As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19: 36-40
Casual onlookers or those on their way into Jerusalem for a day’s business might not have immediately grasped that they were witnessing a royal procession. A king on a donkey? No Roman Emperor would have contemplated doing such a thing. It was impossible to imagine Herod doing it either. Even though many no doubt were aware of Zechariah’s prophecy (“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”. Zechariah 9:9) some at least would have dismissed as a romantic illusion the idea of a king deliberately choosing to enter the royal city in such a humble fashion. It’s not the way kings behave.
The disciples, however, were in no doubt. They spread their cloaks before him and to all who listened they joyfully repeated the wonderful, supernatural things that they had seen in him and experienced him do. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”
But not all present that day were equally enthusiastic. By now a crowd was beginning to line the route as they headed down from the Mount of Olives. Some in that crowd were deeply troubled. They belonged to the influential religious grouping known as the Pharisees. For them the disciples were going too far. Not that they were necessarily against enthusiasm, but the claims they were making for this man were dangerously excessive. Did they really understand what they were saying? Apart from the theological implications – which they might be excused for not understanding – hailing this man as King could only lead to trouble with the civil authorities.
Accordingly the Pharisees suggested to Jesus that he should restrain his followers. Surely he could see that unless he rebuked them, some might get the impression that he actually believed what his disciples were claiming?
Jesus refused to do any such thing. “If these were silent,” he replied, “the very stones would cry out.” Things were not getting out of hand. The King was indeed here! It was totally appropriate to acknowledge and celebrate his coming. What could be more important? And if the disciples would not speak out, then the very stones of the city would.
What noise the stones would have made as they welcomed the rightful and longed for King finally to the city. But, of course, they had no voice. It raised a question though: what would the real city do? The citizens of Jerusalem - was it possible that, like the Pharisees, their response would be less than wholehearted? That they might remain silent? Or that they might even raise their voices in rejection of the King?
Perhaps some of us need to break our own silence regarding the King. Is it possible that we have been intimidated into saying nothing through fear of what others might say or do to us? If inanimate creation had a voice, would it shame us for our silence? The Lord owns our voice as much as he owns our hearts. Let’s use it today to acknowledge him.