Sandals of the Nazarene Chapter II

II

….There was already a sizeable gathering outside of the villa where Cornelius made his home. Built much alike to the standard citizen of note in Roman provincial cities, Cornelius’ home was spacious and stately – much like a senator’s home.
Cornelius was a stout commanding figure in the attire of a Roman officer. A seemingly austere personage but his eyes seem to betray an aspect of kindness. I introduced myself to him. –
“Aw, Janus, you are from Macedonia?”
“Y-yes.I am. You’ve been there??
“”Yes, I have. My father worked as a Treasury representative there in Philippi. “
“Do you have a brother named Demetrius?”
“– Cousin actually’ But he always has been part of her household. My mother’s sister’s son. You are acquainted with him?” Cornelius queried.
“Quite so, Sir” I answered. “We wrestled together and competed at the Olympic festival and games in Athens and Sparta!”
“Indeed?! He is small but an agile athlete. Some of his friends say that Hercules himself would find it hard to pin him down. “Cornelius replied. “Only one fellow by the name of Achilles has managed to –so my mother writes”
My eyes sparkled “Yes, this Achilles character isn’t bad himself… it was a tough event for the both of them!
“You wouldn’t happen to be kin to this Achilles fellow would you now?”
“Wouldn’t know much of him, Sir! “ My eyes belied me though.
”Wouldn’t indeed! So my cousin met his own Achilles heel! “- You said your name was – Janus, though? Cornelius answered.
“Quite, Sir. That is my Roman name after the god Janus, as you know. Achilles was the name given to me by my mother – a Corinthian priestess for Diana“
Yes, the goddess of war. Rome and Greece has a plentitude of gods and goddesses to satisfy. We, mortals, always have to be on guard and play politics with them continuously to keep in favor with the more powerful or crafty one – a jealous bunch –much like us mortals. I am weary of them – so much to the point that I have been asking many questions to the synagogue leader here about the Jews one God –El ohim as he has been revealed. ‘I AM THAT I AM’ as their prophet, Moses called him to the Egyptian pharaoh –“
“_ Sir, about this god?” Did you know of the Galilean that said he was this god’s son?”
“I heard of the uproar in Jerusalem about some Jewish king that was executed for insurrection – so it’s been said. As a matter of fact, I have sent messengers to the house of a tanner to inquire after one of his pupils and followers, a Simon Petra to come here for me to inquire about this Jesus – a messiah some say – too bad he landed up on Golgotha’s hill back away nearly a year ago. –Despicable behavior of their high council, if you ask me.” Cornelius opined.
I said nothing in reply. I did not care to implicate myself further in those affairs of that fated day.“Ahhhhh-hhh I see my two servants and my Second Commander returning with another man from Joppa….this must be the one they call Simon Peter as the vision – uh…messenger told me.”
“This god of the Jews sent you a message?” I queried “When, where? What did he say?”
“You think that he is just the god of the Jews, eh? Mused Cornelius.
“Well, the Greeks got Zeus and we have Jupiter and the rest of the Olympian cohort.” I rejoined.
Cornelius laughed. “Do they have us or do we have them?”
“I don’t understand what you are asking”.
“Janus, since being here in this land, I have studied the people and their customs for some time; even their literature – they call it the books of Moses. To say the least of these writings, they are nothing like anything composed by the great minds of Greece or Rome. Yes, I have studied Aristotle, Plato, the histories of Rome and Greece, some of the Egyptians. These books of Moses, their prophets tell a unique story of the Jewish people – as well as how things began. I don’t know if they are all true but this god is not like any that we have known. – But my servants and this man from Joppa are close at hand…do you care to stay and listen to what he has to say about this god?”
When this huge man approached Cornelius, I witnessed this Roman Centurion do a remarkable thing – he and several of his household went down on their knees! I was aghast – who was this man? He smelled of the sea. Was he one of those that followed the Jew King that we executed on the cross? He doesn’t seem a cowardly man.
Simon the one they were calling Peter spoke to Cornelius.
“Stand up. I am no one to worship – for I am but a man as you are!”
Cornelius and his household rose from their knees and introduced Peter to them and myself. I t seemed that quite a company of men and women had mingled around to hear what Cornelius’ visitor and guest had to say.
“Cornelius, as you may be aware; it is forbidden by the laws and customs of the Jews to associate or visit in the household of a foreigner. My God, however, has shown me that I must no longer consider any man or woman common or as we say ‘unclean.’ For this reason, I came. I could not object to Him when He told me to come to you…but He did not tell me why you have sent for me.”
Cornelius answered Peter.
“Four days at this hour, three in the afternoon, I was seeking to speak with your God – to learn of Him…I have spoken with the synagogue leader, a learned man, about the Jews, your customs and beliefs and have sought him out – is he truly the one and only true god?” As I was praying in my house, a man in a dazzling robe stood before me. He spoke to me and even knew me by name. This is what He said to me –“
All this was news to me as I listened in. He had told me that he had received a message but had yet to explain the message or the uniqueness of the messenger.
“Cornelius, your prayer has been heard! Your acts of kindness have been remembered in God’s sight. Send men to Joppa for a man by the name of Simon, who is called Peter. He lodges by the Sea in the house of the tanner, Simon. I have thus done as He spoke. You have done well in coming here that we may hear what you have been commanded to speak from Him.”
I was astounded by this revelation. I hardly knew this Roman commander. He had acted much differently to these Jewish people that the centurions I was acquainted with in Jerusalem and about the land. I for the most part had stayed out of their way of life and had given no thought of performing any kindness towards these people. Not only had he done these things for the Jews but has been commended for it by this peculiar and strange visitor to Cornelius.
“I understand that God does not show any respect of persons, be they Jews like me or from a different people…the person who fears Him and does right is acceptable to Him. He has sent the message of good news to the sons of Israel through Jesus Christ – the Lord of all peoples.
Whoa – this was terrifying news to me – had we put to death a real ruler –eve n greater than Caesar? The word of my captain came back to me – a righteous man, a son of God? The events of that day came back even more vividly than they had when I was taking part in those events. I began to quiver with great anxiety as this house guest spoke on.
“You know the events that took place throughout Judea – beginning From Galilee after the baptism that John spoke –“
Cornelius, truly, was informed of these events’ notability where I, had only heard a scattering of hearsay regarding this Jesus’ in the past weeks and months. Who was this man whose sandals I stowed in my baggage. What had I taken part in? I was riveted to the place I stood as I continued to hear him out.
“- How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power –doing good …curing all who were under the tyranny of the Evil One – the Devil. God was with him and we witnessed everything He did in both the Judean countryside and Jerusalem.”
-I was at a loss as he spoke these words -concepts that I was ignorant of – what tyranny? Who is this Nazareth? God was with him –curing who? …so many questions were spinning in my head. What he spoke of next was if he had taken a dagger and pierced my heart –
“….Yet they killed him by hanging Him on a tree. God rose up this man on the third day and permitted him to be seen, not all by all people, but by us, witnesses appointed beforehand by God, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. –
I was as a man struck dumb – what this Galilean visitor was telling struck with an unseen force, smiting me … I was there…at the cross…at the tomb…the opened tomb…living those events over again..Struck to the ground…and even now… my legs lose their strength to hold me in place. If it not been the fact that I was being held up by the tight press of those packed in close in the room – I would be prostrate on the floor! I numbly heard the rest of this message he spoke.
“He commanded us to proclaim to all that would hear…to solemnly testify that this Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify of Him that through His name will receive forgiveness of sins.”
My head seemed to buzz with the awesome weight of conscience that lay against it. I really did not comprehend who this Jesus really was – or is – if somehow this man was alive….Something happened at that tomb… his body was gone…the burial clothing laid aside neatly apart from the head covering…the consequences of that event placed my life in peril even to this day…I was no man….lost in bloodguilt of putting an innocent ‘man’ to death…a ruler, judge….son of God, messiah? Whatever He was -is, I knew that my life was in greater peril should I be judged for my part in it all – I had this god man’s sandals to implicate me.
What did Simon – Peter say about the prophets …forgiveness? Had I angered this unknown God? If this god was mightier than Jupiter and he had given this man He raised from the dead the authority to judge…how vengeful would he be to those who had part on those dubious dealings regarding his execution? Forgiveness…after being a part of that? I knew that we did what we were ordered to do only because we thought he was a criminal….well, at least a no count Jew we could have license to torment. Would he consider that if He were to judge me? Could he judge me? If this Galilean spoke true of Jesus’ identity, the answer would not be moot! He would find me in complicity… Forgiveness…Clemency? What kind of God would grant pardon for such dealings? I was a fearing without definitive evidence -at least recognized evidence –that I had weighed in completely. If this man has rose from the dead – that was explicit and tantamount to be proof positive of being One to be reckoned with all veneration! This god that this Jew testified of may truly all that there is of record to be the one and only. Would he share his power and authority to minor gods? Who was this God and Jesus? How did we Romans figure in all this with this God? Did we matter to him? All that knew at this moment was that I was scared – scared that he may avenge himself on those who did him wrong! A pardon?! Could He? Would He?

Sandals of the Nazarene Chapter II

Thomas Josiah Chappelle

Oxford, United States

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Artist's Description

…the continuing story of Janus, the exiled Roman soldier, in the Palistinian district of the Roman Empire.

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