Sunday, March 20, 2016

“In the Silence, the Stones Shout” (Luke 19:28-40)

The celebration of Passover was the reason the people swarmed to Jerusalem . . . including Jesus and his disciples.  Passover, the celebration of Israel’s escape from oppression through the grace and guidance of God . . . Passover, the “mark” of Israel as God’s people . . . Passover, the slow start of a national identity.  Passover was the central most important religious and nationalistic holiday of the Jewish people.  It was a big deal and the people came streaming into Jerusalem to celebrate this historical and spiritual event.  Jerusalem was swamped with pilgrims from all directions . . . it was a noisy and exciting time . . . it was a powder keg waiting to be lit.

And, the Romans knew it.

As Jesus is making his entrance with a small, but grand, parade on one end of Jerusalem, on the other end of Jerusalem there is another parade taking place.  It is a parade of power and strength . . . a parade to remind the people who is in control.  Pilate and his army of soldiers march through the streets of Jerusalem . . . not so much for adoration or cheers, but to remind the people that they are still in control . . . that they still had the power . . . and, that they were not afraid to use it if there was any inkling from the people to stray away from their subservient role in the story.  Theirs was a parade that many more witnessed than the small, winding parade of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem.

Jesus’ parade was a small, but noisy blip on the screen . . . noisy enough to get the attention of some Pharisees who witness his entrance.  Knowing the volatile situation . . . a major religious holiday . . . a nationalistic holiday . . . and, the frustration of a people under oppressive and violent rule . . . the Pharisees implore Jesus to tell his disciples to knock off the nonsense.

Now I imagine that it seems a little strange that Jesus’ enemies would be asking him to stop before it was too late . . . to stop before he got himself arrested; but, these men really did not care one iota about Jesus.  As far as they were concerned they would love it if Jesus would get arrested and be killed—that would solve all of their problems.  Yet, at the same time, they are not stupid.  They know the mindset of the Romans.  The Romans would swoop in with violence and start killing anyone and everyone—including Jesus—to make their point.  A lot of people could be killed . . . including them; so, they asked Jesus to tell his disciples to turn it down a few notches.

But, it is too late.

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Jesus understands the climate he is entering . . . he understands the climate of the people he is preaching and teaching to . . . he understands the faith and religious part of the climate . . . and, he understands the political climate.  Think of our annual celebration of the birth of our nation . . . the Fourth of July.  Think about what that day means . . . what that day stands for . . . what it is that we are celebrating.  Think of the war that was fought in order for us to be even celebrating that day.  The Fourth of July is our day in which we remember and celebrate our freedom from oppression.  It is a day that is filled with religious and patriotic fervor . . . the single most important day in our lives as a nation and in our identity as a people.  That was . . . and still is . . . what Passover was to the children of God—the Hebrew people.

The only difference between then and now is that these were a people who were still oppressed . . . still under the rule of another people who ruled with an iron fist.  True, the Romans allowed them to observe their holiday, but to observe it quietly and without the potential incident of revolt and revolution.  Thus Pilate’s parade through the streets of Jerusalem with his army.

There comes a time when enough is enough . . . a time when the frustration becomes more than one can bear . . . a time when one is sick and tired of being sick and tired under the weight of those things that oppresses life.  A time when the silence can no long hold back the anguish and pain . . . a time when it must shout out and let the world know.  Jesus understood this.  Such was the time in the lives of the children of God . . . in the lives of the Hebrew people.  They could no longer be silent.  If they had tried, even the stones would have shouted out.  Is that not what Jesus said?  The frustration and the pain, even if they tried to hold it in, would leak out.

It was too late.  The people had to be heard.  God had to be heard.  And, so, Jesus did nothing to stop his parade.  The people shouted.  The people waved palms.  They threw their cloaks upon the ground.  They welcomed what they saw as their hope in a time of great oppression and pain.  They let it all out.  Nothing was going to stop them now.

For a moment I want to point out something in our day and time that reminds me of this time in the life of Jesus.  I want us to consider the climate of our nation as we are in the thick of the presidential election cycle.  It has been a strange and wild journey as we inch our way ever closer to picking the two candidates that will face off to determine who will be our next president.  Strange and wild because we have seen a candidate arise that is not like any candidate we have ever seen before . . . a candidate who has risen up out of the frustration of a people who feel oppressed and forgotten in our so-called political system.  They have raised their voices in their frustration in difficult times, and they have embraced this individual despite the fact that much of what he promises can and should never come to pass.  But, he is not the only one, both sides are tapping into this frustration to garner the votes necessary to be the next president of the United States.

But it is not this candidate . . . or any candidate . . . that I want to point out.  What I want to point out is that the stones are shouting out.  They are crying out in their frustration and their pain.  They want to be heard.  They want to be acknowledged.  They want to take their place at the table.  They want to be empowered to be a part of the process of ruling themselves.  No matter who wins, the silence will be broken forever.

And, nothing can stop it.

Palm Sunday is a significant day in the life of the faithful.  For those of us who are followers of Jesus, it represents the beginning of the end . . . it represents the prelude to the “gift” . . . to the “hope” . . . and, to the promise of restoration of our relationships with God and one another.  And, through it all, Jesus shows us the way.  It is the day that the silence of the oppressed is broken and the mighty cry of hope rang out.

In the end, the Romans did exactly what the Pharisees feared and hoped for . . . they arrested Jesus, tried him, and crucified him upon a cross.  As far as everyone in power was concerned, it was over . . . finished . . . done.  The prophet . . . the trouble-maker . . . was silenced.  His faithful disbanded and scattered across the landscape.  It was over.

Jesus said, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

It was not even close to being over . . . and, it still isn’t today.

Wherever there is oppression, the stones shall shout.  Whether that oppression is of a whole group of people or of an individual . . . the stones shall shout.  Whether that oppression is of the religious type or nationalistic or political type . . . the stones shall shout.  The stones will shout until the Kingdom of God is realized . . . until it is acknowledge . . . until it is lived.  That is the will of God . . . the desire of Jesus . . . and, the hope of all us who follow Jesus.  In the silence, the stones will shout.

It is never over until God declares it to be over.  Amen.

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