“Commotion” comes to mind when I think of him. I can’t forget the first time I met him. I was in synagogue for the regular Sabbath service. Judit is an elderly widow who had a terribly deformed back. She went up to this visiting rabbi, pleading for help. Next thing, she was standing up straight for the first time in years! How was that possible?1
I saw more of him later, usually at a distance. I’m in good health and moderately successful, so I wasn’t following his progress because of any desperate needs of my own. It was more because I loved hearing him talk, loved watching the look on people’s faces when he relieved their pain, brought healing, gave them hope. Everything about him seemed amazing.
I didn’t have time or inclination to leave everything behind like his closest followers had done, but I was quite happy to see and hear him when our paths crossed. I expected he’d show up when I went to Jerusalem for Passover, and I wasn’t disappointed. There again was the commotion surrounding him as he rode into town. Caught up in the joyful atmosphere, I found myself waving palm branches along with the crowd. Perhaps he really was going to change our world! He was a thoroughly good man, and who knows, maybe he was even more than just another teacher? I’d heard that some were calling him the Messiah, the savior of our people.
But it was the next set of rumors a few days later that made my heart sink—they said he’d been arrested. When I heard he’d been brought before Pilate, I could hardly believe it. Condemned to death as a common criminal? Surely this couldn’t be true! What had he done to deserve this? Of course, I knew the temple leaders were jealous of his popularity and success, but that couldn’t be a good enough reason to turn him over to the Romans.
I couldn’t bear to go anywhere near the execution. It seemed so unjust. The more I thought about it, the less I could understand what had happened. He’d preached a message of love for God and fellowman; he’d gone around helping the helpless. He’d given up everything for the sake of others. When it came down to it, couldn’t God have intervened, done some sort of miracle to save him?
I wanted to talk about my confusion with some of his close followers, but I couldn’t find them. There was speculation that they were in hiding. And so I returned to my village, still dismayed. I knew there was no chance that Jesus would come wandering around our part of the country again, and I missed him. That wonderful teacher—I guess he had been just another teacher—was dead and buried.
Seven weeks later, I was back in Jerusalem for Shavuot—the festival celebrating the giving of the Law to Moses. I still wanted to discuss my questions with his followers, but remembering how they had vanished after his execution, I wasn’t hopeful.
Nothing seemed to have changed either in the city or with myself. I had been gloomy since Passover, and the city itself seemed to be under a shadow, as if feeling guilty that so many of its citizens had supported the execution of an innocent man.
There were crowds of people around, including lots of foreigners. That’s when I saw them again—and as could be expected, there was a commotion surrounding them. I was glad to see Jesus’ followers safe and sound—glad for their sakes, and also for my own, as it meant I could ask them about what had happened. But before I had a chance to get too close, one of the men began speaking. Loudly, clearly.
I could hardly believe my ears. I knew of course that Jesus had been killed—but according to Peter, he had been raised from the dead! I listened in wonder as he quoted and explained scriptures. He didn’t hold back in his criticism of the way the crowds had stood by when Jesus was crucified, but he offered a way of reconciliation: “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized … in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven.”2
He spoke at length, explaining and pleading with us to receive God’s gift. I didn’t get to talk with him or any of the others personally, but I didn’t need to. I opened my heart in prayer; I committed myself. Best thing I ever did! Now I’m working with the other believers to let others know that God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us, so that we could be saved.3
Yes, Jesus is still causing a commotion.