Harold’s Easter
A Children's Story based on
Matthew 21:1-17, 28:1-10
(c) Copyright 2004 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Harold had never been so angry and then so happy before. How the last few days had disturbed him, frightened him and then given him hope again.

It all started a week ago. Harold and his wife Rose were taking care of the children high on their perch in a palm tree overlooking the road from Bethphage to Jerusalem. The kids were always hungry as young doves are, and feeding them was a full time task. Harold with his beautiful white feathers and Rose with her dash of pink on her breast and fan tail found this a full time job, taking care of the kids. The day was filled with hard work, but doves that are feeding their hungry children are happy doves. Last Sunday started out happy.

But then the crowd came. Running to the base of their tree, with knives in their hands, young men climbed the tree and started hacking off Palm branches. And as each Palm branch fell, the young men with their knives came closer and closer to Harold and Rose’s home, their nest, and their chirping little helpless children. Rose screamed. Harold flew and dive bombed at the young men, hitting them with his wings as he flew by, trying to distract their attention from the nest. He would be willing to give his life for his wife and children. As the men came closer to the top of the Palm tree, Rose’s scream seemed to flare her few pink feathers red. With all the screaming and commotion, the children, no matter how hungry they were had fallen silent. It was when the young men started getting to the smaller palm branches at the top of the tree close to the nest that they finally stopped, shimmed down and went to the next tree.

It was after the young men descended that they saw the procession coming down the road. Harold was confused and fuming with anger as he saw the procession. People were taking palm branches and laying them down on the road in front of this man riding on a donkey. Can you imagine having somebody come and almost totally destroy your house just so they would have something soft for a donkey to walk on? Harold was angry. He complained loudly. But his voice was drowned out by the sounds of people calling out

Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”

Harold and Rose got a good look at the man on the donkey. They wondered what was up with this crowd. But once the crowd had passed, they went to repairing the damage to their home. And when Harold and Rose thought they once again had their home safe, they noticed how hard the children were complaining. They hadn’t been fed for two hours. Harold and Rose were hungry too.
Harold said to Rose, “ Go to the temple. There is usually some food on the ground there left over from the goats or the cows. Maybe there are some pieces of bread left over. Harold knew Rose was hungry, the kids were hungry and they needed some food quick. The temple was one of the best places to get free food. Rose flew off. Harold, his stomach grumbling, watched his complaining hungry kids.

Rose flew as fast as she could. She arrived at the big stone temple with its high walls. Hundreds of people were there. Cows, goats, sheep were everywhere. There would be lots of food on the ground for her. She swooped down toward the ground and as she did, she noticed to the side a table where no other animal was, and it had some small pieces of bread on it. “Quick food!” she thought and she turned to the table and started swallowing pieces of bread whole as quickly as she could.

Suddenly “Swo-o-osh,” a net fell over her head and pinned her to the table. She tried flapping her wings and fly away but the net kept her tied down. The hands of a young man in long robes came and grabbed her as he said;

“Ah, you will sell for more than a few pennies, you’re beautiful!” With that the young man put her in a cage and started yelling out “Sacrificial doves for sale!” She was going to be sold for a sacrifice. Once again, terrified, Rose screamed as loud as she could. But Harold was too far away to hear her, and the noise of the crowd certainly drowned her out.

Harold meanwhile sat at home, keeping the children warm and safe. Time went by. Harold waited. He waited. He waited...
“This is taking way to long!” he said to himself. His heart started worrying. “Why is Rose taking so long?” He waited a little longer. The kids complaining was getting worse. “What should I do?” he wondered. “Should I leave the kids home alone by themselves and go look for her? Or should I stay and wait?” (What do you think he should do?)

Finally he could wait no longer. He told the kids to be quiet (although he knew that would not work long) and he decided to go find Rose or at least go get food himself so that he could feed the kids.

Harold flew too the temple, over its high walls, he swooped down toward the busy crowd when he heard the voice of the young priest calling out “Sacrificial doves for sale?” In horror he looked and there was Rose, his beautiful Rose with her pink highlights, stuck in a cage to be sold to anyone who was willing to pay for her! Again, Harold dive bombed at the young man, then the cage, trying anything to encourage Rose, anything that might set her free, but he was powerless to open the cage and now the young man was after him too. Up he flew to the top of the wall of the temple to watch, pray, beg that she be set free from her cage. He watched. Some people came by, admired her beauty, but then walked on, unwilling to pay that high a price for a dove. He watched, he worried, he fretted, pacing back and forth on the temple wall.

Outside the temple wall, he heard the sound that had made him so angry before. “Hosanna!” Everything was going wrong today. He felt this could not be good. The man whom he had seen earlier riding the donkey came into the temple and looked around. Suddenly he pulled out a whip and he started snapping the whip in every direction. Soon cows and goats and sheep were running in panic all over the place, knocking over tables, money was rolling across the temple floor, people were scattering in all directions. Priests were yelling. Everything was chaos and becoming a big mess. Harold did not know what to make of it. But then he noticed that the dove table had been tipped over, cages fell to the floor, some of them broke, including Rose’s cage. And suddenly Rose was free flying as fast as she could to where Harold was on the top of the temple wall. They didn’t stay to watch what happened next. The man who had ridden that donkey had set them free, now they had to return home to take care of the kids as quickly as they could.

The next days seemed to go by quickly. Harold was anxious. Taking care of the kids was an important job, but he wanted, in any way he could, to say thank you to the man with the whip who had ridden that donkey. A few times he flew to the temple to watch what was going on. One time he saw important looking people questioning this man. The man didn’t look very good. He followed the crowd and the man. They whipped him mercilessly. It must have been punishment for what he did in the temple he thought to himself. But he was so thankful. He just hardly dared come near. He followed the crowd to a politicians home. There he heard the crowd yell, “Crucify him, Crucify him!” He couldn’t stop it. He couldn’t do anything but fret, pace, complain. But the crowd did not hear him.

Harold watched. He flew from house to house as the man who set Rose free carried a heavy wooden beam on his shoulders and then was finally led up a hill by many soldiers. Then he watched, he cried, like only doves can cry, as he watched them crucify him. Harold did not understand. When it was all over, he watched them carry his body carefully to a grave. It was over. It was dark. Everything was wrong.

Harold flew home. He had neglected Rose and the kids long enough. Rose started complaining about how long he had been gone, but then she noticed the tears in his eyes. She said: “What’s wrong Harold?”

Harold told her what happened, how the man with the whip had been mistreated, how they had crucified him, how he had died. Harold said “Its almost as if he died in your place dear.” Instead of Rose being a sacrifice, it was like he was the temple sacrifice. Rose became very quiet. Someone died in her place. That was hard to understand! Part of her was sad, and part of her was very happy that she could be home with the kids.

The children, fed and happy were sleeping, nodding their heads as they sat in the nest, in a little while they would be awake again, hungry as usual. Harold took every opportunity he could to fly to that spot where they buried this donkey riding whip wielding crucified man. If only there was a way he could say thank you. But it was too late.

It was early Sunday morning. Still dark. Harold flew once again to the tomb where they laid his body. As he was flying, he saw a flash in the distance, like lightening. He heard the earth rumble. By the time he got there, he noticed that the big round stone had been rolled away. The grave was open. A small crowd of women came to the grave. They were crying, but when they saw the grave open and some went in, in no time they were jumping for joy and running back towards their home yelling out “He’s alive!” Something really exciting had happened. As Harold watched, even his heart started beating faster even though he did not understand.

But then in the garden by the tomb he saw a man standing talking to a women who was bowing at his feet. And then Harold recognized him. It was the same man who had been on the donkey! It was the same man who had been whipped. It was the same man that had died on the cross. It was the same man that they had buried in the tomb. Harold watched in amazement. He had never seen this before. A man once dead, now alive again. Like the people who had gone into the tomb, he too was very excited.

In an instant Harold knew. Now was his chance! Now was his chance to say thank you to the man who was crucified. But how could he? He looked around himself hoping to find some way to get this man’s attention, anything to let him know how thankful he was. There was only one way. Harold, from his perch in a tree pulled a twig off of the tree, it wasn’t a Palm branch, but then again, a dove could not carry a palm branch, this was one his size. He picked it up, and flew toward the man landing right in front of him. He bowed his head, placed the branch at his feet as if he was bowing before a king. This was his way of saying “Hosanna.” As Harold looked up, he noticed the king gently step forward. The King stepped on the small branch as he looked at the tiny little dove close to his toes. The Man understood that Harold meant to say “Thank you.” And by gently stepping on the branch, the King was saying to him “You’re welcome!”

Scripture Passages on which this story is based
Matthew 21:1-17, 28:1-10 NIV
The Triumphal Entry
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to the Daughter of Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
12 Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, ”‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’”
14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
”‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”
17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

The Resurrection
28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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