After a fitful night’s sleep, Addi decided to skip his routine of morning tea on the veranda. Instead, he quickly gathered his notes and a copy of the final agreement for Pilate to sign and left for the temple. Knowing he had a pre-meeting scheduled with Gavriel to go over the final agreement, and prepare for their meeting with the Roman Governor, he left a message with the guards at the front gate for Gavriel, asking him to meet him on the steps of the Beautiful Gate leading into the Court of Women.
Although the skies were clear, the early morning walk to the temple with his two guards was cold. The streets were already getting busy as the vendors along the way were busy preparing their storefronts. As they entered through the Royal Bridge and into the Royal Porch area, he saw the Court of Gentiles already crowded with people and livestock. Most were either buying a meal or exchanging money to pay the half-shekel Temple tax or negotiate the purchase of the required animals for their particular sacrifices. The noise in the temple mount area seemed almost deafening compared to the quiet streets outside.
He took the direct route across the Court of Gentiles to the steps in front of the Court of Women. As he approached the steps, above the noise of the crowds and animals, he overheard an argument drawing his attention. He saw a visitor arguing with a money-changer over the exchange rate for his coins. Money-changers were not uncommon as the High Priest had ordered only Tyrian shekels would be accepted for the Annual Temple tax. The stated reason was that the Roman and Greek coins had images of emperors or gods on them, considered idolatrous by the Temple authorities. However, it was also known that these 'priest appointed' moneychangers extracted a profit for their services, which they were then required to share with the Temple.
Addi knew the visitor would eventually realize the only way to enter the main temple was to pay the exchange fees. As Addi turned back toward the steps, he froze in place as he saw a group of men sitting on the steps, with a smaller crowd of women sitting around them. It was not the crowd that caused Addi to halt mid-stride, but his recognition of the man who sat in the middle of them. It was Jesus.
Realizing his awkwardness standing there staring at Jesus, Addi looked away and moved up the stairs to a place he could better watch them in the growing light of morning. Addi could see the men sitting around him were still tired and disheveled from their previous night's sleep and were mostly talking among themselves. Jesus, on the other hand, seemed awake and alert, busy braiding a strand of cords together as he silently looked out over the temple grounds below him. He, too, seemed to be listening to the ongoing argument below over the incessant bleating and mooing of sheep and cattle in the nearby pens, the cooing of doves stuffed inside their cages stacked on the nearby benches and the growing rumble of voices echoing across the stone Temple grounds.1
He was wasting no time, Addi thought as he marveled at the man's fearless determination to get his message out to the people. Did he know what Hadar and Caiaphas were planning for him? He wondered as he watched him sitting with the others. They all seemed to be sharing a meal together as they laughed and talked on the steps, but Addi was too far away to hear what was being said. Despite his serious focus on his handiwork in front of him, Jesus would smile at their interactions and interject his own thoughts to their discussion, often appearing to even instigate the laughter within the group. Addi could see they loved him and respected him greatly, but there was none of the fear or nervousness that he felt. If they believed he was truly the Messiah, they would not be acting so casually around him. It was another confirmation for Addi that Jesus was not the Messiah.
He continued watching from a distance trying to think what he would say or ask Jesus when he gathered the courage to do so. He thought about his last embarrassing meeting and wondered if Jesus would even remember or recognize him. As Hadar had pointed out, if he was not the Messiah, then why did he even care what happened to him? As he was thinking about his question, Jesus suddenly stood up and started walking down the steps with the cord now looped in his right hand. His followers seemed surprised by his action and remained on the steps, watching him head toward the area of the nearby money-changers, where a growing line of people were standing in front of the two separate tables waiting their turn.
Walking to the head of the line between the two tables, Jesus began speaking to the money-changers motioning to the line of people in front of him. Addi could not hear the interaction between Jesus and the two men, but he could see them becoming very agitated by whatever Jesus was saying. Addi could see more than one money-changer speak aggressively to Jesus, but he could not make out the words as the man arrogantly jabbed his finger toward the Holy Temple and then glared back at Jesus. Whatever Jesus' response was, it caused the money-changer to reply as he motioned first to one of the armed guards standing behind him and then back at Jesus. Jesus shook his head in response and waved his hand toward the other tables, toward Solomon's Porch, and then across the whole Court of Gentiles area. Then he pointed back at the moneyboxes sitting on the two tables in front of him. The money-changer apparently decided to ignore Jesus, looked past him and motioned for the next person in line to step forward. Jesus tried to continue his conversation with the first money-changer, who ignored him, and then with the other who responded the same way.
Apparently defeated, Addi watched Jesus walked over to the merchants standing in front of the cages of doves and then to those in charge of the sheep. At each stop, he motioned toward the nearby entrances to the Temple Mount and toward the money-changers. Both men motioned for Jesus to leave and turned their backs on whatever it was he was trying to say to them.
Addi had been so intent on watching Jesus, he had not noticed the size of the crowd who now gathered to watch what was unfolding. There was also a growing number of Pharisees who seemed to be watching with amusement at Jesus' fruitless efforts and the indignation that was becoming evident on Jesus' face. Apparently, Jesus' inner circle understood the look on his face as they pushed through the crowd in an effort to draw close to him. As they closed around him, he closed his eyes a moment in what appeared to be a prayer, then walked straight toward the two tables where the money-changers sat.
Seeing him coming, the two money-changers looked at each other and smiled as Jesus came to a stop between their two tables. The smiles quickly left their faces as Jesus swept the money boxes from first one table, then the other, scattering the coins across the ground in front of them. Then with a hand grasping the edge of each table he overturned them both with one motion. The shock of the sudden action not only silenced the snickering crowd but stunned the guards, as well. Then Jesus turned and marched across the area to where the cages of doves were stacked and began to break open the latches pushing them over onto the ground as a cloud of doves began shooting to the sky.
"Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"
Not stopping there, he confidently walked over to the sheep pens ripping open the gates. Using the whip of cords he had made, he began driving the sheep out, sending them fleeing past the nearby crowds and into the Temple grounds beyond. He then turned to the stunned crowd, first looking directly at the money-changers, then at the merchants, and finally at the Pharisees.
"Is it not written: 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"2 He said calmly, but sternly as he rolled the whip up into his hands.
At first no one moved, or said anything, until finally one of the Pharisees stepped into the opening where Jesus stood.
"So what miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" the Priest demanded arrogantly, but quickly humbled himself as Jesus slowly walked up to the man, whip in hand, stopped and looked into his eyes.
"Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days," Jesus replied. The priest did not respond, but another priest interjected.
"It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"3
Strangely, Jesus did not respond or even look at the priest who had spoken; he just turned and walked back to where his disciples were waiting. They were clearly as shocked as the rest of the crowd who had witnessed everything. As he returned to the steps where he had been, his disciples and the crowd of people followed him there, asking him questions the whole way.
Addi watched as the money-changers and their guards tried to gather up their scattered coins while the sheep merchants ran into the crowd in hopes of recapturing their animals. The dove merchants just stood silently in front of their empty cages, apparently wishing they had followed the warning Jesus had given them. To avoid further conflict and loss of revenue, the Pharisee priests motioned for the money-changers and merchants to move their tables and pens further away from the area.
Addi sat there wondering what Jesus meant by his comment “destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days," and why had he ignored the Pharisees response. What temple was he speaking about? As he watched Jesus interact with his disciples and the crowd now gathering around him, he understood why people were so drawn to him. His deep conviction and confidence was inspiring and challenging at the same time.
"What is it that they see in him?" Addi heard a familiar voice mumble in disbelief to his right. Turning toward it, he saw Gavriel standing on the step next to him, looking toward Jesus who was now teaching.
"Just don't tell me you've offered him a job to work for us in business development or client relations," Gavriel chuckled. Addi was surprised Gavriel's response was completely different toward Jesus from his. Addi remained silent, which apparently concerned Gavriel who turned nervously toward him. "You didn't, did you?" he asked again. Addi shook his head.
"No, but a few of our merchants could probably use someone to do more than just release their animals." Addi replied dryly. Gavriel nodded and then smiled.
"Great idea! We sell the animals to them, Jesus scatters them, and we gather them up again and resell them. What a wonderful, lucrative idea," Gavriel said in jest and patted Addi on the back.
Addi dismissed his two guards, telling them he would meet them back at the estate. Addi and Gavriel turned and climbed the steps to an area less crowded, sat down and started going over their plans and discussion topics for their afternoon meeting with Pilate. Although Addi was listening and engaging Gavriel, he was also watching Jesus as he moved from the steps and entered through the Beautiful Gate leading to the Court of Women. Addi interrupted Gavriel and said he wanted to follow Jesus. By the look on Gavriel's face, Addi could tell Jesus had not even remotely entered his mind since their last discussion and any interest Addi had in Jesus seemed strange.
"You don't believe this guy, do you?" Gavriel asked and Addi shook his head.
"But how do we explain away the miracles he is performing?" Addi asked, pointing to a man who was leaving Jesus' presence far different than he had arrived.
"What do you mean?" Gavriel asked and Addi pointed toward a man who was now staring at his own hands, the sky and all the people in the temple grounds.
"For as long as I can remember, I have passed by that man as he sat at the Royal Bridge entrance to the Temple courts begging," Addi replied. Gavriel stared at the man but then shook his head.
"So?" Gavriel stated as his shrugged his shoulders.
"You don't remember him?" Addi asked, recalling their conversation about beggars and how Gavriel never gave them money.
"His eyes have always been milky white and misaligned," Addi replied.
Gavriel looked back to where the man stood on the steps in front of them, his eyes clear and brown, his face filled with wonder, tears of joy streaming down his face. Gavriel seemed momentarily stunned by the sight, but then shook his head.
"It's fake, it's all staged," he finally replied as if trying to convince himself more than Addi.
"A man doesn’t beg and live in poverty his whole life only to play a single part in some grand illusion. The healings are genuine. The real question is, where is that power coming from to perform them?" Addi stated and continued up the steps to follow Jesus past the Beautiful Gate and into the Court of Women.
To Addi's surprise, Gavriel, who usually loved solving a difficult problem only let this incredible moment and question pass and went back to trying to discuss the details of the meeting with Pilate.
"Wait, just wait…stop!" Addi had to finally raise his voice to get Gavriel's attention.
"There is a chance the very man we have poured our entire lives into preparing for could be standing right before you and yet you're more concerned about closing another deal than discovering the truth. Do you really even care, or is it all simply about the money and power?" Addi asked and waited for a response.
Gavriel seemed to prepare to answer, then stopped a moment and took a deep breath before continuing. Addi could see Gavriel was frustrated.
"My purpose is to prepare for the Messiah. Hadar and the other Pharisees are to find the Messiah, and when they do, they will let me know. Until then, I will focus on building those resources until I am asked to engage them," Gavriel replied angrily. Addi was both surprised and concerned by the words he had chosen to use.
"We," Addi finally replied and Gavriel was clearly confused by his response.
"I said 'we' but you said 'I' as if I was not a part of this grand purpose that 'we' have poured our lives into until 'we' are asked to engage those plans. Or am 'I' mistaken by my purpose?" Addi asked dryly as he searched Gavriel's expression. There was a brief moment that Addi thought Gavriel was going to respond differently, but he shook his head and smiled.
"No, and I'm sorry, you are right. It is 'our' purpose and always will be," Gavriel said calmly, patting Addi on the shoulder. "We seem so close to the end of our dreams, I just want to make sure we're ready when it comes." Gavriel continued to hold Addi's stare and smiled. "We still have a spare hour, so let's go find out who this Jesus fellow is. I think you're ready to meet with Pilate," Gavriel said and waited for Addi to smile and nod before turning to walk toward the Beautiful Gate. Watching Gavriel climb the steps in front of him, alarm bells began sounding inside Addi’s head.
They spent the next hour watching from a distance as Jesus spoke with everyone that came up to him. With so many people crowding around and being too far away to hear most of what was being said, Addi could only observe. Some who came to Jesus would ask questions, while others were looking to be healed. Once, he sat on the steps leading up to the Court of Men and taught a lesson to those sitting near him. He was a very busy man and with each miracle, answer and lesson, more and more people believed in him. Despite his reservations, Addi also felt moved by what he was witnessing, but as he looked around the outer areas, where he and Gavriel were standing, the Pharisees were also watching from a distance. Their expressions were far different from the people below them.
As the time approached for them to begin heading to their meeting at the palace with the Roman Governor Pilate, Addi and Gavriel left from a different gate since the Beautiful Gate exit was packed with people wanting and waiting to see Jesus. With everything they had just witnessed, Addi was looking forward to hearing what Gavriel's thoughts were on Jesus; but before he could ask him, Gavriel immediately began going over the discussion points of their upcoming meeting and continuing until they arrived.
They were led through the palace to an ornate waiting room just off the primary meeting room where Pilate held his official meetings. Addi had been here on several occasions, meeting with Pilate to discuss opportunities of lesser importance. Although the palace could not compare to the massiveness of the Royal Porch or Solomon's Porch in the Temple, the finer details of the palace were much richer and noteworthy. Priceless gold shields and banners hung from the walls, massive ornate chairs and tables sat mostly unused. Marble sculptures decorated each corner, the finest carpets and tapestries were displayed everywhere. Despite all the wealth and artistic beauty on display, what was most prominent to Addi was the number of Roman soldiers stationed throughout the palace, two stood at every primary entrance. Patrols of four to eight soldiers marched past at regular intervals. He was confident this display of power was intended to produce feelings of intimidation.
They were not alone in the waiting room. There were several dozen other people also waiting for their opportunity to meet with Pilate. Some sat quietly without emotion, while others tried to absorb everything around them. Since their arrival, no one had been called into or out of the room, so when the doors suddenly began to open they were hoping their meeting time was getting closer. However, as the doors opened fully, three individuals entered, glancing over at Addi and Gavriel. It was the owner of the transportation family and his two advisors. Apparently, they had just concluded their own meeting with Pilate. It was a shocking surprise and a strong reminder as to just how shrewd and aware Pilate and his advisors were.
Without any expression, the three men walked past them, the owner nodding ever so slightly at Addi as they exited the waiting room. Not sure how to interpret the gesture, Addi did not have time to think about it. Their names were called next to meet with Pilate, apparently deciding to skip the order of arrival of the others and meet with Addi and Gavriel while the topic was still fresh in his mind. The disappointment and anger of those waiting were obvious. In truth, Addi would have preferred having a little more time to discuss this sudden surprise with Gavriel, but when the Governor called you, you did not ask for more time.
They entered the great hall area crossing the distance to where Pilate was seated behind a huge table, surrounded by his advisors. Guests were generally asked to remain standing, but Pilate motioned for both of them to take a seat across the table from him and his advisors.
"It's good to see you again Addi," Pilate said with a smile, apparently intentionally ignoring Gavriel's presence.
"Thank you for seeing us Governor. I hope your health and family have improved greatly since our last meeting," Addi said, remembering he and his wife were battling an illness that had swept the city and even reached the palace. Pilate seemed to reflect a moment before nodding.
"Yes, much better, although we are looking forward to the warmer summer months again," he replied and then looked down at the documents before him and took a deep breath. "We had an interesting discussion with the owner of the business you wish to buy," Pilate stated and then paused. "Like us, we are more interested in the why you would want to lose money to acquire it, than the actual sale of the business itself. I feel I have hired the best accountants and advisors’ money can buy, yet they cannot see how this could be a win-win scenario for you. Could you shed a little light on that for us?" Pilate asked. Addi looked around the table to confirm he recognized all those sitting there by their rank and importance.
Addi knew that to offer a direct bribe to a Roman official was punishable by death. However, he also knew every Roman official accepted bribes and were, for the most part, corrupt in their dealings. The challenge was to find ways to offer it to them without any evidence.
"May I ask to answer that question in the presence of only your most senior advisors?" Addi replied. Briefly, he felt his request had overstepped his guest status, but Pilate slowly nodded and excused three of the five advisors from the table. Once the door had closed behind them, Addi looked toward Gavriel who then withdrew a scroll from his inner pocket and handed it to one of the advisors. The advisor passed it to Pilate who broke the seal, unrolled and read it. When he finished, he handed it to the advisor on his right, then looked back at Addi.
The other advisor read the scroll, rolled it back up before passing it back to Pilate. Pilate tapped the scroll on the edge of the table as he stared at Addi, as if trying to get a better read on him.
"That's a very dangerous assumption," Pilate said without smiling. "If the wrong eyes were to see it, it could cost you everything," he said while holding up the incriminating document. Addi nodded in response.
"Which is why we did not want to list it in the original documents or mention it to the owner of the family we are looking to acquire," Addi replied and waited for Pilate's response.
"And if I'm not here in two years, the time you feel we should wait to implement this new transport 'tax’, what makes you think the new Governor will also go along with this unwritten agreement? It could prove very costly to you?" Pilate asked.
"My hope is that it will encourage you to remain here for far longer than you may desire, and to provide you fair compensation for doing so. If not, then it will allow you enough room to negotiate a mutually beneficial arrangement with the new governor," Addi hesitated, "Or not."
As they sat there in silence, Addi tried to find anything in Pilate's expression that would reveal whether he should continue negotiating down this dangerous path. Addi knew for this to work his key advisors needed to profit from it as well, or the information would eventually find its way into the wrong hands. Pilate looked at his two advisors who seemed to give Pilate a response Addi did not see. Pilate looked at Addi, stood up and motioned to join him. The two of them walked over to stand before the huge fireplace. They both stared at the massive burning logs and at the flames dancing over them, feeling the intense heat radiating from them.
"Politics are a lot like fire. Once it gets hot enough, it does not matter how big or wet a log is that you put on it, it will still consume it," Pilate said as he turned and looked at Addi. "If word of this gets out, we will both burn," he said and Addi nodded.
"I've always preferred standing by the fire rather than in it," Addi replied, relieved to see Pilate smile, and then even more surprised to see his smile turn into laughter, a laughter that went on far longer than he would have expected it to. It seemed to take awhile for Pilate to regain control of his emotions, but once he did, he tossed the scroll onto the fire and then turned to where his advisors and Gavriel still sat.
"Why don't the three of you work through the key details so that everyone's roles and responsibilities are very clear. While you do that, Addi and I are going to take a walk," Pilate suggested. Following Pilate's lead, they walked across the huge room to the secluded balcony that overlooked the huge courtyard below.
Addi realized this was the very balcony he had witnessed Pilate addressing the crowds that often gathered to hear his rulings. They stood there silently looking out over the empty courtyard below.
"Thank you. I needed a good laugh," Pilate finally said. "With all the attention on this Jesus fellow, finding something worth laughing about is becoming more and more difficult," he half mumbled and then looked back at Addi. "What do you know of him, Addi, you being a Jew with many financial ties. Should I be concerned he is bringing a rebellion with him?"
Addi was not only surprised by the question, but deeply concerned Pilate had even asked him about such matters. Did he know about the Pesachya group and the role he played, He wondered? Was this a test to see how truthful Addi would be? He knew Pilate was shrewd and thorough, he proved that today, but just how shrewd was the question. Addi was the man Pilate was going into a dangerous business venture with, a venture that had potential to cost him everything if anything went wrong. He knew he had to be very careful how he answered.
"We Jews are always looking for the Messiah to free us from those who rule over us, whether it was the Egyptians, the Babylonians, or the Greeks. Today we just happen to be under Roman rule. It is a dream that keeps us unified and hopeful, but it also is what concerns a current ruler the most," Addi looked away and back to an empty court. "I have met this Jesus. Even this morning I watched him in the Temple courts," Addi stopped as if to gather his thoughts.
"So, is he the Messiah you have been looking for?" Pilate interrupted, still staring at him. Addi shook his head.
"No, he is not the Messiah that we have been looking for. He preaches a spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom. He does not preach outer rebellion, but inner repentance. His kingdom is a kingdom of the heart that can exist no matter who rules Israel," Addi replied and then turned to look at Pilate. "So, no, he is not the Messiah we have been looking for or want, but he is probably what we need the most, and whom you and I should fear the least," Addi ended. Pilate held his stare a moment before nodding.
"That explains why the Pharisees and the Sadducees are all pushing so hard for me to end his life. Herod is even advising me to take action on behalf of Rome, but I know his reason is out of fear Jesus is coming to take revenge on him for murdering his cousin," Pilate said as he looked away and back to the courtyard again and suddenly chuckled. "I think the real reason I have refrained from taking action so far is only because I enjoy seeing them all squirm the more Jesus' popularity grows. But like any professed Messiah, if his popularity threatens Rome he will have to be removed," Pilate stated coldly. "Can I trust you to keep me updated on such matters?" Pilate asked with a stern gaze. Addi took a deep breath and carefully responded.
"Do you want me to tell you the truth, or what you want to hear?" Addi asked. Pilate seemed surprised by the response and shrugged.
"What really is truth these days?" Pilate replied and waited.
"I cannot commit to that request without betraying my people. And if I was willing to do that, then betraying you would be far easier. What I can commit to doing is this; if there is anything that might threaten our agreement, besides a full rebellion, you will be the first to know," Addi replied. "Besides, I think you know far more about what is going on under your leadership than I ever could." Addi braced himself for a disappointed reaction from Pilate, but instead he smiled.
"Truth, how refreshing!" Pilate said sincerely and then nodded. "Fair enough. Although you are dangerous, I think I am going to enjoy working with you, Addi. I will have my advisors work out the final details of this arrangement and we will schedule a time to meet once this Passover celebration week has passed and all the people visiting have left. Hopefully, without my own head on a platter," Pilate said and motioned Addi toward the door. As they walked back into the meeting room, Addi saw Gavriel nervously standing by the table, obviously waiting for him so they could leave.
"You have our approval to go forward with the purchase of the transportation family's assets and routes, assuming he has not changed his mind. Once we are notified the assets have been acquired, we will send a messenger to inform you of our next meeting time to finalize our agreement," Pilate said and nodded. "Be well." Addi recognized the 'your dismissed' command from Pilate, nodded and headed for the door with Gavriel close behind.
As the two of them walked quietly through the waiting room and down the numerous ornate hallways, Addi was surprised his mind was not on the agreement. Nor was it on Pilate's request, nor even the risks and dangers of such an agreement. Instead all he could think about was the comment Pilate had made about the Pharisees and Sadducees petitioning him to kill Jesus. As Joseph feared, Hadar and Caiaphas had no intention of waiting for the next Pesachya meeting before taking action.
As Addi and Gavriel stepped into the street in the late afternoon sun, Gavriel could no longer contain his excitement and started stammering how incredibly well everything had gone. He began recounting his discussion with Pilate's advisors, noting Addi's comment to Pilate as they stood by the fire. After seeing Addi did not have the same level of excitement he had, Gavriel changed the subject.
"What did you and Pilate talk about?" Gavriel finally asked.
"Truth and consequences," was all Addi said in response. He was happy they had apparently closed the deal with Pilate on the purchase, but he could not help feeling a little corrupted by the whole interaction. Although he had been truthful in his responses to Pilate, Addi knew his real motives for such an agreement were still deceitful. He tried to convince himself the ends justified the means, but then he heard Hadar's voice saying the same thing about Jesus.
It seemed every angle of this relational web he was involved with had a layer of deceit. What bothered him most was realizing the most common thread within each of those deceitful situations was the religious leaders of his people, those to whom he had dedicated his entire life and purpose to helping, the Pharisees.
1 John 2:13-15
2 Mark 11:17
3 John 2:18-21