TO JERUSALEM – Magdala to JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

The Festival of Tabernacle is only a few days away. Jesus again received a message from his brothers that he should go to the festival. But he again declined. Instead, Jesus, the Twelve, Cornelius and others crossed the Sea of Galilee to the region of Decapolis. There, they went up to the top of a small mount. As always it was not long before a large crowd gathered and, of course, they brought their lame, crippled, blind, dumb, and many others, and they laid them down at his feet; and He healed them. It was also here that Jesus again challenged the disciples to feed the multitude. To Cornelius’ surprise, the disciples gave the same excuse of how. Doing the same way that Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand several months ago, he again broke bread and giving thanks to God, then starting passing bread and fish to his disciples who in turn distributed them to the multitude. Over Four thousand men with their respective families were fed that day.

They returned to the boats and again crossed the sea to the region of Magadan. Jesus was again approached by another group of Pharisees and Sadducees^^ who wanted to test him. This time they came demanding for a sign from heaven.
[^^ The Sadducees believed in almost the opposite issues from the Pharisees. They were the liberals of their day.]

Jesus then sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” Then they went back to the boats.

As they worked their way up the coast, Jesus told them, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

Andrew whispered to his brother, Peter, pointing at an empty basket which was held by Thaddeus. It was the basket that usually carried bread in. A few of them started to discuss among themselves occasionally pointing at it. It occurred to Cornelius that they think that what Jesus said was because they have forgotten to bring bread.

It too occurred to Jesus, for he rebuked them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? ‘Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?’ And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?”

They answered him, “Twelve.”

“When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?”

And they sheepishly answered Him, “Seven.”

“Do you not yet understand?” [Mark 8:11-21 NASB]

They sailed to Bethsaida where he healed a blind man. After which they returned to Capernaum.

“The festival is at hand. Tonight we leave for Jerusalem. Speak to no one of our departure.”
For three days, they followed the pilgrimage route on foot trailing two donkeys that carried their supplies. Traditionally, pilgrims mostly from Galilee who annually partake of the three major festivals in Jerusalem would travel to the southern end of the inland sea. There the waters flow into several small rivers that snake their way through a swampy delta until they all eventually cascade into the beginning of the Jordan River. The pilgrims would ford the river there then follow a well used southerly caravan trail that ran the length of a barren escarpment which took two days to travel by foot.

It was when they were about a day on the trail and the heat was unbearably hot, that Cestus asked why they were traveling such a strenuous route. “We could have easily gone by the King’s Road near the Mediterranean to the Judean highlands where the climate is comfortable.”

Jacob explained that the King’s Road, though it would have been a shorter route, went through Samaritan country which the Jews would take great strides to avoid. Cornelius knew the reason why.

Jacob continued, “You see the Samaritans today are descendants of the Israelites who intermarried themselves with Gentiles. This was way back when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was finally conquered by the Assyrian Empire some six hundred years ago. They exiled most of the Israelites and those that were left which were few, were forced to intermarry with a foreign people, dregs mostly, imported from through out their empire. About two hundred years later or so, the southern Judean kingdom who were also exiled, but this time by the Babylonians, returned to Jerusalem after seventy years. They rebuilt the Temple which was destroyed. At the time of the Temple’s re-dedication, all the Jews gathered including those who considered themselves Jews. They were mostly the Samaritans who kept up some of the Jewish traditions. But because the Samaritans could not prove their Jewish heritage by genealogical account, they were out right ejected from the holy assembly. The Samaritans returned to their country hating the Jews. To spite them, they continued to practice their version of our religion on their holy mountain even up to today; hence the animosity between our people and theirs.”

Simon, who was walking close enough to listen to Jacob’s explanation, also said, “Hear this. I, a Jew and a former Zealot, would rather invite you, a Roman, to my home than any of them.”


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THE MISSION – Capernaum, Nazareth, SidonCG-book-cover-w

Cornelius stood aside as the brothers, shaking their heads, went into the workshop. He joined Jesus by the woodpile. He was staring down the beaten track that led to the Old King’s Road then he looked up with a smile.

“Peter and the others will be here by mid day. I intend to go north to the Phoenician coastal plains so that they may rest. Do you still wish to come? It will be several days.”

Cornelius considered it as he forlornly gazed at the grazing donkeys near by. He unconsciously started rubbing his backside in contemplation. Both Jesus and Simon broke out laughing and said sympathetically, “Nay, Cornelius, I will not subject you to more discomfort.” He mirthfully pointed to a wagon by the side of the workshop and two mules.

Jesus got up, rolled up the sleeves, and then proceeded to pick up some planks. Cornelius was about to help but then Jesus said, “No. This I must do with my brothers alone.”

The rest of the morning, Cornelius watched, fascinated, as Jesus worked side by side with his brothers; the earlier argument forgotten. Jesus, assisted by his novice brother, Jude, worked on a dining table that was ordered by a merchant relative in Cana. By mid day, the table was fully assembled. Jesus was doing some final touch ups when the rest of the Twelve arrived. After they ate their mid day meal, the mules were hitched to the wagon. The table was loaded on the wagon for delivery to Cana. As they all waited patiently on the wagon, Cornelius watched Jesus and his mother quietly talk to each other. He saw sadness in her eyes as she said her farewells.

They spent about a week around the plains south of Sidon. Because they were in Gentile country only a few recognized who Jesus was. It was a time of rest and not contending with crowds. It was also a time for lessons.


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THE FALLING OUT – Sea of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

It seemed that Cornelius had just closed his eyes to sleep when he was awakened by Cestus. The sky was still very dark.

“Sir! I am sorry to wake you, sir! But the follower, Simon, needs to speak to you. There seem to be some urgency, sir.”

Cornelius noted that Jacob and Trax were up rolling their blankets. “What is going on?” he asked.

Cestus gestured to where Simon and Matthew were standing. As he got up, Cestus started to roll his blanket as well, prompting him to surmise that something was up. Simon and Matthew approached him.

“The master has called us to leave this place as soon as possible!” Matthew said.

“Why? What has happened?”

It was Simon who answered, “He told Peter that, in the morning, the people will come to take him and declare him king. I am afraid that my former companions have been busy arousing the populace.”

“We must get Jesus away from here! If they force the crown on him, the governor will have no choice. He will be a hunted man.”

“He is already gone. According to Peter, he alone went up the mountain for solitude. Only Peter, John and James know to which his direction went. He commanded that we must be away from here before the morning. He also felt that you should go as well. We will guide you down to the beach by another path away from the multitudes.”

Simon led the way. Fortunately, the moon was out and bright enough for them not to use torches. He led them down a fairly steep ravine that eventually reached the beach about two miles from where they originally landed. Cornelius thought that they were going to work their way back to the boats, when to his surprise, he noticed that there were two boats already waiting for them. As he came closer, he saw that one of the boats was his. Peter approached them.

“Greetings again, Cornelius!”

“How is it that you were able to convince my men to bring my boat here?” Cornelius had to ask, for his men would not have taken orders from anyone else.

Cestus, who went ahead to the boat, called back, “I found them, sir! They were both trussed up and gagged!”

Cornelius faced Peter questioningly.

“Forgive me, Cornelius?” Peter sheepishly explained, “We reasoned that your men would not listen to reason. So, we silently jumped them.” Rubbing his sore jaw, he continued, “Please do not reprimand them. Your men did put up a good fight. It took all ten of us to disarm and tie them up.”

Andrew came up leading two women. Cornelius noted that his left eye had some bruising around it.

“No harm done and the boats are here,” though he may have to talk to his men, to reassure them that no honor is lost and so that they will not act out on their own.


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THE SIGN – Wilderness East of the Lake of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

Jesus then gathered only his chosen twelve and they circled around him. He called over the boy with the bread and fish.

Cornelius could not see what Jesus was doing but he heard him prayerfully giving thanks for the bread and the fish. As he looked upon the backs of the twelve, he saw them bend over closely to what Jesus was doing in their midst. Then all twelve broke out in joyous laughter. Soon they were handing out lots of bread and fish to the waiting line of people who carried filled baskets back to their respective groups. Levi who was now called Matthew brought to Cornelius’ group a basket full of warm barley flat loaves and fish that was amazingly smoked dry and ready to eat.

When all have eaten, Jesus again gave instruction only to his closest twelve to each to take a basket and collect the left over pieces from among the people. When they returned they had collected twelve baskets filled with bread fragments.
The sun was just setting in the horizon. Cestus went back to the boat to bring food to Nacob and Lyca. Cornelius was lounging close to the fire listening contently to Jacob telling Trax the story of how David narrowly escaped Saul’s trap, when, to his surprise, Simon the Zealot approached him.

“The Master wishes you to join us up at the ridge.”

As he got up, he asks, “Did he tell you to get me?”

“No. I volunteered.”

About half way up the ridge, Cornelius asked, “How is it that it was you to volunteer to get me? I thought you did not like Romans?”

Simon paused to face him, “That is true! I still do not trust your people. But the master considers you with high regard and even to my surprise, I have to agree. I have heard that you tried to have John the Baptist released.”

“To no avail, I’m afraid. I failed him!”

“Yet, it was told us that you would have risked your own life to save him from execution.”

“How did you hear of that?”

“We do have eyes and ears in Herod’s palace,” Simon amusingly said. “The wife of Herod’s treasurer, who at times comes to minister to us with the other women in our group, witnessed your anger at Herod’s celebration. Be at peace, Cornelius. She was the only one that noticed your anger. She knew, through John’s companions, that you were going to petition for his release. When the order was given for his execution, she saw you walking after the guards and guessed that you were going to do something violent until your governor called you, of course. But it is of no more matter. To all of us here, your intentions are clear. Of this, we thank you. For myself, well, now I am beginning to understand some of my master’s teaching.”

He held out his hand and Cornelius took hold of it and shook hands.

“Come! The master awaits us.”


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MEETING FACE TO FACE – Hills South of CapernaumCG-book-cover-w

It was night when he rode up into their camp under the same copse of trees. The men around the fire all stood up but none walked over. Cornelius slowly dismounted and raised his hands up to show that he came in peace. He called out the traditional greeting of offering peace.

“Peace be also with you, Centurion.”

Cornelius turned to see the big fisherman and Levi, the former tax collector, emerge from the tent.

“I am pleased to see you again, Centurion.”

“Likewise, Levi.”

“Oh no… my friend. I am now called Matthew. The master named me so.”

Peter reached out his big hand and they shook hands. “I am Peter. The Master had chosen to meet you up there.” He gestured toward the same hill where Jesus gave his sermon. He calls to the tent, “Simon!”

Simon came out of the tent obviously livid.

“Simon here will be your guide.” Simon Peter faced the Zealot and said, “The Master suggested it.”

Simon reluctantly went to the fire and picked up a fiery brand. “Come Roman, follow me.”

They had to cross the creek with the limited light of the torch but Cornelius managed it with just wetting one of his sandaled foot. The Zealot lead him to a foot path which they followed up the hill. For a long while they did not talk. When they reached a level spot, the Zealot suddenly turned around to confront him.

“What do you want with the master, Roman? You are not wanted here!”

Cornelius was not caught unaware. He expected it. Though he had no weapon, he knew Simon could not best him in close quarter fighting alone. But there could be others nearby in the dark. Cornelius started moving slowly to the right forcing Simon to go right as well; circling each other.

“It was he that called me, Zealot. Now, tell me this. What are the Zealots intention with the rabbi? Do you think you can make him king to rally the people?”

That touched a nerve with Simon, he crouched like was ready to pounce.

“How did you do it, Zealot? How did you get the rabbi to choose you to be one of the Twelve?”

The Zealot stopped circling and then stood straight. “I did not! When Jesus called me, I was so proud but then deep down, I really knew there was nothing to be proud of. But yet he chose me. I will not betray him.”

“Peace,” said a voice in the darkness. Then Jesus walked into the light. “Greetings, Cornelius. It is a good night to be about. Is it not?”

“Good evening, Lord. It is truly a very good night.”

Jesus placed a hand onto Simon’s arm. “Thank you, Simon. I will take it from here. Come, Cornelius. Let us walk up in the dark.”


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SPYING IN A TREE – Capernaum, GalileeCG-book-cover-w

That night, wearing nondescript clothing, Cornelius and Cestus went back into the city. Cornelius recalled that Elan’s house was located near the western edge of the Jewish sector of the city. As soon as they reached the Jewish sector, they became even more careful traversing the almost empty streets and alleys. As much as possible they walked within the dark shadows. It took them forty minutes when they finally reached the house. The house was in a corner of a block of houses. From the shadows across the street, they quietly watched a few men entering through the gate leaving two guards outside. Cornelius and Cestus went back down the alley they were on, careful to stay always in the shadows. They had to circle three blocks before they finally arrived at the back side of Elan’s house. Fortunately, it was not guarded. Cestus tiptoed to the corner and took a peak at the guards who were content to stay by the gate. The wall was about the height of two tall men, but Cornelius saw that a big branch of a tree from inside the courtyard broke through the wall a quarter of a way down from the top. Cornelius motioned Cestus to give him a lift up so he can stand on his shoulders which was just good enough for him to get a hand hold on the thick branch. He pulled himself up into the tree and got his first view of the courtyard. Through the branches of the tree, he could just make out about forty or so men gathered around a blazing fire in the middle of the courtyard. They seem to be finishing up a meal that would be traditionally served before they conducted this meeting. Knowing that all these men would lose their night vision because of the fire, Cornelius confidently climbed down to the lower branches so he would be able to listen to the meeting.

The meeting started with the old rabbi from this afternoon offering a prayer, then Elan stepped forward to speak about some synagogue business. The older men were content to listen to all that Elan was reading. But Cornelius noticed a group of ten young men grumbling among themselves.

“Elan! Stop with this babble!” Stood one of the young men. “We are here to demand why you allowed this foreigner… This Roman oppressor into our holy place.”

The old rabbi stood up and calmly said, “Simon, son of Nissim of Cana. Have you forgotten about Antonitus, a proselyte from Greece who joined us last year? This man Cornelius is no different.” Many of the old men were nodding.

“But this one is a Roman!”

Another older man stood up. Cornelius recognized him as Jacob’s cousin. “This man is different. He is well versed in the Torah as well as the prophets. He had learned this under the tutelage of my cousin, Jacob, who has returned from a distant land. And he has a love for our people. It was he that rebuilt the synagogue in Bethsaida after it was torn down by the soldiers. And he was punished for it. I was there! I saw this!”

Another man stood up and joined in, “Let us not forget that he has shown generosity among us as well.” More of the older men also gave their support. Cornelius could not help feeling a little touched, but he also felt guilt. The young men including Simon of Cana started to argue with the older men. It was not long that they started to cast insults as well. Then Elan raised his voice.

“Enough! This matter had been settled by the council. This man is welcomed in our community as is written in laws of our father.” Then he pointed at the group of young men. “I know your ways, Zealots! You will in no way harm him.”

Grumbling among themselves, the men made their way out to leave. Cornelius quickly climbed back up the tree till he came to the wall. He had to wait a moment for his night sight to return. Then he saw Cestus coming out of the shadows, cross the narrow street to the wall and helped Cornelius down. They both rushed to the corner in time to see the group of young men walking their way. The group paused and called out, “Who’s there?”

They quickly retreated back into the narrow street and ran. Hearing running footsteps behind them, Cornelius could just make out the glow of torches behind him. Fortunately, they already traversed this part of the city and were confident they would not be cornered. After running down several streets and always in the shadows, he finally motioned a halt.

“How far back do you think they are?” Cornelius asked.

“Not too far.” Cestus back tracked a little ways and peered down a street that they turned left from. When he came back, he said, “I can hear some dogs barking about two blocks down but I saw no lights.”

“Very well,” commented Cornelius. “Let us go home.”

Cornelius was hoping to follow the zealots back to their lair. But he was satisfied that he has a name to go with a face. Simon the Zealot.


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Johann Q


32 AD – A lesson of faith – South of Capernaum, Galileefaithful-encounters-cover-w

A day later, just as the sun sets, Joanna and six other women came into the campsite of Jesus of Nazareth some three miles south of Capernaum. It was located in a copse of trees in a valley between three hills one of which Joanna remembered Jesus gave an incredible sermon. She saw a large number of campfires throughout the valley.

“Joanna, it is good to see you.” It was Simon of Cana, one of the Twelve. Joanna is still amazed in the change in his personality. Back before he became a close follower of Jesus, she remembered him to be a hot head and a secret member of the Zealot movement whose goal is to eventually push out the Roman rule by any means.

“Simon, where are Peter and the others?” Joanna asked as Simon helped her down from the wagon she came in.

“Most of them have not returned from the mission,” said Simon. “Matthew and I came back just last night.”

“How did your mission go?” asked Joanna.

“Matthew and I went to Magdala first then to four small villages west of Tiberius. It was a wondrous time for us. People received us with open arms. When I preached about the Kingdom of Heaven like the way the master taught us, the reception I got was of awe. I have spoken to a crowd before, trying to get them to rise against Roman rule, but had never moved people like those that heard me preach of the spiritual. Then, we were surprised when two demoniacs were brought before us. The demons in them were afraid of us. Matthew was the first to try to cast the demon out of a young boy. He started with a little doubt and the demon laughed at him. Then Matthew commanded it to come out but this time evoking the master’s name. The boy covered his ears, screamed out once and then he was himself again. The woman brought to me had at least four demons in her but they were easily dispatched. It was a good time.”

Simon told Joanna more of his mission until she was called away by the other women at the tent set up for them.

As she walked to the tent, Simon stopped her and said, “I almost forgot. The master said that he will talk with all of you tonight at the tent of meeting.”

That evening, the six women gathered together in the tent that Jesus used to teach his closest disciples. For months, he had been personally teaching lessons to the women that had faithfully followed and ministered to him and his entourage. At first, the idea that the rabbi would do this was appalling to the Twelve for the traditional way to teach Jewish women was done by the fathers, husbands or by other learned female relations. But the disciples had soon learned that Jesus follow not traditions on its face value alone. The women were busy talking among themselves, they did not notice Jesus entering with Matthew in tow.

“Ahem…” It was Matthew clearing his throat loudly that finally called their attention. When the women turned around, they found Jesus amused and smiling at them. He gestured for them to sit near him.

Joanna remembered Matthew when he was still a tax collector. He was known as Levi then. Levi was good at managing finance and became rich by it. But he was not happy for the people hated him for it because tax collectors worked for the Romans. During the time of collection, he would travel to the villages of Sepphoris, Nazareth and the surrounding villages. Joanna heard Peter’s story of how Jesus approached him as he was counting money in the marketplace. When Levi looked up from his counting table, Jesus was smiling and said only two words, ‘Follow me.’ To Levi’s amazement, he stood up and with no hesitation, left his counting table still with coins on it. He became one of the Twelve and his name changed to Matthew.


Greeting friends…

I hope you are enjoying the 34th segment of my ebook, FAITHFUL ENCOUNTERS.

Feel free to leave your comments below. I look forward to read your comments and constructive inputs that will help me direct my creative thoughts.

Thank you.

Until the next post.

Johann Q.

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