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Luke 19:28-40—New Revised Standard Version
28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives,
he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying,
“Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it
you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden.
Untie it and bring it here.
31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this,
‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.
33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They said, “The Lord needs it.”
35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.
37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives,
the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”
40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Longing to Praise by Katie Mathews Treadway
I dare you! Thought the stone really hard.
I dare you to keep your praises silent.
Because then, Then, THEN, it will finally be MY turn.
My praises have been kept in for far too long!
Praises to my dear creator who crafted the mountains
that formed around me, compressing me,
squeezing me tighter and tighter until I emerged . . . whole and strong
Praises to my dear creator who crafted the rivers that swished over me,
sometimes trickling, sometimes rushing until I emerged . . . gleaming and smooth.
Praises to my dear creator who carved me out of the earth,
chiseling and cutting, pulling and tugging,
fine tuning and chipping until I emerged . . . healed and beautiful.
I dare you to keep silent. Because my praises need only a voice to cry out!
Once again, our scripture passage begins with a fragment. “After he had said this…” After he had said what? We need to go back and study the verses prior to this passage. In Chapter 19, Jesus told his disciples of his impending death and resurrection, but the truth was obscured to them. In Chapter 19, the disciples argue about who among them will be the greatest and are reproached and told to serve God and one another with humility. In Chapter 19, blind Bartimaeus regains his sight through faith. In Chapter 19, Zacchaeus the tax collector repents and is saved, much to the dismay of some. In Chapter 19 of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told the Parable of the Pounds, in which a nobleman gives his servants money before going away, instructing them that he will expect an accounting when he returns. That is the parable that Luke recounts before Jesus and his disciples leave the Mount of Olives and head for the Holy City of Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.
Holy Week, sometimes referred to as Holy Whiplash, is quite a rollercoaster ride of events. Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and teaches in the Temple, where the chief priests and scribes repeatedly try to subvert his authority. Jesus eats the Passover meal with his closest disciples, including the ones who would betray him, after which Jesus is detained by the chief priests, scribes, and elders. After hearings in front of both Pilate and Herod, Jesus is sentenced to death on a cross. He breathes his last on that Friday afternoon. On Sunday, when the women go to anoint his body at the tomb he is not there. The women tell their tale and are not believed. Later that same day as two disciples are returning to Emmaus, Jesus joins them on the road. They do not recognize him until they arrive home and Jesus breaks bread with them. Jesus appears to the others that same day after which he blesses them before being carried up into heaven. Holy Whiplash is right!
Our scripture this morning tells us that Jesus knew what was happening, what was going to happen, before it happened. Go to the village; you will find a colt. Untie it. If anyone asks, say, “The Lord needs it.” And so it happened, just as he said. Just as Luke informs us that Jesus knew what would happen to him each step of the journey during that fateful week, yet prayed to God, not my will, but Yours be done.
Theologian Debie Thomas writes, “In their compelling book, The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus' Last Days in Jerusalem, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan argue that two processions entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday two thousand years ago; Jesus's was not the only Triumphal Entry.”
She continues, “Every year during Passover — the Jewish festival that swelled Jerusalem's population from its usual 50,000 to at least 200,000 — the Roman governor of Judea would ride up to Jerusalem from his coastal residence in the west. He would come in all of his imperial majesty to remind the Jewish pilgrims that Rome demanded their complete loyalty, obedience, and submission. The Jewish people could commemorate their ancient victory against Egypt and slavery if they wanted to. But if they tried any real time resistance, they would be obliterated.
As Pilate clanged and crashed his imperial way into Jerusalem from the west, Jesus approached from the east, looking (by contrast) ragtag and absurd. Unlike the Roman emperor and his legions, who ruled by force, coercion, and terror, Jesus came defenseless and weaponless into his kingship. Riding on a donkey, he all but cried aloud the bottom-line truth that his rule would have nothing to recommend it but love, humility, long-suffering, and sacrifice.” End quote.
Jesus enters Jerusalem with his disciples with him, and many more coming out of the city and lining the road to greet him. They want a new king. They want Jesus to save them from the crushingly oppressive Roman rule. In Luke’s telling they place their cloaks on the road as he approaches to symbolically prepare the way. All four of these gospel writers include this story of Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, the palm branches and cloaks, Jesus riding in on a humble beast, the shouts of praise, all reminiscent of, and interpreted as, fulfillment of the Hebrew scriptures.
At this point, some Pharisees speak to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” To which Jesus replies, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Jesus knows who he is answering to. Jesus does not deprive his followers of this joyous occasion, especially knowing what is to come and the hardships they will all face.
Causing me to wonder… Who are we answering to? Who do we allow to silence us? The Pharisees were important, learned members of the Jewish establishment. Jesus answered to a higher power. As do we.
On a day of palm waving, hosanna shouting, praise filled glory – will we be silenced? No! Yes? Maybe. We aren’t exactly making a public statement here in our sanctuary. Have we already been silenced? Maybe we should be out on the highway waving our palms… When was the last time we made a public admission of our faith—outside of these walls?
Causing me to wonder… Who are we in this scripture? Are we like the Pharisees—attempting to silence each other—more concerned about earthly authority than about God’s authority?
Or are we like the followers shouting high praises for Jesus, wanting him to be our king? Wanting him to heal us? Wanting him to save us? “Hosanna” you might remember, means—save us. Save us now, Jesus by bringing justice to an unjust world!
There is no reason to think that we are better, braver, more faithful than Jesus’ closest disciples. All of whom deserted him. All of whom became mute in Jesus’ hours of need.
The verses immediately preceding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem were certainly intended to illuminate this passage. Jesus knows he is leaving this earthly realm, but also knows that he is to return. The Parable of the Pounds speaks to the gifts that Jesus entrusted to his followers, then and now, that need to be cared for in his absence. We are accountable for multiplying the seeds of justice, of love, of peace, of kindness that Jesus sowed while here on earth. Doing nothing is not an option. There is injustice, and pain, and need all around us. How do we respond?
We are not meant to be silent, not in word or deed, about our faith in God. We are meant to shout Hosanna. Save us, Jesus. “I tell you, if these are silent, the stones would shout out.”
Rev. TJ Mack – April 10, 2022
Art: Cara B. Hochhalter, Palm Sunday: Even the Stones.
Rev. Hochhalter says of her print: "Palm Sunday offers a complex scene. If you look carefully, you can see the laying down of the cloaks in honor of Jesus riding in on a small colt or donkey, the waving of palms— even the Pharisee warning Jesus not to come into Jerusalem for fear of trouble. You may also see the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who is coming from another direction with his soldiers in tow to keep order. There is a rooster who reminds us of Peter’s upcoming betrayal and perhaps warns us all of our doubts in the power of a way of nonviolent resistance... This is a story of rejoicing and praise. It is also a story of trepidation and fear knowing that there are forces that will not allow Jesus to continue teaching and healing through the love of an Infinite and All-Inclusive God."