He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:40
The text above comes at the end of the passage we read for Palm Sunday this year. It is Jesus’ reply to the religious leaders who objected to the commotion that surrounded Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey. They were offended and probably fearful of the consequences of this public acclaim for Jesus. It was offensive to them that Jesus, who saw as no more than a “teacher” is being welcomed as a king. As the Messiah.
The palm branches, the cloaks on the road, and the cries of “Hosanna,” which literally means “Save us, we pray,” (Psalm 118:25) all point to the people’s recognition and longing for Jesus to be the one who will save them. They saw him as their hope for deliverance. And we already know that this did not go down well with those who were religious. He did not meet their expectations of a messiah. Furthermore, they were probably fearful because the Roman occupiers had in the past put down any signs of rebellion swiftly and brutally. And that would put them and their positions as leaders in jeopardy. Which is why they said, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” (Luke 19:39)
The more interesting question is why Jesus said that even if the crowd kept silent, “the very stones would cry out.” Whoever heard of crying stones? It is obviously metaphorical language, but what could it mean? Most of the commentaries of this passage say very little about this, but I have some ideas that may make sense of it.
In essence, I think that Jesus was making that the point everyone and everything is looking for a saviour. Anyone with eyes can see that things are off-kilter and that the world is not all as it should be. We are told that “…creation waits with eager longing [to]… be set free from its bondage to corruption and…we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:19-22) And so creation is crying out for deliverance. So no matter how much we want to deny it, we cannot ignore that desire for things to be made right.
This was the cry of the people then. It is the cry of our hearts as well. And this is the answer we find in Christ. May we reflect, but also rejoice in the work that Jesus did for us on the cross!
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:22-24)