Easter Week: Turning on Jesus

Most of the people spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowd that went ahead of him and that followed him was shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Matthew 21:8-9

Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?” “He should be crucified!” they all said. Pilate asked, “Why? What has he done wrong?”But they began to shout loudly, “He should be crucified!” Matthew 27:22-23

He wasn’t certain whether he hated Jesus, pitied him, or felt betrayed by him. But hate is what boiled over as the man next to him shouted “Kill him! Hang him from a tree!” So, Alpheus raised his voice too, shouting to Pilate, who looked more confused than judicial, “Crucify him! We want his blood!”

Pilate was one of the Emperor Tiberius’ most sane prefects. Which is to say he limited his scorn for the Jews living in Jerusalem. But Passover week was always different. And this Passover week was turning riotous. Pilate was losing control of his city in a way Alpheus hadn’t seen in his 40 years selling fig cakes and oil to those making the pilgrimage.

And this Yeshua Nasraya was at the center of it all.

Jesus of Nazareth, now saying something to Pilate that Alpheus couldn’t discern through the noise and the distance. So he pushed closer.

“Crucify him!” Alpheus screamed again as he was jostled into a sobbing woman standing immediately to his right, who in turn lurched forward into the back of one of the heavily robed Pharisees. The man turned abruptly, peering at her in the same way you might try to chase a stray dog with your eyes.

The air smelled strangely like blood.

The Pharisee was staring at Alpheus now, but not looking at his face. Instead, he was staring a hole in his chest. It took a beat, but Alpheus followed the large man’s gaze to something on his coat, a stain Alpheus hadn’t noticed until now. It was a faint stain of dried mud, over his heart. As the crowd’s shouts drifted to the background, he saw the mark come into focus as a small print… a hoof print.

Alpheus looked back at the Pharisee who smiled snake-like.

A donkey’s hoof.

Alpheus was silent, slowly backing away, creating distance from the crowd, and from the memory.

A few days earlier (Or was it only yesterday?) Alpheus had joined a crowd of Christ-followers on a trip to meet Jesus, who many said was on his way into the city from Bethany for the Passover. Smaller crowds join and merged, traveling the caravan road from Jericho to Jerusalem, over the shoulder of the Mount of Olives.

Alpheus heard the distant shouts first. “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” Then he saw Jesus, the focus of what could only be described as a kingly procession. His disciples had cut down palm branches from the trees and gardens along the way and were now waving them or paving his path with them.

Alpheus saw Jesus now. Very clearly. He would later describe the King’s expression as one not of joy or pride, but a mixture of deep love and profound sadness. And that had broken Alpheus’ heart. He wasn’t certain what it meant, but he knew that Jesus truly was King of the Jews.

He had seen others lay their coats on the road in front of the procession, so Alpheus did the same, wishing he could do more.

He had heard that you could not see this great Prophet and not be moved.

Now Alpheus knew.

As the Lord’s parade closed on the city, Alpheus lowered his head. The young donkey passed, coats under foot. And Alpheus fell to his knees.

As you share this story with your small group or Sunday School class, here are some discussion questions to consider:

  • Are your feelings about Jesus ever altered by your circumstances?
  • What is it that caused the people to turn on Jesus? Some who praised him as triumphant also called for his crucifixion.
  • Why does it seem so important for the Gospel writers to describe the turning of the crowd when comparing the triumphal entry with Jesus’ trial? How could the same people praise his procession into Jerusalem AND his trek to Golgotha?
  • What do you do when you feel the way Alpheus must have felt when he realized what he was doing at Jesus’ trial?

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