Shouting Stones

Luke 19:28-40 
Palm Sunday
24 March 2013
Elizabeth M. Deibert                    

Eternal God,whose word silences the shouts of the mighty:
Quiet within us every voice but your own. Speak to us through your Holy Spirit that we may receive grace to show Christ's love in lives given to your service. Amen.

All four Gospels record the story of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. You know what is unique about Luke’s story?   The promise of talking rocks.  It is a detail that has fascinated me from the first time I ever noticed it. The good news about Jesus must get out one way or another.  What a challenge to the know-it-all Pharisees. “If the disciples won’t proclaim Jesus’ Lordship, the stones will.”   Stones don’t cry out just for anybody.    I could pinch this stone and try to get it to speak for me.    I could drop it on the ground or pound it against the other rocks, but you know, I doubt I’m going to get any of them to say “You are blessed.”   But the guy who comes into Jerusalem is no mere human being.    He is the eternal Christ, the One whom John said was in the beginning with God.  This is the Creator of the heavens and the earth in human form, our Redeemer, our Sustainer, our Savior.   And what is about to happen in his death and resurrection, will forever changes the world.    So the trees will clap their hands.  The stones will shout.   The people, even the ones who did not really know him, will wave their branches and lay their cloaks on the road.   They are convinced he is a King.   They just don’t know what kind yet.    This is not the muscular, egotistical, macho, power-hungry King.   This is the God willing to give up everything to empower us, the sacrificial, willing to submit God, who shows us power in the form of weakness.  This is the God who gives birth to life itself by suffering unto death.   Let us hear the Gospel Lesson from Luke:

NRS Luke 19:28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he had
come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the
disciples, 30 saying, "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there
a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you
untying it?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it.'" 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"
34 They said, "The Lord needs it." 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!   Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!" 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop." 40 He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out." 41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!   But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

 I started following Jesus in Jericho, my hometown, about a week before he died.  You see, I had this horrible cheating tax collector living near me. Zacchaeus.  Everyone hated him. Short little Zacchaeus, who was never short when it came to money, because he took all of ours. But the day Jesus came to his house, everything changed. Zacchaeus paid us all back four times as much as he had stolen from us. I figured if Jesus could change horrible Zacchaeus then he was someone worth following. His teaching amazed me. His love compelled me. We traveled from Jericho to Jerusalem.

Some of his closest disciples said he should not enter Jerusalem.  They told him that there were people plotting to kill him. I thought Jesus might sneak in the dark of night, but he didn’t seem afraid, just deep in thought, heavy-hearted, and pensive.   He asked a couple of the men to secure a donkey for him. He rode into the city on that donkey, which of course, reminded all of us Jews of that verse from the prophet Zechariah, “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

So as he rode into the city along the path a king would take, we tossed down our
cloaks, some waved palm branches, and everyone began to celebrate all the
wonders we had seen our Lord perform. We got louder and louder, chanting,
“Blessed is the king” “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
People who didn’t know us started looking strangely at us. Some people joined in
the parade. Others frowned.   But we did not stop.
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven.”   Someone told me while we were chanting those words, that when Jesus was born, the angels said those very words to a group of shepherds, who found him with his parents in Bethlehem.  Someone said the angels sang, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven.”  He came into Jerusalem peacefully. All of us came peacefully. But the Pharisees were angry with us for chanting those words from Psalm 118 – “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” The Pharisees didn’t approve of anyone else’s authority in religious matters. I understand Jesus had challenged them on several occasions, and he did again that day.

They were our authorities.   Nobody challenged them. He had the audacity to say to them that if we didn’t cry out, the stones would shout.   After that he sat down and looked at the city and wept, saying “If you, even you , had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Then he went into the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things and accused them of robbery. All week long he taught in the temple. We hung on every word, but we could see how upset the chief priests and the scribes were getting. Every time the leaders and elders of the people would try to trap Jesus with a question, he would turn it around on them.  Not only did he beat them at their own game, but he spoke out against the scribes for their hypocrisy – for saying long prayers in public and not caring for the poor widows.   He was unlike any man I had ever known.   

I knew Jesus was really in trouble with the authorities when he started talking
about the temple and even the city of Jerusalem itself being destroyed. Yet he
spoke with such power I was convinced that he could overtake the temple and the city.    He could do it.   He would be our new king. We had longed for the true King, the descendant of David, who would restore peace to our land.   You could feel that long-for peace in your bones whenever you were around him.

Then Thursday night, the night of the Passover, everything changed. We went to a
large upper room, Jesus and the twelve were around the table. Others of us were
standing in the room.   He shared the bread and the wine as if he were giving his own body to us. He mentioned things about death and betrayal and denial, but we could not imagine it. Some of the twelve argued about who was greatest and Jesus declared that the greatest is the servant of all. Wow, that caught us by surprised because we were so caught up in his power, his authority. We were eager to serve him and be members of his council. I figured Peter and John would be on his right hand and left, in the positions of greatest power. But he seemed to be talking about a different kind of power.

We followed him out to the Mount of Olives but he went into the garden alone
with just two or three disciples close by. I think Jesus was upset. He was praying
and then they came to arrest him. Judas had given him away. Some of the
disciples resisted the soldiers but Jesus even healed the ear of one who came to
take him; Jesus was still teaching as he went but he went peacefully.   That night as I tried to sleep, I kept waking to an eery noise in the street. We were all silent.   

No one, not even Peter, who had always been ready to follow and to speak up, was daring to whisper “Blessed is the King” as we had just a few days before. We were scared – every one of us. We didn’t know what they were going to do with Jesus. Why was he not fighting against them? He could free himself if he wanted to, but he was taking their insults as if he deserved them. He did not deserve any such thing! I have never seen anyone so kind, so loving, so incredibly powerful and peaceful, so strong yet so submissive.  Surely no one would harm this man. Something about his humility reminded me of the suffering servant in the book of Isaiah, “He was despised and rejected...yet he did not open his mouth.”

But they were taking him away from us and threatening to kill him and I heard
Peter even deny that he knew Jesus. Peter, of all people! That’s when I knew I
must watch out. If Peter would not admit he knew Jesus, I wasn’t going to take
my chances.
I know you think we were cowards, but honestly, we did not know what would happen to us.   I’m not sure you comfortable 21st century people can understand this kind of danger, but you’ll take me at my word, “It was a night of terror.”  I kept waking that Thursday night to a strange noise in the street. I would get up and look around but no one was there.

And then I’d hear it again. In the silence of that dark, dark night, a low rumble was coming from the street. It was as if the stones themselves were crying out.   

Maybe there are times when you are quiet, when you are not sure what the future holds, when you think your dreams are dashed….But then you hear in the dark of night, you hear in the risk and worry of the moment, you hear the still small voice of the Spirit of Christ speaking to you, reassuring you of the truth.  

Do you hear it?   Do you hear that rumble.  Do you hear the stones?   If we do not say who he is, if we will not celebrate the goodness of the Triune God and announce who is the One who gave birth to all creation and came to save us, and promised never to leave us alone, then the truth will rise from the depths of the earth, the rocks cannot hold it in.   “Christ is the One who came …”