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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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 065

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

Some of the Pharisees were loudly protesting, while some were trying to maintain decorum. Simon and some of his followers were probably relieved that things were calming down. But apparently, Jesus was not done yet. This time, he turned to the Pharisees and scribes and delivered some very scathing rebukes each attacking their hypocrisies.

Every one of the rebukes started with “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees. Hypocrites!” For every ‘woe’ exclaimed, Simon Peter visibly cringed knowing what an explosive situation they were in. He signaled the rest of the Twelve to be at a ready. They formed a protective circle while there were about twenty or more other disciples between them and the crowd. Some of the disciples were leading women to retreat deeper among the colonnades.

Like the pounding of a nail into wood, every rebuke touched a sensitive nerve most in their pride, but some in their conscience. For about half an hour, Jesus continued his scathing rebukes. On Jesus’ third set of woes, which triggered the Pharisees to make even a louder commotion, out came High Priest. From the Temple, he strode through the crowd with his priests making way and joined the already seething members of the Sanhedrin. He had a satisfied smirk in his face.

Jesus continued on with four more rebukes from their hypocrisy in tithing to finally their hypocrisy to honor the prophets forgetting that their ancestors were the ones that killed them and that even now they are doing the same by plotting to kill him.

Then with dramatic flair, Jesus points ominously at the Pharisees, the scribes and the High Priest, and declared, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” [Matthew 23:33-36]

Like the breaking of the damn, the courtyard broke out with indignant voices. Everyone was up and shoving each other. Some of the angry priest were calling out for the guards. People were saying he is the Messiah. Others were calling to have him stoned for blasphemy. It was this time of the chaos that Jesus was whisked away by his disciples. They went down the Eastern stairs the lower gates below the Temple Mount. They quickly crossed the Kidron bridge. Jesus hid his face to keep the thousands encamped in the valley from recognizing him. They maneuvered through the crowded valley, then up the Mount of Olives.
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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 064

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

For Simon, the past three days of the Passover was a blur of intense tug-of-war between the Jewish leadership and Jesus. Everyday he came into the Temple court and taught the people on the steps of Solomon’s Columns. He taught much and soon even the elites of the city came to hear him teach. Of course, as expected, his lessons were always interrupted by those who sought to discredit him, mostly the priesthood lackies trying to catch him in either blasphemy or reasons to betray him to the Romans. To the relief of his followers and the delight of the crowd, he brilliantly thwarted their attempts to no avail. Simon felt though that they will come at Jesus with such greater endeavor before the Passover day tomorrow.

Jesus was finishing the latest parable he was imparting to the crowd, when Simon saw an exceptional group of scribes and Pharisees, many of whom were of the Sanhedrin, were approaching for another bout. Jesus saw them too. Then he stood up like he was about to orate. He turned first to Peter and the others. He smiled and Simon knew that Jesus is going to say something controversial.

Then he turned to the crowd and said, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.

“They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.

“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” [Matthew 23:1-12]

Angry murmurs were coming from the Pharisees and scribes, while confusion was coming from his own group. They were caught off guard. They didn’t expect and understand why he was attacking them. Jesus criticized them for taking the place of honor at banquets, for wearing such ostentatious clothing, for encouraging people to call them Rabbi. For this he reminded the people that it was not them who are their true leader but only Christ. He was telling people that the true servants of God are not them who exalt themselves but those that humbles himself.

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 060

MARY, THE FAITHFUL ONE
33 AD – Sabbath Anointment – Bethany, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

Late in the afternoon, Simon’s household and guests gathered again for the final meal of the Sabbath. As Mary watched Jesus conversing and laughing with her father, brother and the others around their table, she longed to do something special for him.

“Mary, you are in love with him,” whispered Mariam. “I see it every time you watch my son.”

“I do love him, Mariam. But I know he has a task to do and that I… ah, I…” She could not finish her thought. She sighed inside. “What can I do for him?”

“Let the Lord Almighty guide you, Mary.”

Mary closed her eyes and before she could phrase a petition, the image of the alabaster perfume vial popped into her mind. She wasn’t sure what to make of it until the story of Samuel anointing David with essence oil also came to mind. Her eyes opened wide with understanding. She sprung up to her feet, surprising the women of her table. She quickly dashed out of the dining room followed by some of her companions who were confused by her abrupt action.

“Where are you going, Mary?” Joanne asked.

Mary explained what she intended. Joanne and the others nodded with enthusiasm. Mary went in and retrieved the bottle. When she returned to the dining room, she found that Jesus was lounging on his side talking to her father, Simon and Lazarus. She paused just at the threshold hesitating. She looks down at her hands, at the slender white alabaster jar with the golden stopper. Taking a deep breath, she then walked over to Jesus caressing the jar over her heart.

The whole room quieted down as she nervously approached where Jesus lounged. She looks down and no words were exchanged. Jesus nodded ever so slightly to her. She was encouraged. She gracefully knelt and unstoppered the jar. The aromatic perfume filled the room. It had that distinctive aroma of pure nard. She poured some on his head and her fingers gently combed it into his hair. The other women then sounded a wavering, high-pitched tongue sound which they do as a sign of honor and celebration. Mary then poured some on Jesus’ feet and used her long hair to gently wipe them.

Abruptly, Judas Iscariot stood up quite indignantly speaking out loud.

“What is this waste? We could have sold this perfume for three hundred denarii and used the money to feed a multitude of poor.”

“Let her alone. Why do you bother her so?” Jesus said calmly. “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. Mary has done a good deed to me. For when she poured this perfume on me, she was preparing me for burial. I tell you all the truth that wherever this gospel is preached in the world, what she did for me will be spoken of in memory of her.” [Matthew 26:8-13; John 12:4-8]

That night, Mary and some of the women were summoned to meet him at roof deck. He asked them to join him next to a hot brazier to fend off the chill in the air.

“My sisters, in the morn, I will go to the Temple for the week long Passover Feast. Much will happen that will cause much tears. You must hold on to your faith.”

The women wanted to ask more but Jesus would not say more. They spent the next hour in prayer and singing some Psalms. When they were leaving, Jesus asked Mary to stay.

“Mary, I have a favor to ask. I would appreciate it, if you would stay with my mother during this week. She will be staying with kin in the old part of the city. She will need your strength.”

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FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS – Part 057

JOANNE THE HONORABLE WIFE
33 AD – Sabbath Anointment – Bethany, Judeafaithful-encounters-cover-w

It had been a month since they all had witnessed Lazarus, dead for four days, being brought back to life by Jesus. The great city and the surrounding environs are still talking about it. Joanne who had been staying in the house of young Mary’s family in Bethany is standing on the front stoop expectantly waiting for her husband who had sent a message of his arrival from Herod’s palace in Perea.

Then, the gate bell was rung and a servant goes to open the gates. Chuza enters followed by two porters. Joanne went to him and greeted him.

“Is he here?” asked Chuza

“No… not yet,” said Joanne. “What is wrong?”

” I have news concerning him.”

Then she heard the front doors open. She glanced back to find Simon coming out followed by Martha and Lazarus.

“Welcome to our home, Chuza, high chamberlain of Herod Antipas.”

“Peace be upon this house,” said Chuza, giving the traditional greeting.

“And peace be upon you.” Simon returned.

“I have been an admirer of your business exploits for sometime now,” said Chuza. “When I heard that my wife Joanne was here staying with you, I was delighted.”

“The Lord had been generous,” Simon said contemplatively. “Please… come inside.”

Just inside the antechamber, a servant waited holding a towel, a jar of water and an empty basin. Chuza ritually removed his sandals while the servant laid the basin before him. Chuza hiked up his robe and hovered his right foot over the basin. The servant was about to pour water but Joanne stopped him. He passed the towel and jar to her. She gets down to her knees and pours water on his foot. She wiped his foot with the towel and then repeated the process on his other foot. When she stood up, she found Chuza looking at her with a surprised look.
An hour later, Jesus and his entourage arrived. When they were all settled, Joanne went to Simon Peter and asked if she can meet with Jesus. After the evening meal, they gathered privately. In the room was Simon, Jesus, Simon Peter, Andrew, John, Chuza and herself.

“Rabbi, several members of the Sanhedrin and from the priesthood arrived at the fortress of Machaerus some days ago. They met with Antipas with a message from the High Priest. I was not there on the initial meeting but when I was summoned, I came upon in the middle of them plotting to have you seized and put to death.

“They fear of your influence on the people… losing their place of respect and honor among them. They spoke of the people declaring you king and there would be outright revolt against the Romans and even themselves.

“They have set watch for you at the upcoming Passover Festival. They dare not arrest you in the open. So, they seek an opportune time. They have even placed out a reward for your betrayal.”

After the meeting, Simon Peter had sent John and another disciple to Jerusalem. John was related to the family of the High Priest. It was hoped that he could gather more news of their plot. Joanne did note that though Simon Peter and the others showed a deep concern, Jesus reflected a calm demeanor.

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