Since his direct challenge with Hadar four months ago, Addi had lost considerable influence in the Pesachya group. Although it went against his nature, he had taken Joseph’s and Gavriel’s advice, trying to remain silent during the next few meetings giving Hadar time to recover from the embarrassment of their earlier exchange. From what he could tell, Hadar was not recovering; in fact, he was becoming more distant from him. Addi was still allowed to make his report at the end of the meetings, but except where it related to financial or support questions, he was never called upon for any comments or suggestions, even on the rare occasion when he gave notice he had the answer to a question within the group. As further punishment at the last meeting, he discovered his former spot at the main table had been reassigned to another businessman, requiring him to sit in chairs on the outer circle, an obvious lesson to anyone who might ever challenge Hadar’s leadership.
Sitting quietly against the wall, he tried to think of how to share what he had learned about Jesus. In one of their prior meetings Nicodemas, who had been assigned to learn more about Jesus, mentioned He was still alive. Like Cleopas had in his initial report, Nicodemas’s report also discredited Jesus’ candidacy but he would continue to follow his progress. Addi knew the earlier report was mainly to show the group Herod had not killed him, as “someone” had reported in their group. It was just one of many subtle verbal lashings he received from Hadar. With this new information from Cleopas about Jesus, Addi felt it might offer a great opportunity for him to reclaim his credibility within the group.
As the meeting progressed, those who had been assigned to other potential messiah candidates gave their reports. Some under consideration had great military leadership qualities, something that was very important to the group, while others had strong spiritual leadership qualities. Although there were several new candidates added, it did not take long to either discredit or remove most of them. Knowing Jesus was on their list, Addi was eager to hear what would be reported about him in their meeting. For a moment he thought Jesus was not going to be brought up. He wrestled with the idea of how to interject his information without breaking Hadar’s protocol. Then one of the Pharisees at the table gave a brief, rather simplistic updated report about Jesus, offering no conclusions or advice at the end. There was a brief pause, as the members seemed to be waiting for more.
Addi was surprised the report had not come from Nicodemas, as Hadar had personally assigned him to do the research. Nicodemas also remained silent and unemotional during the other messiah candidate reports. Addi resisted the urge to interject, but felt there was so much more being left out of the report. He shifted in his seat and looked around the room for some insight on how he should continue. He had not signaled his desire to speak, when Hadar took notice and looked at Addi.
“Is there something you wish to add, Addi?” Hadar asked in a kind and inviting voice, something he was not expecting.
“Yes, thank you for allowing me to speak.” Addi replied with a smile and nodded toward Hadar and then to the rest of the members. “I believe there is a great deal more information about this Jesus you might find valuable,” Addi waited for Hadar’s nod, his nonverbal signal to continue.
“I have received reports of miraculous healings, the driving out of evil spirits, and a growing following by the people to this Jesus of Nazareth.” Addi stated, waiting for a reaction of interest from those around the room, but surprisingly none came.
“Have you seen these miracles and spiritual events with your own eyes?” Hadar asked. Addi did not want to give away how he had hired Cleopas, so he just shook his head.
“No, I have not,” Addi replied.
“Then how did you come upon this valuable information?” Hadar asked incredulously, looking around the room. “Perhaps it’s something you heard from your gardener, or housekeeper, or herdsman?” Hadar mocked as he pressed the issue, obviously trying to embarrass him.
Addi saw several of the Pharisee members smile at Hadar’s deliberate sarcastic question, suddenly realizing he had been setup for this very moment. Hadar somehow knew he had hired outside talent to learn more about Jesus. What was more important, he had done this without the consent of the group. Addi knew this was Hadar’s revenge for the leadership embarrassment about four months ago. The issue he was now wrestling with was whether to fight this out here, or let it pass. Not knowing what other informational weapons Hadar was secretly waiting to use, Addi chose the latter approach and remained silent. This apparently was not what Hadar expected. Addi’s response of silence seemed to enrage him.
Hadar unclenched his fist and seemed to collect his composure as those in the room sat silently.
“In spite of your lack of belief in this group, I can assure you that unlike your actions, we did not just send someone to look into this possible Messiah. We went personally to meet with him and to learn first hand about these miracles that you have only heard about.” Hadar took a breath as he continued attempting to stare Addi down.
“He has proven to be of the same misguided quality and caliber as John the Baptist. In fact, if you were to have taken the time to investigate personally you would have learned that they are related and were working together to deliver their traveling road show to all of Israel in an attempt to bring them the power and influence they desire. You should be happy that we were able to stop at least half of this misguided pair before more damage was done,” Hadar let the words sink in a moment before continuing.
“The miracles are questionable and the fact that many of them were performed on the Sabbath, something that even you are aware is unlawful to do, only provide further proof that he is not the Messiah,”1 Hadar stated, much calmer. “Perhaps in the future Zuriel, you should spend our valuable resources on something that does not repeat our efforts?” Hadar paused, still staring at Addi as if daring him to say something. There were several mumbles of agreement from those around the table. The only satisfaction Addi had from this tongue-lashing was he had mistakenly been called by his father’s name.
Addi could accept a rebuke when it was deserved, but there was a difference between a corrective rebuke and a vengeful attack, which this one had turned into. There comes a time when a dog either cowers in fear of his master the rest of his life, or he turns and bites him. Addi felt he had reached that point and began weighing his options waiting for the next round of verbal beatings. If he were to quit the Pesachya group, he knew within a few months, perhaps longer within some areas of his organization, that eventually Hadar would use his influence and position to undermine and eventually destroy Addi’s good reputation and business relationships. A subtle word here, a comment there to the right officials and the walls would begin to crumble. He felt he would personally survive the collapse, but he knew his dream would not if he were to pursue it alone. Although he had become a crucial piece to this group’s plan, he also knew no one was indispensable.
Once he caught his breath, Hadar leaned forward while shaking his head pointing his finger at Addi in preparation for his next assault.
“Enough!” A voice interjected loudly, halting the imminent attack, everyone turned to look at the source. Joseph met Hadar’s burning stare and continued before he could respond.
“Your point has been made, not only to Addi, but to everyone. Any attempt to pound away at it further will not only destroy the person, but the entire group.” Joseph stated calmly motioning his hands around the room. “This group is made up of individuals who were selected because they have taken personal initiative to create something amazing. Men who have committed their talents, their very lives, to benefit this group as a whole. If you destroy that valuable characteristic within each member, then you ultimately destroy what has made this group so successful.”
“We cannot have individuals going against the authority of the leaders!” Hadar almost hissed as he continued to point his finger at Addi while looking at Joseph. Joseph shrugged with a mock-confused expression and opened his hands.
“What leaders? The personal vow of membership we all took before joining this group clearly states, we are all equal members. We live or die together as members in pursuit of the dream we have as a group, not the dream of an individual.”
“I have been appointed to lead this group to its successful conclusion...” Hadar began.
“By whom?” Joseph interrupted Hadar. “You assumed the ‘facilitator’ role for the group 27 years ago, not by vote, but out of need and respect for your position as a priest of God. From what I have seen and heard the past 12 years of my membership, you have done a wonderful job as facilitator to hold this group of dreamers together. However, from what I have also read and heard from prior members, the facilitator role that we currently have is not what it was originally intended to be. It has become an organization whose members no longer feel they can freely speak their minds, or share their concerns, or even take their own initiative without the fear of a leadership structure that should not even exist,” Joseph expressed to Hadar and the group in a gentle but firm voice.
“How dare you accuse this group of such abuse!” Hadar shouted, but Joseph interjected before Hadar could continue with his next rant.
“It is not the group that is being accused here Hadar. Look at the members sitting at this table,” Joseph motioned with his hand. “When I joined 12 years ago there was a balance of 20 men from all areas of experience that sat around this table, men who by faith and deed had clearly earned their place at it. Back then there were five members of the Pharisees, five Sanhedrin, and the remaining were businessmen, former soldiers, and men of unique knowledge and skills. Now look at it. I see seventeen Pharisee priests sitting at this table, two Sanhedrin and a lone businessman who was recently appointed by you alone, I might add, to take the place of a young man who simply voiced his opinion,” Joseph paused looking toward Addi then back to the group. “We are no longer a group that is built on accessing all of our talents and abilities to achieve our goals; instead we have become a group of “yes men” that out of fear only follows the narrow desires of a select group. We should be a group of men who are committed to working together for one goal, a group who has the faith and trust in not only each other, but in knowing and allowing God’s will to be achieved, even if it’s contrary to their own. Hadar, the only true leader of this group will be the Messiah when he comes,” Joseph stated.
“Assuming we don’t kill him by accident when he arrives,” a voice interjected from behind Hadar, a comment further aggravating him. There was a growing murmur from the other thirty members sitting away from the main table where Joseph sat. The tone of the meeting was changing quickly. There was a growing freedom of expression, maybe even on the edge of a revolt.
Addi knew if any member of the group had the power and position to challenge Hadar, it was Joseph. Not only did the other members know it, Hadar also knew it. The sixteen other Pharisee members at the table sat silently as they waited for Hadar to respond, his face changing from burning rage following his most recent outburst, to one of composure. He then allowed a smile to cross his face before responding.
“Joseph, although I don’t agree with your assessment of this group as a whole, or of those sitting at this table, I will take your suggestions under consideration and prayer, making it a point of discussion at our next meeting.” Hadar replied, motioning the meeting should be concluded, but Joseph interjected.
“No, Hadar, the members of this group will take this into consideration this very evening and decide how we will proceed from here forward. This misunderstanding of the facilitator role needs to be corrected tonight,” Joseph replied. The mumbling and nodding of agreement increased by those sitting outside the circle. Addi could see Hadar’s temporary composure was quickly fading, as the mumbling grew louder.
“You would be willing to undermine and destroy all the achievements of this group in defense of one young man’s rash and dangerous actions?” Hadar asked in mock amazement. But Joseph shook his head.
“I’m willing to put my own reputation and role in this group at risk in order to save it as a whole from destruction. But the real question is, 'are you?' Addi’s action to learn more about a potential Messiah was not rash; it is the very purpose and goal of this group. You clearly acted to investigate this Jesus without the approval of the group, yet we are not bringing you before the group for discipline or censure. What is ‘rash and dangerous’ is when someone out of pride and revenge decides to destroy a man who was doing his best to proclaim the coming of God’s Kingdom,” Joseph stated.
At first Addi thought he was talking about him, but then realized he meant John the Baptist. He wondered who else at the table knew about Hadar's subtle release of information to the Herodians.
“You are right about this moment though, Hadar. We stand at a very dangerous place and time. One wrong step, one independent action, and the unity of this group will cease and the dream we all have for our people will crumble with it. In time and with God’s will, another such group will rise again as God’s will moves through it, but the choices you make from here forward will determine our fate,” Joseph ended, his hands folded together and waited for Hadar’s response - as did the other forty-eight members of the Pesachya group.
As silence filled the room, Addi watched the Pharisees at the table continue to avoid looking at Hadar, while the members sitting away from the table were looking directly at the priest. He knew Joseph had taken a huge risk standing up to Hadar, but at the same time he knew it was what everyone felt inside, but were too afraid to say. Joseph was right. The Pesachya membership vow which was required by every new member never mentioned the group was to follow a designated leader, but a collective of members with one goal.
He remembered asking Joseph, who was his appointed mentor was when he joined the group, about the twenty “table” members and their significance. Joseph smiled, saying the twenty-member table was never intended to be special or a more powerful group; it was simply the largest table they had. The original group formed fifty-seven years ago could fit easily around it. As the group grew beyond the twenty, it became more difficult to organize and direct their meetings. One of Hadar’s first goals when appointed facilitator, was to create and appoint a “mentor” group of twenty members helping to simplify and facilitate the meetings and train new members. If anyone had a concern or topic to be considered by the group, he was asked to speak with one of the mentors for advice. If they felt it was warranted, or they did not have an answer, they would present your request for discussion. It was a great system to learn about the group without consuming valuable time during the meeting. It was a much-needed addition, but Joseph was right. A gradual organizational change had occurred the last few years with the appointing of more and more Pharisees, changing the dynamics and control of the group, growing increasingly more difficult for new ideas to be presented that were contrary to the group, or more specifically, to Hadar.
“What is it that you would suggest that would correct this perceived imbalance?” Hadar suddenly asked, breaking the silence and Addi’s thoughts.
It was Joseph’s turn to be caught off guard, apparently expecting a different response from Hadar. Addi realized that Hadar wanted to avoid presenting ideas that could be potentially refused by the group. The opportunity had presented itself and Joseph took advantage of it.
“I think having a willingness to explore options is the most important response that we all should have,” Joseph replied. “To get started, why don’t I share with you what others have shared with me?”
For the next two hours, the discussions transitioned from personal frustrations and hurt, to effective processes. Joseph was an expert facilitator, and many of those outside the circle demanded he be appointed the new facilitator, but he wisely refused to avoid further embittering Hadar. Being the initial catalyst that started this restructuring, Addi remained silent throughout the whole process. Their final decision was to return to their original structure started by Hadar twenty-seven years ago. They would gradually replace the twelve extra Pharisees at the table with the original balance of membership. They agreed to replace two tonight and five at each successive meeting. Addi was immediately reappointed.
When the more vocal non-table members of the group demanded his reinstatement at the table, Addi could see through Hadar’s smile and nod of acceptance; knowing whether he sat at the table or not, he would never have his support. If anything, his presence at the table would be a constant reminder of this night. He knew his life would get far more complicated because of it.
As the meeting concluded, there was a renewed energy in the room, even among some of the Pharisee members, something most did not reali