At first Addi was not sure why he had chosen to have this meeting with Cleopas in his father's office instead of the other converted office. He tried to convince himself it was in response to Gavriel’s challenge to move past dark memories. However, the truth was, he did not want Cleopas sitting across from him thinking he still feared this place. Not a typical friendship, it was never about celebrations or joyful gatherings, but more about deep conversations and discussions of intrigue, insights, and business strategy. Cleopas had become his most valuable business asset, and despite the strangeness, one of his most trusted friends.
They usually met in a secluded establishment, or if the weather was conducive, an open area to discuss such matters. But he wanted to keep this information quiet, away from prying eyes and ears. It was not until now that Addi recalled the last time Cleopas had physically been inside his house. It had been when his appointed guardian hired him to find his parents’ killers fifteen years ago. Some friend I am, Addi thought, remembering how he had watched Cleopas walk throughout the house, turning over clues with intense care, retracing steps of the killers, ultimately ending in this very office, as Addi had watched from the doorway, to afraid to enter.
He greeted the now older Cleopas at the doorway to the office, watching him scan the room with the same intensity, taking in every aspect, filing it to memory. Older than Addi by fourteen years, Cleopas stood silently looking down where the dead bodies had once lain, then across the room to the desk, the shelves, and back to the doorway. He seemed in deep thought until Addi motioned him to the chair in front of the desk.
“Very few changes have been made in here since that night,” he said as he took a seat, his eyes continuing to scan the desk, then back to the shelves. Addi walked around the desk and sat pensively in his father’s chair.
“It helps me to remember them,” Addi replied, trying to disguise his dislike for the office. The man nodded in response but kept his eyes focused on the shelves behind Addi, as if trying to memorize every item on them.
“How can I be of assistance?” Cleopas interjected suddenly, always wanting to get to the point.
Knowing the man’s attention to detail, Addi had vigilantly prepared for the meeting. Over the next hour, he methodically detailed his encounter with John the Baptist, the information provided by his herdsman Maor, and indirectly what was shared at the Pesachya meeting. Addi watched the middle-aged man sitting across from him processing all the information he was being given. The man’s eyes and mind never missed a thing, his questions always deep and insightful before taking on an assignment. Addi knew from personal experience this man was the best money could buy when it came to investigating and gathering information. Whether it was search or research, Cleopas and his team always exceeded the results Addi had requested. Well, almost always. Cleopas had delivered the man who killed his parents, but never discovered the identity of the other man in the room. Consequently, he had refused to take any payment for the job until he completed it.
Addi knew it helped to know the secrets of a man’s heart when exploring business dealings with him. For almost ten years Cleopas helped Addi discover those secrets. Using them to benefit his own business dealings and negotiations, the impact from the research and insights he gathered on competitors or buyers brought great wealth and success to almost every business endeavor he had pursued. Worth his weight in gold, Cleopas had been paid far more gold over the years than he weighed. He had become one of Addi’s most trusted advisors and friends, disliking the Romans almost as much as Addi.
“Do you believe he is the one your group has been searching for?” Cleopas asked. Addi tried not to react to his question, even though alarms were going off inside of him. How did Cleopas know about their group? Addi wondered. Then he remembered that if his herdsman had pieced most of it together, Cleopas would have more inside knowledge and information about their group than Maor did. Not wanting to betray the group, Addi raised an eyebrow in question; even though he knew his attempt at innocence was lost on this man.
“Addi, most of Rome knows that our people are seeking the Messiah. They also know that your special group is looking for him. What they have yet to discover is the plans you have waiting once he is discovered,” Cleopas said without changing his expression.
Addi’s heart raced at the thought of someone outside the group knowing their intentions. Cleopas seemed to grasp his concern.
“Do not worry Addi, it is my dream too. So, do you believe he is the one?” Cleopas asked, changing back to his original question so Addi would not have to compromise his word. Addi just shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
“I have no idea. But I’m heavily invested in finding out. You have taught me staying in front of valuable information is always better than reacting to it,” Addi replied. “It may already be too late regarding this Jesus, but it is the best lead that we have had in awhile and I do not want to wait for...” Addi stopped himself, even though he knew Cleopas was aware of their group, “...anyone else to have an opportunity to interfere with it before finding out.” Cleopas nodded, appearing to be in deep thought before finally answering.
“The imprisonment of John the Baptist was unfortunate,” Cleopas stated as if reading Addi’s mind. Addi nodded.
“What do you think Herod will do with him?” Addi asked.
“Herod fears the people too much, but it is Herodias who burns with rage and will find the earliest opportunity to have him killed,” Cleopas’ response was quick and to the point - as if he already knew the answer.1
“That would be unfortunate,” Addi said softly as he thought of John fearlessly responding to Hadar’s questions while standing knee deep in the Jordan River.
“I will begin the assignment immediately,” Cleopas suddenly stated, changing the subject as he stood up to excuse himself, and turned toward the door.
“Wait. What payment terms are you asking for?” Addi interjected, not wanting Cleopas to leave until he knew what this research was going to cost. Cleopas turned back.
“I will only charge you the standard rate if he is not the Messiah. If he is, then this one is on the house.” Cleopas said and smiled briefly.
“That is acceptable,” Addi replied and stood up to escort him out, noticing Cleopas was looking past his shoulder at the shelves behind him.
“You may want to rework your shelves before they are compromised,” Cleopas said as Addi was coming around the desk.
“No need for an escort, I know the way,” then turned and walked out of the office without even a goodbye or a smile. As incredibly insightful as this man was, his interpersonal skills were awkward at best. He was a far different friend than any other.
While Cleopas walked away, Addi turned to look at the shelves behind him. They were old, but besides a few areas that were scratched or warping, they looked strong and solid. Addi had come to learn Cleopas was what many called a perfectionist; even the slightest abnormality was recognized and noted. Whether it was a small tear in a garment needing repair since their last meeting, or as in this case an architectural flaw, he could spot them quickly and would not let go of them until they were corrected. This trait made him the best at what he did, but it also made others very uncomfortable around him.
Two weeks later the first report from Cleopas arrived. Late in the evening one of the guards reported a man at the front gate requesting to see him, and would not leave until he delivered a letter from Cleopas. The man apparently recognized Addi and simply offered him a scroll. Refusing his offer for food or drink, he excused himself, disappearing into the darkness.
Addi lit a lamp, broke the wax-sealed scroll that had Cleopas’ insignia pressed into it, and rolled it out onto the table, putting the base of the lamp at the top of the scroll while holding the bottom with his forearm, keeping it from returning to its rolled form. Cleopas was always thorough, following specific formalities when communicating with clients. Sealed scrolls and the cryptic style of the written report met his rules. He was always careful in case the information was to fall into another’s hands. Early in their business affairs Cleopas taught Addi how to read and understand the deeper meanings of his reports. To anyone else reading this, they would think it was a letter from a family member, but for Addi it was a puzzle he enjoyed sorting through although he preferred face-to-face communication with Cleopas.
Refocusing his brain to follow the patterns and codes, Addi was relieved to learn Jesus was still alive. It had taken so long to report because Jesus was on a five-day journey north of Galilee, preaching, “The time had come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”2 Addi looked up from the scroll and stared at the flame in the lamp. That is the same message John was preaching he thought, then continued reading.
From the report, Jesus was gathering increasingly larger crowds who were following him, but from what Cleopas had learned, most of those close to him were of questionable backgrounds. Seeing that neither Jesus nor those following him had any military background or training, Cleopas’ personal evaluation stated Jesus was not the Messiah based on his message and his followers. Although he was a man of impressive speech and charisma, Cleopas felt Jesus’ lack of any clear direction and poor leadership selections would eventually be his undoing. He concluded his report with a statement he would do more research by traveling to Nazareth, Jesus’ childhood home, before returning and closing the assignment.
Addi moved his forearm allowing the scroll to roll back to its former shape, feeling deeply disappointed by what he read. He was extremely excited Jesus had survived the dangers of Herod, yet he trusted Cleopas’ keen judgment and personal evaluation that he was not the Messiah. He felt he could help Jesus refine his message and surround himself with leaders he needed to succeed; he had also resigned himself to Cleopas’ view of the man. He would continue to build the wealth and support they would need when the true Messiah did come.
When would the Messiah come? Addi wondered, leaning back in his chair in disappointment. It was the same question millions of his people had wondered for thousands of years. He thought about the wealth and resources he, his father, and his father’s father had gathered these past hundred years. Had his father learned from his own father? Addi never met his grandfather, who passed away before he was born, and barely knew his own father except for the few special memories he had growing up, or the stories others had told about him. A sudden realization occurred to him. What if the messiah did not come in his lifetime? He had no son to pass on this great wealth he had acquired or of most importance, this great cause he lived for.
His mind wandered briefly to the young woman in the market area. He had not had the good fortune to visit with her during the last few times he was at the stables. Perhaps he should look for a wife and have a family, he wondered, as he carried the lamp back to his bedroom. Of the thousands of women in Jerusalem he could pursue, his mind would always go back to her whenever he had such thoughts. He smiled at the thought of her as he passed by the open doorway to his father's office, but then the memory of that fateful night flashed before him again. He stood there a moment, finally shaking his head and mumbled softly, “No,” then continued walking. The path he had chosen was a vow to God he would not break. Nor would he put a wife, a son or a family member through the same risk and pain he had faced growing up without a father. This long-awaited kingdom would need to come in his lifetime, if not; someone else would need to sort through his wealth and resources. He prayed again that night God’s Kingdom would come soon.
Almost four month’s later Cleopas’ next report arrived. It had been so long since the last report Addi assumed Cleopas had simply concluded his assignment. The arrival of the report reminded him how much he missed their secretive meetings and discussions, even missing his odd quirks. Life had been busy, very busy. Three months ago, the city had been overflowing with people coming to celebrate the Passover, a festival every Jew, no matter where around the world they lived, would travel to Jerusalem to personally celebrate at least once in their lifetime. The city would eventually overflow with over a million people as they begin to arrive. Some would stay with friends or relatives, others in an inn, many pitching tents outside the city or even on the city streets. It was one of the most lucrative times for the residents of Jerusalem, selling their wares and renting their rooms. It was also a very profitable time for Addi as they sold vast herds of sheep and cattle to the merchants, who would resell them to the people looking to acquire their “sacrificial lamb” for the celebration.
Despite Gavriel’s suggestion they take advantage of the high demand and raise the prices of their flocks of sheep sold to the merchants during the Passover, Addi would never allow it. Although Gavriel argued the local merchants would charge nearly double their standard rates during Passover still he refused to participate in the abuse. Gavriel suggested the people were going to pay higher prices anyway, so why not have the profits stay with an organization that was ultimately going to benefit the people, but Addi’s rebuttal was they were already making a sizable profit due to the large numbers of lambs sold to the merchants before the Passover.
Each year they would have this same discussion and Addi would come to the same conclusion. Gavriel would simply shake his head and mumble something under his breath. In truth, Addi often questioned that logic as he walked through the temple courts during Passover, seeing the high prices the merchants were charging these desperate visitors, secretly listening to the lies being told the buyers why they were charging such high prices. Lies that were often blamed indirectly on his organization. How because of love for God and the people they were selling them 'at cost' because of the high prices they had to pay to get them to market. Despite the lies they told about him, he somehow slept better at night knowing differently.
Carrying the scroll, he walked out onto the veranda overlooking the city, sat it down on the table, and pulled up a chair. Addi immediately knew by its weight and rigidity this scroll was much longer. Although it had been a long time since the last one, Addi had anticipated this report would be just that, a final report closing the matter and requesting payment. Instead, the information it contained made Addi’s heart beat faster, his stomach knotted up. Interesting and somewhat humorous to Addi, Cleopas was having difficulty using his written code to describe the important details inside this report. That must have driven him crazy, Addi thought as he continued reading.
The report stated his initial evaluation was proving to be incorrect; there were obvious signs of strong leadership skills and even personal actions quite impressive for a carpenter’s son. Further research on Jesus came with much difficulty because of the number of stories being told about him. Cleopas had learned Jesus was the son of a carpenter from Nazareth named Joseph who married a woman named Mary thirty years ago during the reign of Herod the Great, the father of the current King Herod now ruling in Israel. He also learned Mary was carrying Jesus in her womb before their wedding. Those in Nazareth viewed this news to be disgraceful, but his parents insisted the child was from God. She was a virgin. Their insistence brought humor and ridicule from the city. Addi shook his head, smiled at such a claim, and thought a person being conceived before marriage, then claim to be a Messiah would not be well received by the general population. This Jesus would have a difficult road to travel even if he was the Messiah.3
Cleopas continued to report Jesus had lived an apparent righteous and devout life since his birth, yet there was nothing to report until after his baptism by the one known as John the Baptist. His "disciples" claimed following that event, he disappeared in the desert for forty days and nights, then returned a different man, filled with the power of the Spirit.4 Why go into the desert and what happened there that changed him? Addi wondered continuing to read.
The next part of the report was interesting. Cleopas was meeting with the synagogue leaders where he learned and reported about Jesus’ background in Nazareth, after Jesus returned from the Galilean countryside. On that Sabbath, to everyone's surprise, Jesus walked right into the synagogue. He asked for the Scroll of Isaiah and read the following passage aloud:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” After rolling it up, he gave it back to the attendant, then sat down, saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”5
Cleopas reported although there were various responses to Jesus’ proclamation, most tried using his past as an effort to undermine his authority in making such a statement, reminding Jesus and those listening, of his questionable birth history. Yet Jesus exposed the vile words of the gossip they had been whispering behind his back all these years, words about questioning his birth, and their lack of belief in the miracles he was performing in Capernaum. Like a lion caught in a trap, they distinctly did not like being caught in their own sin of gossip. Enraged, they forcefully escorted him to a nearby cliff intending to throw him from it. However, as Cleopas watched from a distance, Jesus suddenly emerged from the back of the crowd without explanation or anyone’s knowing where he had gone, and walked out of the area. Cleopas followed him secretly to Capernaum.6
Cleopas further explained he had brought on additional staff needed for the quantity and scope of the various stories they were hearing about Jesus as he traveled the Galilean countryside. Addi paused again and looked out from the veranda. He knew Cleopas was thorough, but he also knew additional staff meant his costs for this research were going up considerably when this assignment was completed. He tried not to think too much about what the extra cost might amount to. He just needed to trust Cleopas had his reasons and returned to reading.