As was his daily custom, Addi stood on the veranda during a relatively warm day on the 10th of Nisan and looked out over the city of Jerusalem. It had been six long months since his encounter with Jesus, but despite the time, his heart was still heavy from the memory and disappointment of it. The ride home from the meeting had been long and quiet, far different from the anticipation and excitement he felt on the way to the meeting, but it had given him the time he needed to organize his thoughts and settle his heart. “Settle his heart” might not be an accurate statement, but it had changed enough to go back to his purpose. In some ways he was grateful he could put to rest his misguided idea and hope of Jesus being the Messiah. It again allowed him to focus on preparing for the true Messiah he knew was out there.
He often thought of his encounter, reliving each moment and feeling repeatedly, but with each passing month, he learned to let go of it much sooner and not let it take over his day. Although he never spoke of it, he still felt Jesus was a man blessed by God, but he now agreed with Hadar and the other members of the Pesachya group that Jesus was not a man who had the skills and leadership ability to unify the people, lead a civilian army against the Romans, or establish and rule a kingdom. As increasingly more information was shared at the meetings by those who had gone out personally to meet with Jesus, it was becoming more evident that Jesus’ intent was more likely to divide the people against each other rather than unifying them against Rome.
There was a growing concern within the membership of Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus was gaining many more key followers to his teachings, most of whom were coming from their priestly and leadership ranks. Despite their best efforts to discredit and trap him in his own words, they had failed at every opportunity. They still had their staunch followers inside and outside the Pesachya group who believed their message of Jesus doing these miracles, not by God, but by Satan. But even that strong propaganda attempt was losing its power and fear with the people, and more and more of those who were formerly undecided were now heading to Jesus in droves.
Hadar had repeatedly stated to the group it was only a matter of time before the truth about Jesus would become evident and people would turn against him. Despite repeating his mantra at each meeting, Addi and the rest of the Pesachya group could see Hadar was increasingly frustrated by their failures. Hadar had recently taken his message to both King Herod and the Roman Governor Pilate personally to warn the people, but because Jesus was not preaching a message of the overthrow of Rome, neither Herod nor Pilate had tried to put the kibosh on Jesus.
There was the word from some inside circles Herod was more concerned about Jesus being the cousin of John the Baptist whom he had beheaded, and the revenge he might try to take upon him, but there had been no sign or message from Jesus professing such action. Pilate seemingly enjoyed the fresh message of peace, not rebellion Jesus was teaching. They both allowed him to continue, but were watching him closely, becoming concerned at his growing numbers of followers. So much so that Pilate had an additional 1,000 Legionnaires moved into the city as support for their already strengthened 10th Legion stationed there. His reasoning had to do with the upcoming Passover festival, and the arrival of 300,000 to 500,000 Jews from all over the known world to celebrate. He needed the additional troops for crowd control and protection of the citizens. But Addi also knew Pilate felt a growing interest and fervor in the citizens.
Addi often thought God was using Jesus as a distraction or a diversion to keep those concerned about a Messiah focused on something, or someone else until the true Messiah stepped forward. Did Hadar already know who the Messiah was and not shared it with the rest of the group to protect his identity? Addi wondered. Was that why this evening's meeting of the Pesachya group was being called? His heart raced at the thought and what would be discussed at the meeting.
His thoughts and concerns returned to Jesus. If they found the Messiah, and established him on his throne, would the Pharisees allow Jesus to play any role? With the Messiah in place, would Jesus change his message and join them, or could there ever be unity between them? Perhaps once the rebellion started they would find a way to set aside their differences and come together.
As he continued to stare out over the city, one of his servants who had been standing in the doorway for a while, cleared his throat enough to get Addi’s attention.
“My lord, there is a messenger at the door who will only speak to you.”
Addi turned and nodded and began walking to the front door, stopping briefly to gather a few coins sitting on a nearby table.
A message from Cleopas? Addi wondered and then dismissed it as there had not been one from him in over six months. In fact, he had assumed Cleopas had come to the same conclusion he had and abandoned his own personal research of Jesus as the Messiah and was just as disappointed. The fact Addi had not heard from his friend in so long was very concerning. As he opened the door, he saw the same man who had delivered Cleopas’ last message and the same man Addi had seen in the temple grounds watching him leave after his own encounter with Jesus. Addi felt a bit of embarrassment at the thought of him observing and hearing all that was said during that meeting.
“Greetings,” Addi said calmly nodding to the young man. The man smiled and handed him a small leather tube. Addi gave him the coins in return. The man placed them in his pocket without looking at them but did not turn and leave as before. He seemed to be looking for something in Addi’s eyes. Apparently not seeing it, the smile faded from his face as he turned and walked away. Addi stood in the doorway, watched him walk down the street and disappear into a nearby alley, and out of sight. What was he looking for? He wondered as he slowly closed the door behind him.
Returning to the veranda, he opened the leather tube sliding the scroll from inside. He could tell instantly the scroll was small, and the report would be brief. Verifying the seal was from Cleopas before breaking it, he unrolled it onto the table.
Our guest will be arriving in Jerusalem this week. As there is much to be shared, I would like to meet with you in person upon our arrival. Go to the temple mount on Monday and I will send a messenger to meet you. Let him know the time that I can visit you.
Addi was surprised by the brevity of the message, but understood that if they were going to meet in person, there was no need to spend the time to write it all out. He rolled up the scroll and placed it back in the leather tube.
Today was Monday, the same day as the urgently called Pesachya meeting. Deciding to go early would allow time for Cleopas’ messenger to find him. He looked at his week’s schedule to see when would be a good time to meet with Cleopas. His long-awaited meeting with Governor Pilate was Tuesday afternoon, finalizing the transportation deal he and Gavriel had been working on for so long. Not knowing the length of the meeting, allowing for the usual delays and waiting to be seen, his meeting with Cleopas would have to wait until Wednesday evening at the earliest.
Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. He felt his heart racing same as the last time when he had gone to Galilee to meet the man. Because this approach brings Jesus to the heart of the nation, it would create far more challenges and reactions than wandering around in Galilee. Not just for Jesus, but for everyone and anyone who cared.
Why now, why during the seven-day Passover week? Addi wondered. Was it because of the large numbers of people who would be in the city and he was hoping to get lost in the crowds, or was it an opportunity to address and express his teachings to a larger audience? Addi knew the Pharisees and religious leaders would be busy with the preparation and rituals of the feast leading up to and concluding the Passover week, but he felt confident those in the group would not let the Passover distract them from their agenda either. Addi was confident Jesus was the reason for calling this meeting three weeks earlier than originally planned and was anxious to hear their thoughts of how they were going to handle it.
Addi and his guards arrived in the temple court shortly before noon. For the first day of Passover week, they were surprised by the small crowd as only half the number of people who should be there were actually there. As he slowly worked his way through the temple area, he asked those he met where all the people were. Everyone said most had gone out to see Jesus entering the city. Depending on whom you asked, they believed Jesus was either a teacher, a prophet, a lunatic, a demon, or the Messiah. Whatever their belief, anyone who had yet to travel to Galilee personally to find out seemed very interested in taking advantage of this moment. Addi already knew he was not the Messiah, but he honestly did not know what response he would have about whom he believed Jesus to be.
The excitement level was high with anticipation from those willing to talk about it. Some were giddy and nervous as if they were about to meet their potential spouse. Some were excited and acted as if a long-lost relative were coming to visit. Some seemed concerned and afraid as if they were going before a judge. And some were those who reminded Addi of the crowds that gathered to instigate and watch a fight in the streets; not really caring about the two individuals fighting, they just wanted to see blood.
Addi’s stomach knotted as he realized those who wanted to see a fight were the majority, and he was greatly concerned for Jesus. At first, he felt sadness for his people and their brutally twisted mindset, when a group of Roman soldiers marched past, stirring his own inner feelings of hatred and disdain. He realized he was not so different and wanted to see an even more gruesome and bloody fight break out. Not against Jesus, but against the Romans for what they had done to his parents and his people. Was he willing to stand face to face against his opponent, to take and give the blows needed to defeat him; or was he just an instigator looking to start the fight and then stand back and cheer it on as people died in droves? Did he truly care for his people, or was he just looking for revenge?
Addi looked up, seeing thousands of people wandering in the temple court area and wondered how Cleopas’ messenger would be able to find him. He hoped Cleopas sent the same one that had delivered the reports to him, or he feared he would never recognize him. Even then, he was not sure he would be able to recognize him in the river of people flowing past him. Then it dawned on him. The messenger had probably been watching him since he entered and was waiting for Addi to find a more secure place for them to meet. Addi looked around the area and stepped into a shaded alcove away from the flow of people, with his two guards just outside of it. Within several minutes, a man approached the guards and motioned toward Addi.
He recognized the face of the young man who had delivered the reports to him and nodded toward his guards, who stepped back and let him approach. The young man smiled and remained silent, waiting for Addi to speak. Addi thought about asking him many questions, but knew they would be in vain. He had not come to have a deep or philosophical discussion of what he has learned in his profession, something Addi would have loved to discuss with him. He only came to gather one verbal item of information to bring back to his employer.
“Wednesday evening,” was all Addi said. The young man again seemed to be trying to find something more hidden in Addi’s expression, but his smile faded as he nodded, turned and disappeared into the river of people flowing past.
With still several hours before the Pesachya meeting was scheduled, Addi wandered in the court of Gentiles outside the Temple grounds, searching the hundreds of vendors to meet with his bigger clients. Whether it was sacrificial animals or other goods he had sold them, they were all very uncomfortable and embarrassed as they tried to explain why they were charging such exorbitant prices for the same goods he had sold them at standard market costs. Some were honest enough to say it was an unspoken opportunity all the vendors followed. Others either lied or tried to explain it away as something else. Although he felt all of them should be ashamed, he preferred the honest response making a mental note to work with them on any future programs.
As he worked his way closer to the temple, he realized he was becoming more anxious to see and hear the latest reactions from Hadar, and his newest plans on how he was going to address the Jesus issue now on his front door step. Although Addi did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, there was a strange inner desire to see Jesus succeed, despite Hadar’s continual efforts to trap him and turn the populace against him. Jesus had not only survived and defied all the predictions and repeated efforts of the Pharisees and Sadducees trying to stop his movement, he had grown in popularity. Addi often wondered, was his inner desire of continued success for Jesus more about seeing Hadar fail than in his belief that Jesus were someone sent by God. No matter which were true, he knew all the parties were about to meet at the crossroads of Jerusalem. The outcome would not only be unpredictable, it also had the potential of being very dangerous for everyone.
Entering the temple, as he walked through the initial Court of Women, there was a strange buzz of activity. He knew there was a great deal of busy preparation for the Passover happening, but this was a different feeling. No one would acknowledge the cause of it, but Addi knew who was generating it.
He saw several other Pesachya members moving toward the steps of the Court of Men and beyond to their meeting place. Addi casually followed them up the steps, while his guards instinctively waited below. As he passed the Court of the Levites into the Temple Altar, he was amazed at the level of activity in this area. There were so many priests in their robes and high hats, each with their assistants running around, responding to their requests. As he walked past them and into the meeting room, he was hoping to enjoy the calm atmosphere normally found in there, but was surprised to find the same nervous buzz within the group.
Joseph smiled, crossing the room to greet him in person. Joseph was still one of the few leaders who would greet him. Most still feared Hadar and would almost ignore his presence. For his part, Addi was learning to adjust, but seeing Nicodemas ignore him as the other Pharisees did, bothered him.
As they took their seats, Addi glanced around and saw several empty chairs at the main table. After a quick count, he realized the chairs belonged to several of the newly appointed members who had replaced the Pharisees Hadar had appointed. Because the meeting had been called on short notice, Addi wondered if they were unable to clear their schedules.
Although he was happy about it, it was strange the formalities of the pre-meeting rituals seemed to have been shortened and rushed in an effort to get to business. After the traditional brief greeting by Hadar, he looked around the room at members of the group.
“This meeting was called in response to a direct threat to this group and the goals we have for our nation. Our demon possessed adversary has entered the gates of the city, and his teachings have poisoned enough of the minds of our citizens that they are now calling ‘Hosanna and King’ as he rides in on a donkey.” Hadar paused to let the comment take root.
“What are we accomplishing?” Asked one of the Sanhedrin who generally would not speak up without approval. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and remove both our place and our nation,”1 he ended emphatically as other members, mainly the Pharisees, voiced their agreement. Addi continued to watch the man. He appeared happy with his statement, instead of nervous or angry. At the same time, Hadar allowed the voices of agreement to continue to build in volume and intensity. Addi supposed the man's statement had been planned by Hadar.
Addi saw Hadar nod to one of the Pharisees sitting near the front of the room to open the door. Silhouetted by the fires of the altar beyond, Addi could tell the person entering was a priest, but it was not until he had stepped into the well-lit room he saw it was the High Priest Caiaphas. As more and more recognized the high priest, the room gradually fell silent while he approached the head of the table where Hadar now stood. There was a pronounced boom as the door was slammed shut. Caiaphas remained standing at the front of the table and, apparently as planned, Hadar’s chair had been quietly removed. A grand entrance, Addi thought to himself.
“The work of the Pesachya group and its members are greatly appreciated and to be admired, but your lack of faith shows that most of you...” he paused briefly, “know nothing at all!” He almost yelled and struck his staff on the ground. “This man Jesus is very dangerous, but we should not fear him. Rather we should rejoice that he has come here,” he said, glancing around the room. “You see, it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish. If you look at the priestly records, you will see that I prophesied that this man Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for our nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.”2
Addi was confused by the statement. If Caiaphas had known about Jesus all along, then Hadar had known also. But what did he mean by Jesus’ death? How would his death save the Jewish nation and those scattered beyond its borders?
“Now that he has come to us, it is time for us to prepare for the Messiah to be revealed and for your plans to be unleashed upon the Romans.” Caiaphas ended, turned and walked back toward the door, where it was opened quietly and then slammed behind him. As Addi looked back at the table, he noticed Hadar’s chair had been returned and he was sitting in it. The room remained silent as everyone waited for Hadar to speak, who was enjoying the moment that had just unfolded, like a play director happy with his cast member's stage performance. By bringing Caiaphas in, Hadar had made it clear to the group he had been given the authority to do whatever was to come next, the plan everyone was waiting to hear.
“As you just heard, it is clear as to what we must do.” Hadar began. Addi looked around to see the same confusion and apprehension on other members’ faces as was on his own. 'It is clear?' What is clear? Addi wondered, but was brought back to the moment as Hadar continued. “We are already into the Passover week, so we must move quickly if we are to fulfill Caiaphas' prophecy," Hadar declared, looking down at his notes in front of him. Addi again glanced around the room, looking to see if he were the only one who had not understood what seemed apparently so clear to Hadar. He saw two responses, one mainly from the Pharisees who were all nodding in agreement and seemed ready for action while the remaining members sat stunned and confused. It was Joseph who spoke up for the other group.
"What is it exactly that you and Caiaphas are proposing on our behalf?" He asked diplomatically. Everyone seemed to stop what they were doing to await a response. Hadar took a deep breath, leaned forward to answer the question.
"Do you believe that Caiaphas is the anointed high priest of Israel, the only one who can enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement?" Hadar asked Joseph and then scanned the rest of the room.
"Of course we do, but…" Joseph was interrupted by Hadar.
"Then any prophecy he shares with us comes directly from God, would you agree?" Hadar asked again. Joseph hesitated a moment before nodding while the Pharisee members voiced their agreement. "Then listen carefully to what God is requiring of this group and be ready to obey," Hadar stated coldly, staring at Joseph until he motioned Hadar to continue.
"This Jesus has proven to be a clever and resourceful man. He has gathered a large following, so to bring about his end will not be easy. In fact, it will be a very dangerous endeavor that will require us to be very careful if we are to succeed. This is not just about removing a man and his teachings; it is about using that moment to unify the people under a common banner. Ours," Hadar stated. There was a long moment of silence as Joseph seemed to wait for Hadar to share more, but finally he spoke up.
"Can you clarify for me what you mean by 'remove a man'?" Joseph asked the obvious question of Hadar.
"He must be killed," Hadar said quietly. The shock of the statement affected the various members differently. The Pharisees looked down while the other members looked at each other in shock.
"Since when has the Torah encouraged murder?" Joseph asked, clearly evident the question had angered Hadar.
"It is not murder, nor will we personally draw blood from the man. As Elijah did with the prophets of Baal in the first book of Kings, we will simply demonstrate who is of God and who is of Satan. Just as it occurred for Elijah, once the people see the truth of who Jesus is, they will be the sword that will remove him."3
"You mean along with our strong encouragement for them to do so on our behalf," Joseph replied sarcastically, but Hadar ignored him and addressed the rest of the members.
"This revelation and death will also be the catalyst which will unify the people as prophesied by Caiaphas," Hadar ended. He looked around the room at the others still in shock by his words. "It is God's will that Jesus should die. It is also God's will we use his death to bring forward the true Messiah and his kingdom!" He almost shouted across the room.
Addi could see the Pharisees were now even more excited, and to his surprise, many of the other members seemed swayed and now in agreement, but several still sat in silence. His head was spinning at the idea of playing a part in Jesus' death. To him, it did not matter whether he directed his death from a distance or was holding the blade himself, it was still murder. He looked across the room and saw Joseph staring at him. Shaking his head while looking at Hadar, Addi was ready to speak, but Joseph yelled over the growing rumble of the members before he could say anything.
"This man is not a prophet of Baal!" The members suddenly grew silent again as Hadar glared at Joseph, who then repeated his statement. "Jesus is not a prophet of Baal. He is a fellow Jew who is simply preaching something different to the people of Israel than we are. To use that example from God's word to justify murdering him is a dangerous path with eternal consequences. I have personally met and spoken with him on several occasions, and I can confidently say he is not of Satan." Joseph stated clearly and confidently.
"So, he has fooled you also and you now believe he is the Messiah?" Hadar asked sarcastically, smiling. Joseph at first did not respond, but then shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know, but if we are wrong and we kill the very Messiah God has sent for us to embrace, what do you think God will have in store for us?" Joseph asked as he looked around the room.
"He is not the Messiah!" Hadar shouted, banging his fist on the table. "He mocks and ridicules us every chance he gets and tries to turn the people against us. You witnessed it yourself Joseph and each time walked away offended and angry. So how can you believe he is the Messiah?" Hadar asked while Joseph shook his head.
"I did not say I believe he is the Messiah. But as a teacher of the law, I do believe what he teaches about righteousness is accurate. Would someone demon possessed do that? I have never gone into a meeting more confident about what we teach, yet after each meeting with him I have come away more confused and humbled by his use of scripture and parables to turn our teaching back onto itself," Joseph hesitated, looking around the room while shaking his head.
"Before you agree to this plot to murder him, I would strongly suggest each and every one of you go for yourselves to find fault in what he says." Joseph challenged them. Those members outside the Pharisee group now mumbled their agreement.
One look at Hadar revealed exactly what he was thinking about Joseph's suggestion. When Addi thought Hadar would unleash his rage on him, an apparent calmness suddenly came over him.
"I fear such a postponement will threaten our plans and provide him with more opportunity to sway the crowds gathered here, but I would hate to see an innocent man punished for a crime he did not commit," Hadar expressed humbly. "Then it is settled, I challenge each of you to seek out this Jesus in the next few days and make your own evaluation. At our next meeting we will expect to hear from each of you on your findings," Hadar flatly stated, motioning to begin the process of ending the meeting.
Hadar's agreement and suggestion had clearly caught Joseph and those of the group opposed to Hadar's original plan by surprise. So much so the closing rituals for the meeting were in full swing before additional questions could be asked. Addi knew there were too many statements and suggestions made before the end of the meeting that were not clarified. Other than the challenge to meet Jesus in person, they had not agreed on a specific course of action they would take as a group before their next meeting. This ambiguous ending clearly left a great deal of room for Hadar and his followers to continue with their original plan. Joseph had the same concern.
As the meeting ended, Addi watched Joseph quickly cross the room to catch Hadar, who seemed intent on leaving just as quickly. He watched as they awkwardly met at the door and, although Addi could not hear the words being exchanged, he could see by the facial expressions and hand movements they were heated. Hadar turned and walked out with a small entourage of priests following closely behind, leaving a clearly unsatisfied Joseph standing in the doorway.
The meeting had moved along so quickly Addi had not had a moment to really think through what just transpired. Sitting down, he tried to make sense of all the pieces of information now flowing through his head. If he did nothing, he would still be guilty of murder. If he warned Jesus, then he would betray his fellow Pesachya members, perhaps putting them and their secret goals at risk, not to mention his own removal from the group. He continued to weigh the costs and benefits of taking a stand for Jesus, a man he did not believe was the Messiah, but a man not deserving death. He had stood back and watched Hadar send John the Baptist to his death. Was he prepared to do the same with Jesus? Was one man truly worth everything?
"He won't wait." Joseph whispered to Addi as he took the empty seat next to him.
"I figured as much," Addi replied and then looked up. "So, what do we do?" Joseph sat silently as his eyes surveyed the people still in the room.
"We encourage as many members as possible to personally meet Jesus. That will force them to make up their own mind on whether they want to sponsor his death or not," he replied and Addi agreed.
"If we did not walk away believing he was the Messiah, then why would they?" Addi asked and Joseph shook his head.
"It's not about whether Jesus is the Messiah or not, it is about bringing them face to face with an innocent man they are considering sending to his death. It is easier to shoot an arrow in anger from a distance, than to thrust a sword into someone’s chest while looking him in the eye." Joseph replied.
They sat in silence as they watched the members gradually leave the meeting room. Nicodemas, the only Pharisee member still in the room, concluded his discussion and slowly began walking past them on his way to the door. He stopped briefly in front of them as he adjusted his robe.
"I am not in agreement with Hadar and will do whatever I can to stop this, but I cannot do it alone. Stay near the temple and I will try to send a message if I hear of any actions he is planning," he whispered, without looking at them and then moved toward the exit.
The two men sat in silence watching Nicodemas cross the room and go out the doorway.
"A glimmer of hope?" Addi asked. Without looking directly at Joseph, he could see him shaking his head.
"Addi, it doesn’t make sense. It's as if Jesus was purposely coming to Jerusalem to be killed," Joseph said, then stood up. "It is hard to prevent a murder if the victim purposely walks toward the assassin," he continued as he patted Addi’s shoulder. Addi leaned back in his chair and sighed as all the thoughts and concerns came rolling back into his head.
"Go home and get some rest my friend, it is going to be a long and busy week," Joseph added. Addi nodded as the two of them walked toward the exit.
1 John 11:45-48
2 John 11:49053
3 1 Kings 18:16-40