Everything - Chapter 2
Addi’s custom before each meeting of the Pesachya, traveling with at least two bodyguards, he would visit the animal pens district where his livestock were held before being sold to the market. He would select the appropriate number of cattle to bring to the Temple for a well-being offering for himself and his people. He also arranged for the acquisition and delivery of grain and other supplies needed to be used as a good will offering. Although he continually provided the temple priests with food and supplies all month long, anytime he visited personally, he would take the time to select the cattle himself. He knew once an offering was made on the altar, most of the sacrifice would go to the priests in the Temple, but he viewed this extra sacrifice as his personal gift to God. Addi asked Gavriel to contact the temple priests on a weekly basis to determine their needs and arrange for the purchase of animals, grain and supplies as provisions when the normal offerings from the people fell short, which unfortunately was often.
Of all the activities he performed as a Jewish citizen, not just in the Pesachya group, the ability to make offerings was one of his favorite activities. Not only did it honor God, the offerings also indirectly aided his people by meeting the physical needs of the religious leaders who guided and protected the Jewish nation until the Messiah came. He did not enjoy the death of an animal, but he knew that animals died every day to feed the populace with nothing going to God. Therefore, it helped to know that the first portion of what he offered was going to God and the rest to the priests. It gave Addi an incredible feeling of satisfaction and joy. Along with the priests, every day his workers would deliver ten to twenty cattle from his various herds outside the city to sell in the open market.
Stopping at the merchant area near his home to look at the goods was becoming a regular custom whenever he visited his herdsman. Although he rarely bought anything except dates and bread, he knew his real reason was his infatuation with a young Jewish woman working there. He always acted as if he was just in the area, but if he saw her, he would work his way toward her shop in hope of speaking with her. It seemed like a childlike game they would play, each taking turns drawing near, but then they would act nonchalant or disinterested once they were close. At first it was just nervous looks and smiles before they would separate. However, as time passed, it had grown into casual conversations about the materials used in a fabric, where the dates had been picked, and most recently where she was born. It was a torturous game to Addi, since he had sworn to avoid marriage, because of his vow to God and the danger it could bring to someone he cared about if that vow was discovered. But her beauty and smile would haunt him day and night, mostly at night. He was disappointed today for she was nowhere to be seen.
He cleared his mind and headed to the stables where his animals were being staged for sale. His herds had the reputation as being some of the best in the area with the majority bought by the Roman army and government officials. The Romans would buy in the morning, securing the best cattle at a higher price, while the Jewish buyers waited until late afternoon when the prices would be lower. This afternoon there were five cattle left in the holding pen with several buyers examining those that remained. He needed three, so he quickly approached his herd master ensuring he did not miss acquiring them and signaled his need to him. The man nodded and began separating the three best remaining animals for his employer. Although he was expecting to hear the buyer's objections, they seemed more interested in their own discussion than the fact they had just lost an opportunity. Their topic of conversation caught his attention.
“The Messiah?” one of the men asked the other.
“I don’t know, maybe. He’s apparently telling the people who go to him that the kingdom of heaven is near and that everyone should repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins,” he answered. 1
“I don’t know if they repent or not.”
“No, do they get baptized? Do they actually go down into the water in front of everyone?” he clarified his question, his face reflecting the embarrassing notion of participating in such an activity. The man at first just shrugged, and then replied.
“Apparently some do.”
“Strange,” was all the man said and seemed very disturbed, almost offended by the whole idea and shivered as he wrinkled his nose and face.
The other man seemed bothered by the man’s answer but did not seem to know how to respond. Addi took advantage of the momentary lull in the conversation to casually approach the two men.
“Excuse me for listening in on your conversation, but where is this man and what is his name?” Addi asked, both men looking up and recognizing who asked the question. They suddenly seemed uncomfortable in his presence.
“My lord, he is known as John the Baptist and from what I understand, he is traveling around the countryside,” the man finally answered, wrestling with how to respond to his friend.
“From what I have overheard others saying about this man, he is down by the Jordan River my lord,” the herd master replied from across the pen. Addi nodded and smiled in response wishing he could remember his employee's name.
“Thank you for the information,” Addi replied to the buyers and to his herd master, making a mental note to learn his name. The herd master seemed encouraged to hear Addi speak to him, while the two buyers realized their options had suddenly dwindled down to just two head of cattle. Each began signaling they wanted to close the deal before the other one. Instead, the herd master kept talking to Addi.
“If you are looking for him my lord, I would suggest following the crowds. It seems everyone is going out to see him. I’m going to travel there tomorrow myself to have a look if you need an escort.” The herd master replied earnestly.
“I may take you up on that offer,” Addi smiled and nodded noticing the man beaming with pride.
Addi wrestled with the information the buyers and his herd master had shared with him. Could they have found the messiah? he wondered. His heart raced at the thought that all these years and countless hours of work and planning might be ready to be unleashed on the Romans. He could not wait to share this information with the Pesachya group.
“Would you like them delivered to your estate or the Temple my lord?” the herd master asked, bringing Addi back to the moment.
“The Temple...this evening please.” Addi responded and the man nodded. Addi realized this late request for delivery to the Temple would probably require the man to work longer than he intended. His plans to travel to see this John the Baptist would be more difficult to prepare for the journey. Yet he did not seem too upset by the request.
Did he have a family waiting for him? Addi wondered about his employee, and then contemplated what it would have been like had he pursued a relationship and family instead of the burning desire to fulfill his vows. He knew he could never mix the two without deadly consequences, something his father had learned. No, he would remain unfettered and free to make these dangerous decisions, decisions that if they were ever to be discovered, the only person punished for them would be himself.
Addi knew Gavriel was acquiring the grain offering for the temple, so he and his two bodyguards left the market and began walking toward the Temple Mount hoping to arrive early for the meeting. To his surprise, twice more he heard the mention of this John the Baptist as he walked. Each time he would stop and either listen in on the discussion, or question those speaking about the man, but he was unable to gather any further information than what he had already gleaned.
Addi and his bodyguards approached the Temple Mount area through the Royal Bridge on the Southwest corner. There you entered the temple grounds into the covered Royal Porch building along the Southern wall, with its four rows of marble pillars. Addi always felt so small and insignificant as he entered the Royal Porch. Extending nearly 800 feet along the length of the Southern wall, it was over 100 feet wide and was held up by more than 160 marble pillars that were each six feet wide. The central area was 45 feet wide and nearly 100 feet high. Along both sides were 30-foot-wide areas reaching 50 feet high. To say it was impressive would be an understatement; awe-inspiring would be a more appropriate description.
From the Royal Porch, a person could look out into the vast area called the Court of the Gentiles, an area that easily held over a hundred thousand people. He was always impressed by the beauty of the Temple, the future spiritual home of his heavenly Father. An inner source of pride and joy welled up each time he thought of the role he would be playing in the reestablishing of God’s long-awaited kingdom. Addi, a young man who had nearly died as a boy at the hands of the Romans, now was the financial backbone of what would defeat them. It never ceased to amaze him how God worked.
To stay under the covered area out of direct sunlight, Addi and his two bodyguards would follow the Royal Porch along the southern wall until it intersected with Solomon’s Porch, a smaller version of the Royal Porch that turned north and followed the eastern wall. Compared to the Royal Porch, Solomon’s Porch had only two aisles that either led to the front gate of the Temple, or continued on to the gate leading into Antonia Fortress where the Roman Garrison and Roman Procurator resided. The Fortress was built overlooking the temple area so the Roman soldiers could quickly subdue any unrest, frequently becoming the launching point for many Jewish uprisings and protests. If things went as planned, it would also be the launching point for the Pesachya’s rebellion that would expand across the region.
Once he moved his eyes away from the impressive architecture and focused onto the people, he saw an amazing intermixing of cultures, classes, and artisans from every part of the known world. Whatever anyone needed, could be found here, or someone who knew how to get it. Small shops lined the walkways, each owner beckoning with a smile and a motion of their hand for a passerby to stop and look at their wares and services. There were money-changers everywhere, ready and willing to verify and exchange currencies from Roman to Tyrian, to weigh precious metals, and negotiate exchanges between buyers; all for a fee, of course.
In the distance, one could hear the continual bleating and mooing of sheep and cattle that were in makeshift pens in the open court areas. Chickens and doves were stuffed in small makeshift baskets, each clucking and cooing as they awaited their fate. Children ran past as they played or on an errand for their parents. It seemed everywhere there were adults haggling and negotiating, or arguing and laughing. Artisans were sitting in the back of their shops, working to replace what was sold out front. Addi heard sounds of crying babies, parents barking commands at their children, musical instruments of all sorts playing, and teachers, philosophers and politicians with people gathered around them, seeming to either hang onto every word or strongly doubting and debating with them. There were beggars and cripples holding out a basket or cup, each looking as sorrowful as they possibly could having perfected their trade.
Priests were everywhere. Their white linen robes and tubular hats seen at nearly every corner or intersection, usually surrounded by visiting pilgrims looking for answers to worship and law-related questions. They would carefully direct and advise what kinds of sacrifices were to be performed to meet their specific need. The antitheses of the priests were the occasional Roman patrol passing by more as a show of force than their need to keep order. For Addi, it was a constant reminder of who really controlled the city and the temple area.
The one thing that you could not find in the Court of Gentiles was silence, unless you were deaf. It was the only item that could not be bought, forced or begged.
The sights and sounds were impressive, but the smells coming from the area were just as overwhelming. No matter how much perfume, incense or roasting food that blew through the temple area, it could not mask the smell of urine and waste coming from the animals. Strangely, it was the human smell that bothered Addi the most. He had spent so much of his life here that he had learned to tell where a man was from not only by his clothes and accent, but also by his body odor and breath. A scent or smell could even reveal his wealth and status, and his hidden addictions. In his short life, Addi had been trained and taught a great deal from those close to him, mainly Cleopas, about reading a man in more ways than just his appearance.
As they completed their walk through Solomon’s Porch that eventually turning and approached the Temple in the northern section of the Temple Mount, Addi took a moment to scan the temple area. Sitting on an elevated platform above the Court of Gentile, no matter which side a person approached the temple, he would need to climb fourteen steps to reach the various gates within the 100-foot high walls. The Beautiful Gate on the eastern wall was the most used, and most impressive. Sixty feet high, made of polished brass, the gates were massive requiring twenty men to open and close them. Beyond the outer wall the only structure that could be seen was the Holy House, or Sanctuary, rising a hundred feet higher than the outer walls. Sections of the marble walls and roof were inlaid with gold. The massive opening leading into the Sanctuary was also visible from where he stood. It all simply took his breath away every time he looked at it.
The whole area was professed to be one of the greatest architectural constructions of the day and Herod the Great had spared no expense on it. Although he and his people were grateful for the rebuilding of the temple, there was not a great love for Herod either during his reign, or for his sons that followed, even now ruling under the direction of the Romans. What Herod left behind moved hearts and inspired the Jewish people to desire the greatness they once had as a nation, as God’s chosen people. Although the temple area and the city of Jerusalem was under the control of Roman leadership and soldiers, to Addi it was a constant reminder of a future freedom for the Jewish people, only Jews could enter the temple itself.
Addi nodded to his bodyguards and they again began walking toward the front entrance of the temple. Once they passed through the huge opened bronze doors of the Beautiful Gate, they entered the first of the inner courts of the temple, a 200-foot square open area known as the Court of Women named because this is as far as women could go into the temple, except to make sacrifices.
Addi and his men crossed the Court of Women, climbed the fifteen curved steps leading through the Gate of Nicanor and into the long, narrow covered area that ran the width of the temple known as the Court of Men and the Court of the Levites. Once past those two courts it opened into the Great Court where the huge temple altar sat in the middle. Open to the sky, it was positioned in front of the 150-foot-high square Sanctuary. With polished marble pillars and a huge open doorway inlaid with gold and silver, it rose upward as if to reach the sky. In addition, just inside the open doorway was the gold door that led into the Holy Place where the Holy of Holies sat behind a massive curtain, a place only the High Priest could enter and even then, only on the Day of Atonement.
Addi felt so small when he stood before the huge altar, which itself seemed so small sitting in front of the Sanctuary.
“Addi!” a welcoming voice called out. Addi turned to see a man in white linens walking toward him from the left of the Sanctuary. Joseph was a member of the Jewish ruling council; but more important, he was also one of the Pesachya members he was here to meet.
Addi turned to his two bodyguards and nodded without saying anything. As had been their routine for the past few years, the guards withdrew from the Court of Men to wait in the Court of Women until the monthly meeting concluded.
Addi turned back to watch as the older gentleman in his white linens made his way through the crowd of worshipers and temple servants to where he stood. Not only had Joseph proven himself to be a wise and insightful member of the ruling council, he had also been a good friend to Addi. Unlike many of the other council members who seemed to tolerate his company, Joseph was always willing to entertain and answer the myriad of questions he not only had as a young boy growing up without a father, but as a young man growing one of the most successful enterprises in Jerusalem.
“Thank you for your gifts to the temple,” Joseph said as he stopped in front of him, smiling as he reached out to grasp his shoulder. “You are so kind and thoughtful, Addi, and always willing to meet the priest's needs when supplies are running low.”
“You and the other council members have always been there for me. It’s the least I can do to return the favor,” Addi replied smiling. Joseph seemed to hold his gaze a moment as if trying to see into his mind and heart through his eyes.
“You seem blessed my young friend. What news do you carry?” he suddenly asked. Addi had to think a moment as he gathered all the good things that were happening and determine which one had him the most excited.
“We may have found the Messiah,” Addi said with a whisper. “His name is John." Joseph seemed surprised and then smiled at the comment.
“I have heard of this man too. How is it that you heard about him?” Joseph asked.
“His presence is no secret. There is talk of him all over the city and many are going out to see him,” Addi replied. Joseph nodded as he contemplated the news before finally answering.
“If he is the Messiah, then we need to move quickly. Perhaps we should get to the meeting early and discuss this with Hadar and the others,” he said, motioning for Addi to lead the way into the inner meeting room in the temple they always used.
As they walked together, Addi could feel a growing excitement at the thought of the Messiah coming and all their plans being put into action. The excitement was suddenly replaced with a growing fear as he wondered if they were ready to take on the might of the Roman Empire.
1 Mark 1:4-6