THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch21 – part 2

A NIGHT OF REGRETS – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

“If Temple guards have Jesus, they’ll hold him in a cell at the other end of the Temple,” Cornelius said more to himself. He turned to Cestus and said, “Cestus, you get six of our men, full armor and weapons. Wait for me at the Temple portal gate, South tower.”

Cornelius brought Jacob and Trax to the Lady Pheobe’s quarters. He knocks at her door and did not have long to wait. It was the Lady Pheobe waiting for him expectantly.

“My Lady, thank you for your assistance. May Jacob and Trax stay with you?”

“Of course, Cornelius.”

“I must be off.”

“Be well.”

Cornelius rushed to the South-West tower of the fortress where Cestus waited with six of his men. Putting on his helmet, he and his men went through the portal gate that led to the North West corner of the Temple battlement walkway. They had to go to the other end of the Temple Mount. Cornelius figured it was about a third of a mile away which they can jog it in less than ten minutes. Along the way, Temple guards stood at their posts and dared not interfere with the Romans. When they reached the Southern buildings, they went down two flights of stairs and waylaid a patrolling squad of guards to demand where they held the Nazarene. The guards expressed no knowledge of this. Then Cornelius spotted a group of four men coming in through the gate. One of them had a big blood stain on his tunic but no visible wound. Cornelius angrily grabbed him and shoved him against the wall.

“Who’s blood is this?”

“It… it’s mine.”

“Tell me… Tell me what happened?”

“We went to the garden following the lead of one of the Nazarene’s closest disciple. We caught them unaware. They were sleeping except him. I and my companion were tasked by the High Priest to bind him but then I was attacked. My ear was cut off. There was so much blood and the pain… the pain was so unbearable until… until there was no more pain. I opened my eyes to find that the Nazarene’s hand was cupped over my ear which was whole again. He healed me even after all that.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. After he healed me, I didn’t want to partake anymore.”

“What did the High Priest intend?”

“A trial tonight. He has reconvened those members who are loyal to him and find the Nazarene guilty. They intend to have him killed.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know.”

Cornelius figured that they’re probably holding the trial in one of the great halls in the ancient city of David where the Sanhedrin usually met. They quickly descended the Southern stairs that brought them to the base of the Temple Mount unto a grand plaza.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch20 – part 2

STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK – Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

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 exult themselves but those that humbles himself. Some of the Pharisees were loudly protesting, while some were trying to maintain decorum. His own followers were probably relieved that things were calming down. But apparently, he was not done yet. This time, he turned to 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’ shouted Cornelius cringed knowing what an explosive situation they’re in. He signaled Cestus to be at a ready. He checked on his dagger that was hidden under the sash of his back but decided not to pull it out. They positioned themselves on Jesus’ left flank two steps lower from him. The Twelve formed a protective circle while there were about twenty or more other disciples between them and the crowd. Cornelius also sent Jacob, Trax and some of the women to retreat far behind Jesus deeper among the colonades.

Like the pounding of a nail into wood, every rebuke touched a sensitive nerve most in their pride, but some in their conscience. When Jesus accused the Pharisees for being energetic to make proselytes of the Jewish religion and when they succeed, Jesus charged, “You make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” In other words, the Pharisees and their proselytes both would end up in eternal damnation. Most protested by jeering and calling Jesus a devil. But there a few who were notably disturbed.

On Jesus’ third woe, as he ridiculed the trickery of the Pharisees, who held that swearing by the gold of the temple bound the oath. Just as Jesus was denouncing them as both fools and blind, the increasing angry commotions attracted the attention of the 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 court yard broke out with indignant voices.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch20 – part 1

STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK – Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Two days had passed since Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city. 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. The day before the celebrated Passover Meal, an exceptional group of Pharisees many of whom were members of the Jewish governing body, the Sanhedrin, were there. When Jesus saw them gathering, he finished the latest parable he was imparting to the crowd. Then he stood up like he was about to orate. He turned first to Peter and the others then toward Cornelius. He smiled and Cornelius knew to be ready because Jesus is going to say something controversial that can lead to violence.

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 exult themselves but those that humbles himself. Some of the Pharisees were loudly protesting, while some were trying to maintain decorum. His own followers were probably relieved that things were calming down. But apparently, he was not done yet.

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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch17 – part 4

REVELATIONS – Emmaus, BethanyCG-book-cover-w

“I have always looked at these stories as exactly that, stories! Intellectually, I knew them as your people’s history. Now, I believe them to be not just a collection of your history but one continued account; an account of God in the process of redeeming not only your people but all of mankind. In fact, redemption is the key in the process.”

“I am intrigued!” Jacob said eagerly. “Please, go on.”

“Mind you, I am only skimming the surface of God’s process. I really doubt that I will ever figure it all out in my lifetime. But this is what I managed to figure out when I first met John the Baptist. From the Adam and Eve story, mankind had a very close relationship with God. He provided everything for them in the Garden of Eden. But most importantly, we were created to live forever with him. Can you just imagine it, Jacob? Eternity!

“Unfortunately, mankind chose differently. They chose to sin; the most heinous sin of them all… UNBELIEF! What prideful creatures we are, Jacob, for we chose to know better than the creator himself. Even when God gave Adam and Eve an opportunity to repent they would not accept the error of their ways. It is no wonder that God had no choice but to eject them from his presence and the doom of death was laid upon all our heads.

“But death is not the worst of our doom. Mind you, this is just conjecture on my part for I have not found anything solid on what awaits us after death in the book of Moses or any of the other books. There are hints but I cannot put my finger on it now. However, there is a sense of damnation that awaits us. Jesus spoke of an eternal life with God. This made me to think that he is here to save us from the opposite – eternal separation from God. I believe this is mankind’s greatest doom! For are we not created in God’s image? To be eternally separated from God is eternal torture and madness. In fact, this madness is reflected already in mankind’s history and religions as we strive to get back to him. But we can discuss this part later. What is important to consider is that we are DOOMED!

“That is the bad news! The good news is that God had a plan even before he created us. That plan is hinted throughout all of Scripture. Again, I do not have it all figured out. Earlier, I said that redemption is the key. Now, sin prevents us from coming near God. So, God provided a way for us to come to him and that is through animal sacrifice. Why animals? I ask myself. The answer is simple enough. Animals are not under the penalty of sin. They are innocent of sin. We, on the other hand, do not qualify even though we were originally created in his image. If one of us offered ourselves to pay for the penalty of sin, that sacrifice will be rejected off hand. So, the tradition of animal sacrifice had been passed down through the generation. But the true implication of the sacrifice was not known among the other nations, only in yours, for God had focused on your people. It was God who had institutionalized the sacrifice to become eventually the Temple practice.

“However, I think that the whole Temple system was never meant to be permanent. For one thing it is not perfect. We only have to look at the history and see how easily the system can be corrupted. Then there is the frequency of the sacrifice itself. Every year thousands of animals are offered. All of these show me that it is temporary. I think the whole system, every element in the temple – the laver, the altar, the incense, the bread table, the candles, the Ark of the Covenant, the priestly garments, the utensils, and the animals – the whole Temple itself is a shadow of something even more significant to come. I think all of that point to Jesus!”

Cornelius can see a slight frown of skepticism on Jacob’s face. “I know, it sounds thin. But I cannot get it out of my head. Imagine if the blood of a lamb can temporarily purchase forgiveness for just a year, how much more the blood of the Messiah. Do you recall what John, you know, one of the Twelve, told us what John the Baptist called Jesus?”

“No, not really,” said Jacob.

“He said that the Baptist called him, ‘the Lamb of God!’ Jesus has to be the ultimate guilt offering to open the way to God once and for all. It all fits. By his mother’s testimony, he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He had no human father. His unique birth qualifies him to be free of the doom of sin; And to add to that, all the miracles that you and I witnessed are clearly testimony of God’s approval.”
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch15 – part 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They asked him, “Who are you?”

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

Then the crowd surged forward most with exaltation and belief written on their faces. Cornelius and the other disciples were hard pressed to keep the crowd back from swamping him. Meanwhile, the guards and the Pharisees retreated back into the temple. Several minutes later as the crowd calm down the chief priest and the leadership came back out. The orator too went to confer with the chief priests.
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch14 – part 5

THE OPPOSITION – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

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

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

They answered, “Caesar’s.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He and the disciples then climbed the steps and went into the shade of the columns to get out of the heat of the sun. Cornelius looked down at what Jesus wrote. Most of it was wiped away except for a partial sentence written in Hebrew, ‘Thou shalt not…’
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THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch14 – part 1

THE OPPOSITION – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

As soon as Jesus revealed himself and started to teach, many quickly recognized him and they flocked to listen to him. Cornelius and the disciples struggled to keep the excited crowd from overwhelming him. It was a good thirty minutes before the priests realized what was happening. It was not long until Cornelius and the other disciples noted a delegate of priests and scribes making their way through the crowd towards them. They paused at the edge of the crowd and listened to what Jesus had to teach for another twenty minutes.

“Teacher,” called out one of the scribes somewhat disdainfully. “Tell us by what authority do you do these things, or who gave you this authority?”

“I shall also ask you a question, and you tell me what your answer is. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”

The delegation started whispering among themselves. Cornelius almost laughed out loud. He knew that they were caught in their own trap. If they answered, ‘from heaven’ then Jesus could ask them, ‘why did you not believe him?’ But if they say, ‘from men’, then all the people around them who believe that John was a prophet could raise up against them and even stone them.

Then the same scribe who was not so smug anymore, answered him, “We do not know!”

Then Jesus said, “So, neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Some in the crowd started to laugh but quieted down as some of the scribes scowled at them. So, Jesus addressed the crowd with a parable about a rich man who planted a vineyard and rented it out to a group of vine-growers. This rich man then went off on a long journey leaving the tenants a long time thinking that they were the sole owners. When the rich man returned he sent his servants to the tenants to receive some of the produce of the vineyard that was due him. The tenants refused and beaten the servant and sent him away empty handed. They did the same thing to every servant he sent. Finally the rich man decided to send his own beloved son in the hopes that they may respect him. When the tenants heard that he was sending his son they reasoned among themselves that if they killed the heir then the inheritance would be theirs. So, when the son arrived they killed him.

Then Jesus looked at the scribes and the priests and loudly asked, “What, therefore, will the owner of the vineyard do to them?”

Some of the scribes started to nervously look around. Someone from the crowd boldly called out and said, “He will rightly destroy the vine-growers!”

Jesus looked at the delegation again and said, “What then is this that is written, ‘the stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone?’ Everyone who falls on that stone will the broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” [Matthew 21:42-44 NASB]

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