“I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Luke 19:40)
Some years ago, I remember being told of a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land, who had been shown a holy stone. “What is it?” they asked. “That”, said their guide, “is the stone that did not cry out when Jesus entered Jerusalem.” There are limits to credulity, of course, even in the world of Christian tourism. But perhaps something here can help us to reflect on today’s Gospel reading.
St. Luke’s account of the entry into Jerusalem is interesting because of what it does not include. There is no reference to palm branches, nor does he use the word “Hosanna”, a specifically Hebrew reference. Luke appears to adapt the quotation from Psalm 118.26: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Taken as a single verse, it was a standard greeting to any pilgrim going to the Temple in Jerusalem.
St. Luke’s words here direct us elsewhere in the psalm from which the crowds quote as Jesus enters Jerusalem:
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, it is marvelous in our eyes. . . Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!” (Psalm 118.22-23, 25)
For Christians, this is a foundational text in the understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus. We know stones do not cry out. I wonder what Jesus meant when he said that if the disciples should remain silent, the very stones would cry out. One thing is clear, that Jesus at that moment was riding down that mountain into the city of Jerusalem. It was an historic day when prophecies of the Old Testament were being fulfilled. People of Israel had waited for a long time for this moment.
For example, the Prophet Zechariah had foretold that Israel would see their King coming to them:
Rejoice, greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
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)
This was an hour for Zechariah, Isaiah, Daniel and the prophets who looked and which they longed to see. Jesus is telling his disciples if you remain silent to acknowledge this moment then “the stones would shout out” to proclaim to these great truths and to help the world to see God’s mighty acts of salvation and redemption and understand what God is doing.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the stones did not cry out because the people who greeted him did. They spoke the truth and shouted from the mountain tops:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
This is a week which literally changed the world. Jesus enters into Jerusalem as king, Priest and Messiah. He goes to the Temple and restores the sanctity of the House of God. He drives out those who had made it a place of trade to get rich and declared:
My house shall be called a house of prayer;
But you are making it a den of robbers. (Matthew 22:13)
He washes the feet of his disciples and teaches them by personal example:
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also
ought to wash one another’s feet. (John 13: 14)
I give you a new commandment that, you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.
(John 13: 34)
We are a community of Jesus not to Lord over each other but to serve and love in Jesus name.
Jesus on Maundy Thursday sits with his disciples and eats the Passover meal. He takes the bread and gives it to his disciples and says:
This is my body, which is given for you. Do this remembrance
of me. This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant
in my blood. (Luke 22: 19-20)
Then on Friday we see the Lamb of God hung on the cross as the Holy Scriptures proclaim:
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.
(1 Cor. 15:3)
It is this truth about Christ crucified that needs to be declared to the world without shame and hesitation. Archbishop Carey says, “In our Western Church we have lost the dimension of radical discipleship to identify with Christ in the suffering and pain of humanity. We have replaced it with a following of Jesus which is virtually cost-less. Indeed, some evangelists are guilty of going to other extreme of offering the carrot that ‘if you accept Jesus, he will solve your problems, help you find a good job, husband, wife, peace, contentment.’ The motive behind this may be admirable – but the result is a ‘filleted’ Christianity, with sacrifice removed.
To proclaim “Christ Crucified” is not a fancy fashionable statement. It is risky, demanding and sometimes dangerous business. Your life and my life are ultimately built on faith that goes beyond mere belief in the prosperity theology. It is a faith which reaches out to touch with the healing hands of the Crucified Lord for those dying in the gutters of Calcutta, for the persecuted communities of Christians in Pakistan, Sudan and Iran. The 14th century theologian Thomas a Kempis said, “Jesus has now many lovers of his heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of his Cross. Will you be one of the bearers of the Cross and walk with Jesus on the road to Golgotha this week? Would you stand at the foot of the cross and look at our crucified Lord and testify to the world like the Roman centurion:
Truly this man was the Son of God (Mark 15: 39 b).
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the stones did not cry out because the people who greeted him did. They spoke the truth. If the stones — bricks, concrete, iron, and glass — of our buildings are to speak, yours is the voice they need to do it. This Holy Week we, all of us, have a duty to let people know that we are celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, because we believe that in these momentous events lie the meaning of our lives and dignity.
It is a must message. It is a potent message with great good news that, in Christ, humanity is delivered from the gloom of sin, and is restored to grace and holiness of life. He has broken the bonds of death and hell and has risen victorious over the grave. Jesus says that if you fail to tell this story:
“The stones will cry out.”