Lord.”

Jesus greeted them all. When he got to Elpida, he smiled greatly.

“Elpida,” Jesus greeted fondly, “My heart is joyful of your union with Demacli. My Father’s blessings to your household.”

Elpida again went down on her knees with tears in her eyes, but Jesus help her back up.

“Come! Let us all enter.”

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 067

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

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

Then Jesus’ face turned somber.

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

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

He sat again and his eyes were teary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 066

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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