Addi sent the cancellation request to Cleopas three days after the meeting, detailing the information he received from Hadar including his reasons canceling, asking for his final bill for payment. Two weeks later the response he received was far from what he expected.
Using his coding process, Cleopas expressed regret and concern for Addi’s desire to cancel the assignment and felt there was a great deal left to be discovered about their subject. He explained the Pharisees were indeed actively pursuing and researching Jesus: however, their approach was not in the pursuit of knowledge and truth, but solely to discredit him to the people and trap him in his words and teachings. Something, from his perspective, the leaders had failed to do while his numbers of followers were growing steadily.1
Cleopas expressed Jesus’ teachings were profoundly different from that of the Pharisees and Sadducees who were also actively seeking further knowledge about him. This difference of teaching was causing a great deal of friction during their interactions and efforts to direct Jesus toward their goals. But Jesus would not bow to their will and, in fact, was even creating more turmoil within the Pharisee’s ranks.
Cleopas reported he and his team had yet to prove any of the healings or miracles to be false or staged. He had even found a way into the inner core of Jesus' leadership group to learn more of Jesus’ plans and goals.
To Addi’s surprise, Cleopas offered to change the structure of the agreement to continue the assignment. Instead of charging him if he was not the Messiah, he would only charge if Jesus proved to be the Messiah and even then, only if he established his kingdom. Addi smiled at the idea. It removed any financial risk to him if Jesus proved not to be the messiah, yet would allow the investigation to continue. Addi was already willing to give all he had to find the messiah, so this was a win-win for Addi no matter how it turned out.
The only thing giving him concern with this new arrangement was that it was highly uncharacteristic of Cleopas. Addi tried to grasp a hidden danger in agreeing to this “too good to be true’ offer. Either Cleopas felt there was more to this Jesus than what Hadar’s research uncovered, or there was something far more devious and dangerous going on behind the scenes than he could see or understand. What did Cleopas know or believed he had discovered? Addi wondered. As his closest friend, he trusted Cleopas, but he was also surprised that with all the talent involved on this assignment, he had missed the fact that John and Jesus were related.
Then it hit him, Cleopas was giving Addi a plausible deniability with the group. What Cleopas was stating was that he was going to continue with this assignment no matter what response Addi gave him, but it would remove Addi and his use of personal finances from the scrutiny and wrath of Hadar. It would also allow him to stay connected with the research and reports from Cleopas. Either Cleopas was a great friend, or a very shrewd businessman. Addi hoped he was both.
The very next week Cleopas’ early prediction for John the Baptist’s fate proved accurate. Herod had him killed on his birthday at the request of Herodias, his brother's wife, the very relationship John had challenged Herod to discontinue. The story from those present at the party was Herod, deeply under the influence of wine, vowed in front of the party guests he would grant Herodias’ daughter any wish she asked for, even up to half his kingdom after she danced quite seductively for him and his dinner guests. Prompted by Herodias, she asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Caught in his lustful vow, Herod sent the executioner to the prison, beheaded John and brought it back to her on a platter. She in turn gave it to her mother.2
What a tragic loss for the people of Israel and a horrible lesson of what to expect for someone telling the truth! Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near, was his simple and honest message that everyone needed to hear and follow, yet he was killed for telling the truth. If John was the other half of the false duo as Hadar had claimed, then Jesus of Nazareth would have a very difficult time continuing if he were to still succeed. There was a good chance the example that had been made of John would cause Jesus to withdraw, fade away in fear and not be heard from again. It will be interesting to hear from Cleopas how Jesus responded when he received the news of John.
Gavriel was greatly disappointed when Addi explained in broad general terms about the interaction he had with Hadar at the last meeting. Addi had casually added the information at the end of financial business agreement report Gavriel had given that needed Addi’s signature.
“You were a fool to go against Hadar’s wishes. You should have listened to my advice and remained silent.” Gavriel's statement came after an awkward silence as Addi felt Gavriel’s frustration with him during the report.
“I was only telling what I had discovered,” Addi replied in his defense.
“And how did that turn out for John the Baptist?” Gavriel replied sarcastically, but Addi didn’t respond. “Addi, if you keep taking the path of confrontation, you are going to make achieving our dreams very difficult, if not impossible,” Gavriel stated while tapping an area on the scroll that required Addi’s signature.
Addi looked across the table at Gavriel and thought about all the two of them had gone through in their quest to further build upon the net worth and strength of this enterprise. He was the most influential person in Addi’s life, and his most trusted confidant.
“What if he’s wrong?” Addi asked. At first Gavriel did not look up but stared at the paper before him.
“What if he is wrong? Is being right worth everything to you?” Gavriel asked, putting the quill back into the inkbottle on the table, leaning back in his chair. “Would you throw it all away just to prove him wrong?”
“We’re not talking about whether or not to enter into a business arrangement, or what food to eat for dinner, we’re talking about finding the Messiah!” Addi replied incredulously.
“And you feel you are better equipped to know who the Messiah is than Hadar, a man in line for the position of high priest of our people?” Gavriel responded in the same tone. “Hadar is a well studied and dedicated priest of God who has spent his whole life in this pursuit. Be careful that you don’t let your youthful pride and confidence undermine the role you are destined to play in this incredible adventure.”
Addi sat silently as he thought about what Gavriel said. Was his role as simple as that, a financial resource for the Pesachya organization and nothing more? Was he now someone who thought too highly of himself, his abilities and purpose within the group? Instead of the wheel that carried the wagon, he was only a spoke which could be easily replaced if cracked or broken anywhere along the journey. That idea and realization drained the energy from him.
“Perhaps you’re right,” was all Addi said in response. He signed the document in front of him and slid it back to Gavriel.
“Addi, we just need to focus our financial resources on preparing for the Messiah, not wasting them on searching for him.” Gavriel replied reaching over to prepare another document.
As Gavriel prepared the document, Addi thoughtfully considered his response. What exactly did Gavriel mean by that last statement? He could not be talking about Cleopas, because he had never mentioned hiring Cleopas to work for him, nor had any money been exchanged that would have shown up on any of their books or ledgers. The recent Pesachya meeting revealed Hadar obviously knew about ‘someone’ working for Addi, but how had Gavriel found out? A chill ran up his spine as he wondered if Hadar had already begun his subtle destruction spreading this dangerous information all over the city? Such information would definitely get the attention of the Romans, causing others to distance themselves from him also. Addi took a deep breath and exhaled. Gavriel was right. He was beginning to see more clearly how dangerous it was to take a stand against Hadar.
As the day progressed, Addi was able to direct his mind toward paying more attention listening as Gavriel presented the different business opportunities for them to pursue. He was right; it was his strength. Addi’s mind could work through the many challenges and possibilities of each opportunity. Within a short time, they would make a decision on whether to pursue it with full force and resources, remove it from their list, or continue with additional research and interaction. For Gavriel, it was all a political game of positioning Addi in places and events allowing him to interact with key individuals. Because of his youth, many of their targets were overconfident in their ability to negotiate a better deal, but Addi has been trained and prepared by the best there was. As a result, there was little he missed in a negotiation; but even when he did, Gavriel was right there to stand in the gap. They were a great team that relied on each other's strengths.
Their next target was a transportation family that owned and controlled many of the wagon and caravan routes along the western Mediterranean ports, routes that carried nearly 30% of the supplies to the Roman garrison in Judea. Since they already controlled the southern supply routes that brought 25% of their supplies, acquiring this organization, all their transportation sources and drivers, would secure the majority of the transportation contracts with Rome. It would also enable them to block most of the supplies the Romans would need to sustain their army when war broke out, or at least delay the arrival of the supplies. They would need to buy their new kingdom as much time as possible to organize their forces and defenses before a counter attack could be coordinated and supplied by Rome.
That was exactly what they would be doing with this purchase, ‘buying’ time. However, the price they were demanding, plus the transportation taxes Rome charged, would not produce a reliable profit for several years, if ever. They both knew such purchases would draw a great deal of attention from the Romans who would also be looking at the dangers of allowing such purchases to be made which could potentially affect their Empire. They would have to incorporate another business venture with this one to justify the need to acquire them and get Rome’s approval.
After several hours of discussion and the exchanging of ideas, they settled on one option. Addi asked Gavriel to schedule a meeting with the Governor to present a business plan granting Rome discounted transportation costs in exchange for a reduced tax rate to their operations. This arrangement would not provide them with a profitable enterprise the first few years, but it might be enough to hide their true intentions from any concerned Romans. Addi knew it could take months to arrange an audience with the Governor, but the time would allow them to work out the finer details of such an arrangement.
Gavriel’s whole demeanor had changed since their earlier discussion. He seemed more excited about not only the discussion and possibility of meeting with the Governor, but about everything. As Gavriel was leaving he stopped at the door and turned back toward Addi.
“Addi, preparing for the Messiah's kingdom is what 'you' were created to do. It’s what 'we' were created to do. Let's leave the politics of searching for the Messiah to others so we can see our dreams come true,” Gavriel said emphatically with a smile.
“I agree, my friend,” Addi said and returned the smile, nodding as he closed the door.
As he walked through his big empty house to the veranda, he thought about Gavriel’s comment and how frustrating things had become since he took a more active role in the search of the Messiah, instead of preparing for him. Watching the sun slowly drop below the horizon, he decided to stick to the preparation side and avoid the wrath of Hadar. A decision he managed to hold onto for nearly four weeks until the next report from Cleopas arrived.
Once again, the messenger from Cleopas would only deliver the rolled scroll to Addi in person. The guards approached Addi early in the morning while sitting on the veranda, deep in thought with his hot tea, and informed him of the messenger's arrival and request.
The man waited at the door for Addi, refusing the guards invitation to come in. When he saw Addi, he gave him the leather tube containing another scroll. Addi gave the man a silver denarius, the only coin he had, and thanked him for his insistence on delivering it in person. Nodding in response, he turned and left after putting the coin into his pocket without looking at it.
Addi tried to act calm as he walked back to the veranda, but inside he fought the childlike urge to run to the table, tear open the seal on the scroll to read what was inside. The outer facade of not caring about the search for the Messiah suddenly came crashing down as he sat at the table and stared at the leather case holding the scroll.
Why this excitement and nervousness? Addi thought as his heart beat faster in his chest. He tried to calm himself by taking another sip of tea and returning to the thoughts he was wrestling with on the veranda before the messenger's arrival, but all he could think about was the scroll and the information it held. Would it be a final report stating Jesus was not the Messiah, or would it be far worse, that he had been killed? Why did he even care? Since Jesus’ other half of the partnership was now dead, it really didn’t matter now. He had made the decision not to get involved with the search of the Messiah.
As he opened the top of the leather tube pulling out a scroll, he could feel it was another long one. The familiar wax seal, still in place, verified its sender was Cleopas. Breaking the seal and unrolling it, he was surprised to see there was another scroll inside. Addi recognized one was a report, but the other was titled the Sermon from the Mountainside.3 Sliding out the second scroll, he let it roll back onto itself and moved it to the side. Placing his teacup at the top right of the report scroll to hold it in place, he rolled it out and held it with his forearm.
As he began reading in the morning light, the simple, yet subtly coded greeting at the top doubly confirmed it was from Cleopas. Addi could tell the extra care chosen to fit their code as he talked about the assignment. As he continued reading, Addi felt a sense of relief when he saw that Jesus was still alive and seemed to be doing very well despite losing his cousin John. He was remaining in the Galilee area and still preaching that people should repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. The message to the people was far different from what would be expected by someone wanting to overthrow the Romans. He continued to heal the sick from diseases, paralysis and even leprosy and drove out demons from possessed people. Although Cleopas and his team had tried to discount such healings, they were either unable to, or it had proven to be true. Cleopas had personally witnessed some of these healings during his time following Jesus.
The report also said Jesus had apparently selected his core leadership team of the men he kept close to him, following him everywhere and rarely leaving his side. The former report and this one confirmed from the research Cleopas had done, these men were unschooled, ordinary men. None of them had the skills or training for leadership. Cleopas again emphasized this was his biggest concern if this man was the Messiah; the other was the message he was teaching.
Unlike other messiah candidates in the past, Jesus was not trying to stir up dissension or armed conflict against the Romans. In fact, his strongest challenges were directed at the religious leaders of Israel.He rarely hesitated to address them when invited by the Pharisees to explain his views and teachings in the synagogues. No matter how well versed in scripture and theology the various Pharisee and Sadducee teachers had been, they could not stand up to Jesus’ innate knowledge and insight of the Law and the Prophets. His message was about a personal or inner change for the people, not about the outer conditions they faced.
Addi looked up from the scroll and felt a growing interest from the information. Was Jesus just trying to avoid the wrath of the Roman’s by not preaching armed rebellion against them until the appropriate time, or did he truly believe a passive approach was going to work?
The example of an amazing lesson was one he heard Jesus teach from a mountainside where hundreds of people gathered at the base of it, yet his words were carried by the wind for all to hear. The message spoke of finding happiness in all circumstances and to respond righteously. Not just meeting the letter of the Law out of duty, but to go beyond it from the heart. Whether it was lessons on murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, loving your enemies, giving, prayer, fasting, idolatry, worrying, or judging others. It was the most challenging and inspiring teaching Cleopas had ever heard and had written it on a separate scroll. Addi glanced over at the other scroll sitting on the table and unrolled it. Longer than the report scroll, he could see within the first few lines Cleopas had not applied any of his coding methods. Although he planned to wait to read it, those first few lines were enough to catch his attention and he began reading the first section immediately.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”4
Addi looked up from the scroll and shook his head. Meekness, mourning, poor in spirit, merciful, peacemakers...This was not the message of a Messiah who wanted to drive out the Romans and establish his own kingdom, but of someone wanting to surrender to the occupation and embrace their rule. Cleopas saw something in this man he felt could be the potential messiah. Was it perhaps a mistranslation of the lesson Jesus preached?
“No,” Addi mumbled out loud, knowing from experience Cleopas had a mind and memory that missed nothing. He knew what he was reading was word for word the exact lesson Jesus had taught from the mountainside.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. Jesus’ message may merely be a ‘false front’ to avoid the wrath of the Romans long enough to collect followers and resources he needed. Once he had gathered them, he would change the direction of his message. Was Jesus that crafty in his thinking? If so, Addi needed to let Jesus know everything was ready for him.
Pulling his mind back from “guessing” what these intentions might be, he returned to what Jesus was saying in this sermon from the mountainside. He then spent the next thirty minutes reading some of the most eloquent, yet challenging words he had ever read. He knew Cleopas’ personality well enough to know he would never have written such words unless they were a word for word account of what he heard. Not that he felt Cleopas was incapable of it; he just could not stretch his mind far enough to imagine him doing so as a side note in the report. These were Jesus’ words and Cleopas was right when he said it was the most challenging, yet inspiring lesson he had ever heard. It was stunning in wisdom and depth for one sermon. He wished he had been there to hear it in person.
This was definitely not a lesson to stir up the Jewish people to cause an uprising against the Romans. Instead, it was a lesson designed to stir up the hearts of the people to rise up against their own sinful nature of complacency and mediocrity. It was not about trying to follow the letter of the Law to appear righteous from the outside; it was about an inner desire to exceed the letter of the Law to be righteous in God’s eyes. It felt so different from what he had known. It was far more challenging, but somehow it felt more liberating. He loved it and hated it at the same time, the latter when he saw his character displayed in the challenges Jesus expressed.
He re-rolled the scroll, treating it with far more care than when he had unrolled it. It was as if it was now one of his most prized and valuable possessions as he slid it back into the leather tube for safekeeping. He knew he would be reading this again and again, referencing it frequently.
As he continued reading the last part of the report, Cleopas wrote specifically about his concerns and observations; mainly, the Pharisees, although professing Jesus is not the Messiah, are very much involved in learning more about him. They were frequently sending leaders from Jerusalem and nearby synagogues to question Jesus. However, the questions they were bringing were rarely from a desire for learning, but instead of entrapment or to disqualify Jesus. Their repeated failures to do so were generating a growing bitterness with each encounter. Their only response, when confronted about Jesus’ miraculous healings and his ability to drive out demons: He is working through the prince of demons, Beelzebub, not through God."
Cleopas ended the report stating his reliable contact within Jesus’ inner circle was willing to share with him in greater detail Jesus’ plans and discussions. He hoped this inside information would provide what he needed to make a more accurate report on the direction Jesus was heading. He also suggested if Addi wanted a better understanding and overview from the Pharisees, he should speak with Nicodemus, whom Cleopas had witnessed meeting secretly with Jesus one evening.
As he finished reading the report, Addi rolled up the scroll and walked to the railing of the veranda. The late August sun was now above the horizon; it would be another hot day.
Addi knew Cleopas was not easily swayed by smooth talk or words, so finding his perspective in the report very surprising. He spent the next several hours wrestling with his thoughts and ideas on how to proceed with this information. He did not want to reopen old wounds with Hadar, but he felt Jesus was still a viable candidate. A candidate that was confused with the direction he was either heading, or was far cleverer than anyone gave him credit. He could visit Nicodemus to learn more about what he had gleaned from the man, but that would probably get back to Hadar and increase the tension between them.
His final decision was to remain silent and let Cleopas, who was right there with Jesus, continue to sort through the details. Addi knew he needed to focus on preparing for the Messiah. As he walked back from the veranda, his last thought on the matter was wondering how Cleopas had managed to break into Jesus’ inner circle and who his contact might be.
1 Matthew 12:24-39
2 Mark 6:21-28
3 Matthew 5, 6, & 7
4 Matthew 5:3-12