Did the Same People Shout “Hosanna” and “Crucify?”

This morning, I saw a question on the Holy Rev. Dr. Marty Duren’s Facebook asking:

Is there biblical evidence that those who cried ‘Hosanna’ on Palm Sunday were the ones who days later cried ‘crucify Him’?

Most in the discussion answered the question in the negative. They seemed to think that the group that praised Jesus at the Triumphal Entry was pretty much a different bunch than the ones who later that week screamed for Jesus’ blood. One commenter referenced an article on Challies.com (by guest blogger John Ensor) called “The Crowd Was Not Fickle.” He argues that “the crowd” in Matthew 27:20 was not the general populace of Jerusalem who celebrated Jesus, but the “the crowd of fellow elders, priests, scribes, and Pharisees that the narrative indicates had been gathering and assembling and moving about all night.” He makes a good argument in his article.

But I still don’t agree with his conclusions.

This is not a fundamental issue, by any stretch, but I think that the Matthew story is about how the crowds turned on Jesus.

It starts with the Triumphal Entry in Matthew 21:1-10, in which a large crowd follows Jesus as he treks from Jericho to Bethphage and then rides the donkey into Jerusalem. The crowd grows and Jerusalem is abuzz with anticipation as Jesus enters the city. They shout to him from Psalm 118:25-26, a passage with clear messianic implications. They hail him as Messiah.

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!  Matthew 21:9 (from Psalm 118:25-26)

The key to Jesus’ actions that day is not the cry of the crowds by the message of Zechariah which Matthew quotes.

“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” Matthew 21:5 (citing Zechariah 9:9

Behold, your king is coming! Jesus was entering Jerusalem and asserting his authority over Jerusalem. He was the rightful king. It was no ancient version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or some kind of publicity stunt. It was the king asserting his authority over his kingdom. The events of chapters 21-23 buttress this. Matthew 21 records the Triumphal Entry, and then immediately follows with the story of Jesus entering the temple and cleansing it.

Mt 21:12-13  And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

This was no twinge of temper. No, Jesus was asserting that this was the House of God, his own house if you will, and things that went on in that place would be done to please God and God alone. He was asserting his right to govern temple life.

Then, leaving Jerusalem, he saw a fig tree and cursed it.

Mt 21:19  And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

The fig tree represented Israel and was barren. The king was not happy with the fruit his kingdom was producing.

Then, over the next couple of chapters, he engages in a series of verbal battles with the religious leaders. The king demanded that his people listen to him, not even to their own teachers.

 Mt 23:2-3  The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.

But the end of Matthew 23 demonstrates that this is a single story, not a collection of stories. It started with the crowds saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” But now, Jesus claims that Jerusalem has rejected him.

Mt 23:37-39  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”

Do the words look familiar? Jerusalem will be desolate until they mean what they said at the Triumphal Entry.

What is happening here? According to Ensor, there is a split between the view of the crowds that loved Jesus and the view of the religious leaders who rejected him. His point is not altogether unreasonable, and both of us are drawing conjectures and reading between the lines of a narrative. But I think something else has happened.

There was a crowd of loyal followers who remained loyal to Jesus – those who accompanied him from Jericho and others. But there was an explosion of public sentiment alive with expectation that Jesus was the messiah for whom they had longed for centuries. Excitement bubbled over. But, like the disciples, who constantly thought Jesus’ kingdom was going to be political (fighting over who would sit at his right hand and at his left when he chased the Romans and set himself up as the Davidic King), the people of Jerusalem were expecting a bloody uprising. As they saw that Jesus was not the warrior king they had expected, enthusiasm waned. The religious leaders, whom Ensor believes comprised the crowd, were spreading lies about Jesus and slowly, public opinion turned. Many false messiahs had come and gone, leaving devastation in their wake.

By Matthew 27:20, public opinion in Jerusalem had turned on Jesus. He was no longer the promised one, but another charlatan come to deceive. He was not who they thought he would be. So, when offered Barabbas or Jesus, they chose Barabbas and called for Jesus’ blood.

I am not saying that all of the exact same people were shouting “Hosanna” one day and “Crucify” a few days later. But the point is the switch in public opinion. At the Triumphal Entry, Jerusalem rejoiced. But then Jesus failed their expectations. He had come to defeat sin and death, not Rome. His kingdom was in hearts, not on a throne (at least not yet). They began to reject Jesus as the campaign of lies by the religious leaders had its effect. Finally, by the time Jesus stood before Pilate, there had been a dramatic shift in public opinion.

I am not convinced by the idea that the crowds were completely separate. There were probably some who loved Jesus and stayed faithful and others who hated him from the start. But the way the story is told in Matthew leads me to the conclusion that “the crowds” who joined in the praise one day, also joined in the call for crucifixion a few days later, and even jeered him as he died.

Isn’t that kind of the way mobs act?

NOTE: This is a minor issue. I’m not going to fight with anyone about it. But that’s how I see it. 


  1. says

    Inclined to agree with you. Reminded of a book in which a painting of the crowd at the crucifixion shows people, supposedly, every viewer that he or she is there scorning the Savior. For fiction, no bad. We have all occupied the seat or stance of the scornful with reference to our Lord. Thank God, there comes another indication of submission, like Saul on the road to Damascus and Paul on the Appian Way. Praise God!

  2. says

    It also is a minor issue for me, but since I started it…

    My initial point was homiletical more than anything, regarding the oft used, “Same crowd saying ‘Hosanna’ on Sunday was the same crowd yelling ‘Crucify’ on Friday.” (Or whichever day.)

    I completely agree there was 1) likely overlap, 2) disappointment, 3) resentment, 4) and abandonment among the Palm Sunday crowd. No argument. I concede some of them were probably in the second crowd.

    Where I disagree is the assertion of fact to make a preaching point. We are not factually told in the epistles and it is absent from the narrative itself. We might as well say, “Some of the crowd who yelled crucify him were the same ones saved on Pentecost!” I cannot see any direct scriptural evidence for either one.

    It seems more textual to emphasize what seems very clear: the Pharisees and elders worked non-stop to see Jesus killed, including instigating the mob to demand Barabbas’ release at the festival. If we admit the fickle nature of crowds we should also admit that mob mentalities can happen in an instant with whoever happens to be standing around. (I think one thing supporting your argument, Dave, is the “Let his blood be on us and our children.” That seems a conscious statement.)

    On the other hand, I have to wonder who would be in that particular crowd anyway? This was an annual event, and Barrabas was the equivalent of a freedom fighter. That the crowd, incited by the religious leaders, wanted to overcome Pilate’s reluctance seems pretty obvious. They had to call for Jesus’ death to keep Pilate from changing his mind. I kinda doubt these were the children announcing Jesus in the temple with, “Hosanna, Son of David.”

    Again, not a crucial issue. All kidding aside this conversation has encouraged me to work through these texts again. That is a good thing.

    • says

      ” We might as well say, “Some of the crowd who yelled crucify him were the same ones saved on Pentecost!” I cannot see any direct scriptural evidence for either one.”

      I’ve actually presented that as a possible situation in a sermon. You see that situation, the “they were cut to the heart,” and realize: God’s grace is enough. Even for those who cried out “His blood be on us and all our children!”

      I like to think that some of those folks claimed that promise at Pentecost: that His blood would be on them, making them clean, and on their children.

    • says

      Again, when I preached it the point I made (or tried to make) was not about particular people but about the prevailing public opinion in Jerusalem. At the triumphal entry, the crowds received a Messiah they thought would free them from Rome. At the Crucifixion, the crowds rejected a Messiah they viewed as failed.

  3. says

    The Luke passage seems to offer the possibility there were two groups – disciples who hailed Jesus as king and the Pharisees who wanted Jesus to scold his disciples upon the entry into Jerusalem. It is here that Jesus says if they were silent the rocks would cry out. Which group, or was it the same, assailed Jesus at his crucifixion does indeed seem to be speculation.

    Maybe one of the issues is what is meant by crowd. I would contend there were at least 120 or so counted among Jesus’ disciples at the entry into Jerusalem. That may not be a large crowd, but no small group either. John already notes the number of disciples decreased after Jesus’ hard sayings after the feeding of the 5000 – “you must eat my flesh and drink my blood.”

    When Luke records those whom Pilate gathered to decide between Barrabas and Jesus he does not use disciples. He refers to the Chief Priests, Pharisees, and the people. But, people does not necessarily obtain to include disciples. We have long been told most fled.

    Jesus, and only in Luke, weeps over Jerusalem. Luke offers the Lament in Ch. 13, while Matthew gives it in Ch. 23. I think there is an interesting political move in Luke that sets apart Jesus’ polis, way of life, expressed in the disciples and Jerusalem that, as Green points out, serves as a cipher for Luke wherein it represents the political center, the social center, and the religious center so it is more than a geography. This would be distinct from the group following Jesus. This is another place where I think there may be a distinction between the crowd that shouted Hosana and the crowd that shouted Crucify.

    I too would not mark this worth a fight. Just my observations having followed the Luke text for this morning’s sermon.

    • Dave Miller says

      Todd, it is just speculation, but I think that what might have happened is that the crowd may have been as you described the 100-500 people who were followers of Christ and formed the basis of the church less than 2 months later.

      But, as these faithful folks entered Jerusalem, people were curious and got caught up in the excitement. It is these people whose opinions might have changed during the week.

      Again, speculation – on all sides I guess

      • Dee says

        And there were crowds arriving for the feasts…who had just heard of this new Messiah thinking they’d give him a chance to prove himself…cheer him on like your March team in basketball…then if no luck move on to another team…the Barabbas team. Bar…son…Abbas…father. Son of the father…his blood be on our heads and our children…we have some really interesting puns coming at us here!

      • says

        I would not discount that there were some who were swept up in the moment but I would not consider them disciples. Luke does an interesting thing in telling the story of Jesus, not just in this instance. In Luke 6:17 he describes the crowd as “a great company of disciples and a huge crowd of people.” For me, it seems odd that when the Pharisees hear the crowds shouting Hosanna they want Jesus to scold his disciples, not the crowd. And, that Jesus says if my disciples are quiet, not the crowd by inference of the text, the rocks would cry out.

        So, I do agree there may have been some who were swept up in the euphoric moment, but I would not, personally, count them among the disciples, at least the way Luke seems to distinguish groups as he tells the story.

        Maybe it is speculation – but, it seems there is room for a view that allows that the disciples were a faithful remnant among all “in Jerusalem” and the disenfranchised others who have no direct tie in except they would like Rome’s boot removed from their neck became the disillusioned when they missed Jesus’ mission. They may be the group that participated in both events – Hosannas and Crucify.

        I am not inclined to think that Peter would have included the disciples, faithful, in his, “this Jesus whom you killed.”

        It sure is better to see some carrying on with a subject that does not devolve into, “you are a liberal,” here on Voices.

        Thanks for your good work here, Dave. And, I should say your post is well done, even if I may speculate differently.

  4. says

    Good points all the way around. While it is a rather impossibility to have the exact same crowd twice, I also believe it was essentially the same crowd.

    Also, I believe that Acts 2 strengthens that case. When Peter is addressing the large crowd at Pentecost, he accusing them of being the ones who crucified and killed Jesus by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23)

    Looking at the crowd these three times we learn that (some points from this morning’s message):
    1. An enthusiastic reception of Jesus does not necessarily indicate a faith-filled reception of Jesus. [The crowd praised Christ largely for who they wanted Him to be and not who He was.]
    and 2. A total rejection of Jesus [handing Him over for Roman crucifixion] need not be a final rejection of Jesus. [Redemption is offered for all sinners.]

    • says


      Great post. I am with you and really like Pastor Bill’s 1 and 2 above.

      May the message He is risen embolden and empower us all to go and tell the story that Jesus is alive and because He lives we can live for Him today and with Him forever IF WE WILL BELIEVE AND REPENT AND TRUST JESUS’ FINISHED WORK ON THE CROSS ON OUR BEHALF.


  5. Christiane says

    The Gospel of St. John 12:12-19 provides some clarification, particularly about crowds that had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast ‘went forth to meet Him’,
    but they were looking for the return of a Davidic King, a Messiah who would defeat the Romans and restore power to Israel. So, when they were disappointed, they turned on Our Lord.
    They did not understand that He was a much greater King than the one they hoped for, and that His enemy was not the Romans, but satan and evil, whom He conquered on the Cross later that week.

    I think the crowd that came out from the city to greet Him was the same one that turned on Him later.

    (from the Gospel of St. John):
    12:12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 12:13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.

    12:14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, 12:15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.

    12:16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.

    12:17 The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.

    12:18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.

    12:19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him. “

  6. says

    I was involved in Marty’s original Facebook thread and was one who tended to think that there was a connection between the two crowds at least when you consider the context and that we are dealing with just one story and not a bunch of disjointed, unrelated stories. It seems that there is a contrast between the behavior of the crowds and that it is there for a reason.

    I have been reading Kenneth Bailey “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes” and it has helped me look for some of these similarities and contrasts in the text and ask if they are not there for some reason that goes beyond what the text explicitly says – in other words, is the structure and WAY that the text was written also a conveyor of Biblical truth that should be considered. He doesn’t address this issue particularly, but it got me thinking beyond what was said explicitly to wonder why some things were said the way they were and why some things were included. This contrast of the crowds during Holy Weeks seems like it could be one of those things, but I would have to do a lot more study on it.

    At any rate, Marty raised a really good question and it was one that caused me to reframe some of what I was saying this morning. I do think that there was likely some overlap between the crowds, but as with any crowd, there were other forces involved. We even see that the priests were not monolithic and many priests were coming to follow Jesus. Also, I think that we sometimes think that the events of Jesus’ life involved a small number of people at given times. I think that the whole city would have known what was going on throughout the entire thing, including the trial. Word would have spread fast, “they arrested the Teacher who came into the city on Sunday.” We see this from the two travelers on the Road to Emmaus who, when speaking with Jesus, were amazed at the thought that he might not have known what happened.

    Anyway, it is a great discussion and it was a great question.

  7. troysko says

    R. T. France in the NICNT (if I remember correctly) argues persuasively that the “hosanna” crowd was probably not the same as the “crucify him” crowd. Jesus would have arrived for the passover festival at the same time as a whole bunch of other Galilean pilgrims. Some of these were his disciples (19:2; 20:29; etc.). These Galileans made up the bulk of the hosanna crowd. There would have been tension anyways between the Galilean Jews and and the uppity Jerusalemites. The Jerusalemites did not join in the hosannas (21:10), and it was they (not the Galileans) who were complicit with the Jewish leaders in the crucifixion of Jesus.
    Does that make any sense?

    • says

      I’m glad someone mentioned France’s work on this question. I preached through the Matthew account last year on Palm Sunday and Easter and thought I don’t remember the details of the argument, he had me convinced that the Hosanna! crowd was primarily Galilean in its makeup with the later, Crucify! crowd was the home-town Jerusalem crowd.

      I wish I could remember all the details of why he came to that conclusion. If anyone’s interested, I can look back at my notes and the commentary. It seems to me that some of the argument came down to the contrast of Galilee vs. Jerusalem and thematic connections through the last half of the gospel.

  8. Dale Pugh says

    The way I approached it this morning follows the lines of your thinking. First, there is the joyful reception of one who appeared to be the King they expected. Second, there comes the jarring reality of the week that followed. Jesus didn’t bring God’s kingdom and didn’t fulfill the people’s expectations. Third, we’re left with the judgmental reaction. In contrast to “Hosanna!” We hear “Staurason auton!”–“Crucify Him!”
    While an exact representation of the first crowd seems unlikely, there seem to be larger groups than just a few disciples at His entrance into the city. And while the religious leaders were definitely leading out in the cries for His death, the crowds were whipped into a mob frenzy calling for Barabbas and Jesus’ execution. There is also to be considered the fact that crowds lined the streets as He was led to Calvary. There was no attempt to stop the execution by any of those present at His entrance to Jerusalem.

  9. says

    So where were those folks who shouted ‘Hosanna”, a week later? If they weren’t there shouting for crucifixion, they were apparently cowering at home. They weren’t there supporting Him. So even if they had’t turned on Him, they’d stopped supporting Him.

    I don’t see any reason to disbelieve that the same folks shouted praises and, a week later, derision. It makes sense that, now that He was in their midst, the crowd had changed their minds.

    • says


      Who was left there with Jesus at the cross. Basically, no one.

      Yes, John. But he was there pretty much because of Jesus’ mother.

    • says

      The simple fact seems to be we don’t know where they were or why. What we do know is the previous night was the Passover. The last time any in Jerusalem had seen them was the previous afternoon when Jesus was fine.

      His “trial” took place during the evening after the Passover meal when most of Jerusalem was asleep. Peter’s final denial was marked by the early morning rooster. Jesus was crucified, if I am not wrong, at 9:00AM. I’m no expert on 1st century morning routines, but one has to consider that many if not most of Jesus’ supporters had no idea what was happening during that time.

      • Dave Miller says

        We are all engaging in speculation. We can neither say authoritatively that the crowds were exactly the same, nor that they were completely different.

        I suspect that you had both Jesus-loyalists and Jesus-enemies. Then you also had the “undecideds” who swayed toward Jesus when the crowd formed at the Triumphal Entry and turned under the lies and pressure of the religious leaders that led to the crucifixion.

      • Christiane says

        Hi MARTY,
        is your observation (about who made up the crowd) of importance theologically ?

  10. Dave Miller says

    Just for the record, the ESV Study Bible note on Mt 27:20 agrees with my view. That ought to settle the discussion. (Except for Marty who is obligated to be an HCSB loyalist).

    • says

      More of a discussion. And I think it is refreshing to have an exchange of biblical ideas where no one is calling names. (Except for a couple I called Marty – he deserves it).

      • Dave Miller says

        I am somewhat amazed at the amount of discussion this raised. I said something on Marty’s FB yesterday, and he asked if I could support my point. I decided to respond with a post instead of a brief comment (using some of my sermon material, etc.).

        I thought it might get a few comments, but the interest in this has surprised me.

        And I love a good exegetical discussion such as this one.

  11. says

    Dave. Spot on. Waving palm branches was like waving the national flag. Jesus was not the Messiah they were expecting and when they realized it, they easily turned on him.

    Even today we can become upset when we are shown that God is not who we thought he was. We either must twist scripture to continue to believe a lie, deny God altogether, or change our thinking. And I’m not talking about any particular theological debate in particular. All I’m saying is that we just have a propensity toward this and it causes us problems if we don’t approach God’s revelation of himself with all due humility.

  12. Christiane says

    here’s a question:

    what would be the theological implications if the crowd was NOT ‘fickle’ ?

    I confess I have never heard this interpretation before, and I wondered what the theology or doctrinal concept for the theory is . . . people don’t change their perspective on biblical interpretative on a whim, there is usually some point they are trying to support by offering a new interpretation of what had been accepted in the past (not that I know this has happened in this case, but I wondered if something was behind it)

  13. Bart Barber says

    Whatever the roll call of the two crowds, I think that the connection between Judas Maccabeus’s reception into Jerusalem and the spectacle on Palm Sunday gives ample cause for one to be dubious about the sincerity of the crowd’s adulations.

  14. says

    Here’s a question that comes from a sermon, and perhaps some reading I’ve done a long time ago. Jewish synagogue education was quite successful, even among the common people. Wouldn’t the religious leaders, and a whole host of the people, have been aware that Daniel’s prophecy, and the calendar it contained, placed them in the “Messianic” age, and as a result, the triumphal entry would have clued them in to who Jesus was, and heightened their effort to turn public opinion in a different direction? A lot of the people were probably guessing as to how Daniel’s prophecy would be fulfilled, and maybe even were educated enough to have done the calculations, and know they were in the 69th week, or speculated that they were.

  15. Bill Mac says

    This happens in a lot of places in scripture, where we connect dots that aren’t necessarily connected. Like the one about it never raining before the Flood, or that Lucifer = Satan.

  16. Keith Price says

    Since we are all speculating, I will offer a bit of support for the two different crowds theory.

    John 18:28 has always bugged me. Jesus had already eaten the Passover with his disciples, then why would the Jewish leadership be afraid to enter Pilate’s house because they would be defiled and not be able to eat of the Passover? Several theories abound, based upon Jewish practices that had developed by the time of Jesus, here is one of them.

    In Numbers 28:16-28 the Lord instructs the nation of Israel that in addition to the Passover lamb, they should offer many other offerings during Passover including a goat for a sin offering. Originally these were all offered on the same day. When Josiah restored the Passover in 2 Chron 35, the number of animals offered for these additional sacrifices were so staggering that tradition holds that it took more than a day to offer all of the animals.

    By the time of Jesus these additional sacrifices were in a sense a “second Passover” offered on the second day. So on the 14th of the month they would offer their Passover lamb, go “home” and celebrate the Passover with family and friends. This is what Jesus did with his disciples. On the 15th of the month there would be all of the additional sacrifices including the goat for atonement or sin offering. This is what the chief priests would not want to miss participating in. By the way, in this scenario, Jesus was being crucified about the time the priests were offering the atoning sacrifice in the Temple.

    Since this was in many ways, a two day celebration, then throw in an approaching Sabbath, I think a lot of those good Jewish folks were at home preparing or resting. This is the reason the Jewish authorities arrested Jesus at this time. It would be easy to gather a partisan crowd as they pushed Jesus through a sham trial. “Did I mention that your job is at stake here?”

    Was the crowd all partisan? Probably not and the further we move through the crucifixion process the more the folks turned or at least became disenchanted.

    • says

      Unless I miss something, according to the way the Jews understand their day, with the day beginning at sundown, Jesus was crucified on Passover day. We might say he ate the Passover on Thursday, but he would have eaten it on Friday eve before the sun rose on Friday morning. So they would have all day Friday for the other Passover meals they added – on the same day.

      So there was Friday, which was a festival Sabbath, and Saturday, which was the weekly Sabbath. I’m not very familiar with the Mishna so I don’t know what distinctions the Jews make between different kinds of Sabbaths, but I do know that if they became ceremonially unclean by entering Pilate’s house they would be so until sundown on Friday.

  17. John Wylie says

    Hey Dave,

    I personally believe that they were different crowds rather than the same simply because well over a million people, according to scholars, would have entered Jerusalem that week to observe the Passover.

    But I do want to commend you very much on an aspect of your article that was completely refreshing and encouraging, namely your mention of Matthew 23:39. So many quote verse 38 and omit 39 and try to make the case that Israel has been permanently set aside. I think that at the second coming of Christ, a remnant in Israel will be prepared to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Your interpretation also fits in nicely with the book Zechariah. Thank you so much Dave.

    • Dave Miller says

      When I saw that quote in Mt 23:39, it occurred to me that chapters 21-23 are really one large story, with Jesus declaring his authority over Jerusalem in a variety of ways, Jerusalem rejecting and Jesus telling them, “until you mean it when you say ‘blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ this place will be barren and unblessed.”