Looking back on it, Addi did not understand why he had visited the temple mount area more frequently than normal the past month. He rarely purchased anything, but spent a great deal of time just wandering through the various sections. The excuse told his guards was that he wanted to rekindle relationships with the merchants who resold his goods and animals. But it wasn’t until he saw Nicodemas in his priestly robes and high white hat walking through the temple courts that he understood the real reason he was there.
Cutting short the conversation with a vendor, he excused himself and began casually following Nicodemas from a distance. As a priest and Pharisee leader, Nicodemas had his temple assistants with him, often positioning themselves between him and the people to avoid any direct contact making him unclean, requiring him to go through a more tedious ceremonial cleansing at the temple returned.
Although Addi’s own garb was less conspicuous, he knew his two bodyguards, both unaware he was trying to remain inconspicuous, could not be ignored. With the opportunity now at hand, Addi’s heart raced as he tried to think through what it was that he wanted to say to Nicodemas when he closed the distance between them. He would have to choose his words carefully to avoid them getting back to Hadar. While he was still working through his questions, he lost Nicodemas in the crowd. He first walked quickly to where he had last seen Nicodemas, but even then, he could not see the high white hat. He shifted to the next row of vendors in the covered Royal Porch, but could not see him. As he turned the corner looking down the opposite row, he came face to face with one of Nicodemas’ assistants.
“My lord, if possible, my master would like to request a private meeting with you?” Addi tried to overcome the embarrassment of being surprised by responding with a question that he already knew the answer to.
“Who is your master?” The assistant seemed unaffected by the response.
“The Priest of the temple, Nicodemas,” He replied. “He is waiting for you in a secluded alcove.” The assistant motioned with his hand the direction he should go. Addi nodded to his guards and then followed the assistant. They passed several rows of vendors as they drew closer to the southern wall of the Royal Porch where there was less lighting. As they turned a corner, Nicodemas’ other assistant was standing by a pillar and Addi could see Nicodemas standing in the darkness by the outer wall twenty feet behind. Addi ordered his guards to stand watch, completing the half circle the assistants had formed, allowing them to meet in private.
As he walked toward Nicodemas, he stepped away from the wall to greet Addi.
“Please excuse the intrusion to your business activities, but I have been looking for you,” Nicodemas said, his greeting catching Addi off guard.
“No apology needed. It is always good to see and speak with you. How can I be of assistance?” Addi replied. Nicodemas seemed to glance around a moment, then lowered his voice so only the two of them could hear.
“It’s about Jesus of Nazareth,” he said. Addi’s heart raced again as someone caught unaware. Was he being set up by Hadar, or was Nicodemas truly interested in sharing something in particular about the man?
“As you can imagine, I’m a little hesitant to discuss a topic that might reopen an old, self inflicted wound,” Addi said with a smile. “How can I be of assistance?” Nicodemas hesitated, choosing his words carefully before responding.
“I understand your caution discussing such a topic. I have the same concern bringing it up which is why I wanted to meet in private,” he replied. Addi could see Nicodemas was just as concerned, and perhaps had more to lose by having this discussion than he did. Addi smiled and nodded.
“What is it you want to ask me?” Addi asked.
“What additionally have you learned about him?” Nicodemas asked, not wanting to say Jesus’ name again. Warning alarms began sounding in Addi’s head at the question as he tried to find the safest way to respond. Nicodemas saw the concern and hesitance but continued. “Hadar knows you are still investigating the man, but I am no longer allowed to learn more about him in person,” he hesitated. “I only know about the efforts being made to stop him,” he ended. The fact Hadar still knew he was investigating Jesus was disconcerting, but he was interested in what he said.
“Why are you not allowed to learn more about him... in person,” Addi asked. “Did you meet with him?” he continued, already knowing the answer.
“Yes.” Nicodemas replied, but did not explain.
“What did you learn about the man during that meeting?” Addi asked, but Nicodemas seemed to battle how best to respond.
“I believe he is from God,” he replied, embarrassed by his response and surprising Addi. He remained silent a moment before finally replying.
“I spoke with him in person. I also saw him heal a man with leprosy and spoke with a man he healed whom I have known for nearly thirty years. This man’s legs had been bent and twisted since birth, yet now he can walk as you or I do. I watched him feed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish,” He looked away a bit, then back to Addi.
“Addi, there was more bread afterwards than before and everyone ate their fill,” he ended emphatically. Addi stood there in silence, trying to read deeper into Nicodemas’ facial expressions. He could see Nicodemas was a troubled man, torn between two positions. As he was about to respond, Nicodemas continued. “After my favorable report to Hadar, he sent priests to meet with Jesus in person but the encounters they had with him did not go well. Increasingly the people were listening and following Jesus’ words instead of what was being taught by the priestly order. This did not sit well with Hadar and he ordered Jesus to come to Jerusalem to explain himself, but he refused by saying that his time had not yet come. This proclamation worried Hadar greatly as it revealed Jesus did have plans to come to Jerusalem.”
Addi thought about the ramifications of such a statement. Was he trying to build an army of followers before coming to Jerusalem? After seeing what had happened to his cousin John, had Jesus realized that without the people behind him he would have the same ending? If he truly was coming to Jerusalem, what were his intentions? Was he coming to extract revenge or to claim his throne? Nicodemas interrupted his thoughts.
“Addi, he sees right through us and into our hearts. He answers our questions before we ask them; and his words...what he teaches is so profound, yet so challenging. The kingdom we desire is different from the one he professes. In his, you enter through a new spiritual birth of Water and Spirit that requires a person to make a physical and mental choice of either believing in him with all your heart, or not,” he ended looking down.1
“What did you choose?” Addi asked. Nicodemas seemed to shudder and shook his head.
“I didn’t,” he replied.
“If you truly believe he is from God, then why not?” Addi asked incredulously, as Nicodemas continued shaking his head.
“Because so few of my order believe,” he said and looked back up at Addi. “Like you, I tried to convince them, but they would not listen and now I am forbidden to see him again.”2 He took a deep breath and then exhaled it. “I hear their continual reports and claims that his healings are lies and his words are deceitful, yet I know in my heart that they are not. I fear my hope in him is failing and that I truly have been deceived as my brothers say. I guess I was hoping to hear something from you that might bring clarity,” his voice was almost pleading in the end.
Addi was stunned by the honesty and vulnerability of the man, yet at the same time surprised by his weak conviction. As a priest, if he truly believed Jesus was the messiah, then all these relationships or worldly attachments should mean nothing to him. He saw a deep sadness; a sadness he knew was brought on by regret. He had seen it in a friend who had loved a woman deeply, yet was too afraid to speak to her father for her hand in marriage. Instead of risking everything to claim his dream, he had settled for someone less than everything and now secretly confided he wished he had chosen differently.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know any more than what you have already discovered,” Addi replied. He could see Nicodemas was deeply disappointed. “But if I do, I’ll share it with you,” Addi added and smiled. Although his later statement seemed to encourage Nicodemas, there was still a sense of regret.
“Thank you Addi,” Nicodemas replied. “I’m sorry I did not speak up for you in the meeting. I feel like such a hypocrite by asking for your help.”
“It’s all right. I have the luxury of walking away from each meeting until the next one; you are around him every day.” Addi replied and Nicodemas nodded and turned to leave, but then turned back.
“Be careful Addi. He knows more about you than you think.” Addi was a little surprised, not by the warning itself, but by the fact that it came from an inside source. Addi nodded as Nicodemas turned away.
“You know it’s never too late to change a decision from hope to belief,” Addi said. Nicodemas stopped a moment without turning around, then kept walking, keeping whatever reply he had to himself.
Addi walked back to the brighter areas of the temple courts. His guards took up their previous positions without saying a word. With his formerly unrealized purpose now revealed and accomplished, he turned and headed toward home.
He remembered finding and reading a note his father had written and placed within his treasured copy of the scroll of Isaiah the prophet. A life filled with ‘regret’ is a sickness that never heals, that eats a man from the inside out, and the last thought he takes with him upon his death. He was not sure if those were his father's words, or words he had heard and repeated, but the note had been carefully placed within the valuable scroll, held in place by a drop of melted wax.
He always wondered what regret had been on his father’s mind when he wrote it. Was it an unwanted word spoken to his mother or to a former friend, or a horrible deed or sin he had committed? Addi knew he would never know the answer, but he still spent countless hours trying to solve the mystery. Reflecting on his father’s note, he applied the quote to his own life and tried to think of his own regrets.
At first, he felt like he had lived a life void of regrets, but then slowly the truth crept into his thoughts. Despite the many offers, suggestions and introductions from friends and acquaintances, he had purposely chosen not to pursue any marriage relationships. It was not that he did not desire female companionship and a deep loving relationship the way his father and mother had; he truly longed for it. Often after meeting a young woman of interest, he would wrestle for hours trying to convince himself it was the better course to take. Eventually he would overcome the desire and love for her, knowing that it would mean death to both them and their families if his purpose was discovered. He would resort back to the advice he was continually being offered by the priests in the Pesachya group, that he did not have the time to be distracted from achieving his goals by such worldly passions. He had learned that the best way to control his physical desires was to not even tempt himself with them. So, unless it was absolutely necessary, he did his best to avoid such encounters. He then thought about the young woman in the market he continually and purposely visited. Was it just a game he played to fulfill a need, or did he truly care for her?
“Once the Messiah returns and his kingdom is established, then you can focus on pursuing a wife,” they had told him. Perhaps that is why I want to find the messiah so badly, he thought to himself trying to smile, but then realized that his choice had cost him more than just a wife; it had given him a reputation socially. Invitations he received to important dinners and official functions were generally for two guests, but he would always come alone. As a result, dark rumors had developed as to the true nature of his convictions. One was that he preferred men over women. Another rumor was that he had been castrated by the intruders the night his father and mother had been murdered. These horrible rumors tore at his heart, but he knew that he could not respond truthfully without deadly consequences. Even the Romans and non-practicing Jews of the city had begun offering to discreetly provide him with male companions of ‘any age’ should he desire one. Although their assumptions and offers hurt him, he would decline politely, explaining he had no interest in such relationships. They would only smile and nod, yet their expressions failed to hide their lack of belief.
Addi knew the only way to destroy such rumors and bring about his desired personal freedom was to find the Messiah and establish his kingdom. Grasping that thought, he was even more determined to make sure it was ready for him when he came. In spite of Hadar’s views about Jesus, based on the perspectives of both Nicodemas and Cleopas, he could be the Messiah they have been looking for all along and worthy of more research.
Just the thought of opening that door again brought the image of Hadar to mind and the dangers of such a pursuit. Be careful Addi. He knows more about you than you think, Nicodemas had warned him. What did Hadar know about him that he was unaware of? He was struck by a sudden ‘inner fear’ that if he pursued such research he would be rebuked in front of the group again. As a result, he initially abandoned the idea, but then a quiet conviction began to grow in the back of his mind. The fact that he ‘feared’ anyone within the group was concerning. He knew there was a need for mutual respect, but even as Joseph had challenged Hadar, there should never be a fear. Addi knew from experience and training that if he was not careful to control his thoughts and feelings, ‘courage’ could quickly turn into anger and bitterness. In fact, it took him the entire walk home to regain control of the strong emotions and dark thoughts he had toward Hadar.
His final decision as he stepped back out onto the veranda of his family’s home was to travel to where Jesus was teaching to see and hear for himself whether this man was the prophesied Messiah or not. If so, he would carefully share the plans that they had waiting for him and convince him to return with him to Jerusalem to begin his reign as King. As he looked out over the city he tried to think of exactly how he was going to get close enough to do that, and then shook his head. What would I say? He wondered and then a growing concern ran through his mind. What if I’m wrong?
The thought of Hadar tearing him apart at the next Pesachya meeting for betraying the confidence of the group sent a feeling of dread through him and again his courage began to wane. Fear was a horrible disease and he thought of the command the Lord had repeated to Joshua three times as he prepared to lead the people of Israel across the Jordan into the Promised Land. Be strong and courageous!3
1 John 3:1-10
2 John 7:50-51
3 Deuteronomy 31:1-8