We know so well the key parts of Palm Sunday: Jesus on the donkey, the palms and cloaks on the ground, the people shouting “Hosanna”; and the prophecy fulfilled.
But we must not forget the words of rebuke to Jesus from the religious leaders. In Luke 19, we are told the following conclusion to the story of Palm Sunday, “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout.’”
The Pharisees were complaining about the crowds cheering, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’” It is most certain that those Pharisees knew the significance of that cheer. The crowds of people were associating Jesus, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth, with the promised Messiah.
Why were the Pharisees so concerned that they would want to silence the crowds? They were concerned because Jesus was not the kind of liberator they expected. How could an ordinary carpenter’s son defeat the might of the Roman Empire and all the other empires that had continually threatened the people in Israel? How could this man Jesus change the world by fulfilling the promise of God to send a saviour for his people?
On the donkey, travelling into Jerusalem that day, Jesus did not put on the kind of show that some people were expecting of the “promised messiah”.
So, Jesus replies to those concerned Pharisees, that even the stones would shout! Inanimate rocks praising God for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Jesus knows that all creation joins with the crowd in giving praise to God for the plan of salvation that was unfolding. By the end of the week, there would be a horrific crucifixion with Jesus’ suffering and death. But that would not be the end of the story. There would be a time of silence on the Saturday, then Easter Dawn would come upon the world. In a world where carpenters rise from the dead, there was a new way of life at work.
Today we know of frequent persecution of the Church around the world. In our own context of Australia, we see persecution often manifest itself in an attitude of ambivalence towards the gospel.
But as we prepare for Holy Week 2021, I write to remind you of our Lord Jesus’ words to the Pharisees on that first Palm Sunday. Even stones can shout! All creation joins with our Christian witness to Jesus the Messiah.
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’”
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