April 09, 2017

Shouting Stones

Luke 19:35-40

Teacher, rebuke your disciples! . . . If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

—  Luke 19:39-40

Palm Sunday seems a misplaced holy day. The Messiah rides into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt like a prince of peace, not a conqueror. Raucous crowds and jubilant disciples cheer Jesus on in sheer ignorance, waving branches (Matthew 21:8-9) and shouting “Hosanna!” (meaning “Save Us!” Psalm 118).

Yet we know, as Jesus does, that he will soon face betrayal, trial, torture, and the cruelest death. He rides through Jerusalem to the cross, where he will assault the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18). Palm Sunday isn’t the grand opening but the ironic beginning of Holy Week, which closes with Jesus’ death and burial on Friday.

I can’t imagine Jesus enjoying the celebration. His heart must be broken as he engages the deadly battle with evil. Like a soldier who must face the enemy, Jesus is prepared to give his life for us. Do we realize why he faced all this—for us?

Later that week Jesus would hear angry jeers—not these naïve cheers. But on this day he accepts the praise; otherwise “the stones will cry out,” he says. Does Jesus mean stones along the road or the stones that made up the temple? (See Habakkuk 2:11.) Whichever they were, the stones could cry, “Wave your branches! Cry ‘Hosanna!’ Enjoy Palm Sunday—but know why he comes!”

Today we bring “humble praises, Holy Jesus,” but soon you’ll hear angry voices shouting “Crucify him!” Today, we pray, accept our praise at the beginning of this most holy week. In your name, Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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