My name is Cornelius. I am a Centurion in the Italian Cohort. I have been stationed in a remote Roman province called Judaea. I was initially resistant to this posting, but in recent years have become very interested in the God of the Jews. I pray to him all the time, give money to the poor and I do feel somewhat more peaceful for doing so.
I recently traveled inland from my posting in Caesarea to the Antonine Fortress in the Jewish Holy City of Jerusalem. I was eager to experience Jerusalem, the place that all Jews consider blessed. My interest was heightened when I discovered the Antonine Fortress is placed next to the Jewish Temple. I could finally pray in the temple of the Jews to the Jewish God. I knew from my time in Judaea that worship of YHWH was an incredibly serious business to the Jews and that while I might not be able to enter into the inner courts of the temple as a Gentile there was an outer court reserved for Gentiles to pray.
I entered through a gate to this court (which I believe has been called “The Way”) and what I experienced was quite a sensory overload. The Gentile Court which was reserved for Gentile worship didn’t exactly look like a place a worship it looked more like a bustling market. Many tables had been erected with different exchange rates being offered for exchanging Roman coinage into the Temple coinage. As I looked at the exchange rates the changers were offering I can only say that I was glad not to be exploited in such a gross manner. Everywhere people were exchanging money, then buying doves, pigeons and lambs. It was not exactly the quiet place of devotion I had built up in my mind. I looked for a place to pray, but it seemed like every inch of the place was being used.
The architecture of Herod was impressive Greek Doric columns throughout the temple, I was impressed with what Herod had accomplished and yet I kept walking toward the main place of worship the Jews were moving towards with their newly acquired animals intended for sacrifice. Suddenly I encountered a startling sign. It read
Is to go beyond the balustrade
And the Plaza of the Temple Zone
Whoever is caught doing so
Will have himself to blame
For His death
Which will follow
I now understood the passion the Jews had for their worship of YHWH. It went as far as murdering foreigners to keep them out of the places of Holiness, which was really the place being used for prayer.
I left with a heavy heart. I would continue to pray to the God of Israel, but I didn’t know if the God of Israel would hear me. The Jews obviously thought there was no place for Gentiles to worship and their court designated for the Gentiles to pray was nothing but a cruel idea if a Gentile (perish the thought) should actually want to pray to YHWH.
I was heartened recently when I heard that a Jewish prophet had become so angry with this situation that he overturned the moneychangers tables, saying that this was supposed to be a House of Prayer for “All Nations”. I had heard that the intention of the Promise that God made to the Jewish Patriarch Abraham was that every family on the earth would be blessed through the Jews and be able to worship YHWH. I believe YHWH is the God we Gentiles must come close to and worship and I think that the Jewish Prophet who cleared the temple had the right idea. Maybe one day all nations, from every family, every group, every language will worship this God. I pray it comes soon.