If these were silent, the very stones would cry out / Luke 19:28–40 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 28th 2021 / Season of Advent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 5th 2021: Season of Advent / Luke 19:28–40 "If these were silent, the very stones would cry out"
And when [Jesus] had said these things, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as He rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As He was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Around 20 years after the events of the Gospel Reading today Saint Paul a former Pharisees and enemy of Christ Jesus and those who followed Jesus, transformed by Christ into a faithful Apostle and preacher wrote the Christians in Rome saying, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This is a far cry from what the Pharisees were saying that day as Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem. While the people spread their cloaks on the road so the hooves of the colt wouldn’t touch the ground, Saint Luke in our Gospel Reading tells us how the whole multitude of Jesus’ disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest,” it was then as they called on the name of the Lord that some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Jesus’ response is both priceless and comforting: He answered them, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” … and perhaps you’d say ‘stones can’t say a word,’ maybe you are wondering, ‘what on earth does Jesus mean?’
Now what follows Saint Paul’s teaching from his letter to the Roman Christians when he writes “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” is this wonderful passage where Paul asks this question, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Perhaps with today’s Gospel reading in mind we could begin by saying ‘how beautiful are the hooves of the donkey that brings Good News in the very person of Jesus the Christ our Lord.’
That day on Palm Sunday Jesus’ feet did not touch the ground as He rode into Jerusalem, not even the hooves of the donkey that carried Him touched the ground: what a contrast to what would come that Friday when Jesus would struggle under the load of His cross through the streets of Jerusalem barefoot with a different sort of crowd following after Him with many jeering some weeping. In less than a week those blessed feet of the Lord once held aloft now beaten bruised cut and bleeding were nailed to the cross at Golgotha: the feet that preached the Good News, the feet that embodied that Good News. On the Cross of Good Friday the Preacher was silenced and the motionless dead Jesus was taken down from the cross of His crucifixion by Joseph of Arimathea who took His body “down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid Him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid.” That stone was silent, as silent as the body laid to rest there yet it spoke of Jesus’ death, the truth of it, the nature of it, the sorrow of it. For such silent stones the stones swaddled around Jesus’ dead body there at the tomb had plenty to say.
Again in his letter to the Roman Christians Saint Paul writes how “the wages of sin is death,” The stone tomb that wrapped Jesus in silence that Holy Saturday calls out through time saying ‘sin put this man here, not His sin for He had no sin of His own, but your sin, the sins of the whole World, sin Jesus freely out of love took upon Himself and suffered in your place, taking the payment, the paycheque, the wage your sin produced, the wage of death.’ Remember the tomb was sealed with a large stone and like the grave stones we see at the cemetery that stone said to all who looked on, ‘here lays Jesus dead and buried.’ The Sadducees, those ruler who with the Pharisees and the Scribes and the Elders of the people believed that there was no resurrection of the dead figured their difficulties with this Jesus were over, this Jesus who had troubled them so much with His preaching, whose words had been such a bother to them was now permanently silent never to speak again and with any luck that would silence His followers too. But if the followers of Jesus were to be silent … would not the very stones cry out?
Sunday as the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee went early in the morning with spices to finish what was started with haste on Good Friday “found the stone rolled away from the tomb,” and seeing the stone rolled away what did that stone say? Did it still say ‘here lays Jesus dead and buried?’ They went into the stone tomb and Jesus was not there, the empty stone tomb perplexed them, the stones that first spoke of death now cried out with a word of hope.
One week earlier as Jesus’ disciples had began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” One week earlier when some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” And Jesus answered them, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Could they have imagined what the empty stone tomb, and the large stone rolled away would be crying out: “He’s risen, He’s risen, Christ Jesus, the Lord; He opened death’s prison, the Incarnate Word.” Dear ones keep in mind when Saint Paul writes “the wages of sin is death,” Paul continues saying, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is the blessed work of the King, your Christ Jesus, who comes in the name of the LORD.
Admittedly it is a strange place to start Advent but here we are; and here we start this new year in the Church as the ones today who follow Jesus and while the culture is crying out with holiday jingles, and the sirens of consumer culture call out to ‘spend, spend, spend’ and everyone is distracted by the threat of illness and worry about a great many things we are the ones today who are to cry out “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” We prepare for the celebration of His birth; we gather week in and week out to remember His life and work, His preaching and teaching, His suffering and death and His resurrection and ascension.
As Christmas approaches we often set aside thoughts of the cold stone of Jesus’ tomb and we think upon the warm wood of the baby Jesus’ manger where He would be laid in swaddling clothes by His mother the Virgin Mary that first Christmas. Many people, particularly those of European decent think of the manger as made of wood because that is common in European paintings and illustrations of Jesus’ birth but mangers in the first century Roman province of Palestine were regularly made of stone. And it would have been a stone feeding trough that Jesus was laid to rest in, a stone cradle for the new born Christ Jesus, a stone basinet that cried out ‘humility’ as the King of kings lay in humble estate, a silent stone cradle that heard the baby Jesus cry with that little voice that would grow to preach and teach the Good News of Salvation, the love of God the Father for His children. Jesus’ little feet tightly wrapped in cloth to keep them warm, the little feet that would bring the Good News. The simple stone of the manger was witness to the birth of Christ, and as Jesus rode into town that first Palm Sunday the stones along the way to Jerusalem heard the words called out by Jesus’ followers “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” and the empty stone tomb and the large stone to seal it off now rolled away the first Easter morning were witnesses of the resurrection and they heard the voice of the angles say, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
Maybe you have heard the saying, or said it yourself, “if these walls could talk I wonder what secrets they'd tell?” The marble and granite on this pulpit hear every sermon preached, and while not made of stone so do the walls and wooden pews, they stand as witness to what is said here in this place, what is preached here. If this all sounds a bit odd think back to the end of the book of Joshua in the Old Testament when the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth tree that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD that He spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.” The Pharisees in the crowd on the day of our Gospel reading who said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples,” had been dealing falsely with God. They had lost sight of who God was and what God desired of them, they had made for themselves all sorts of little laws and rules that prevented them from living a full life in the grace of God and in many cases even prevented them from caring for their neighbours in need because they were dealing falsely with God. They stood there that day incensed, exasperated, angry with Jesus and His followers because they could not recognize the beauty of what was right there in front of them, and they did not believe that they were in need of being saved by this Jesus who came riding to them on a colt the foal of a donkey.
A beginning is always a good time to ask questions? As we begin Advent ask yourself have I dealt falsely with God? Do I speak of Jesus with joy and praise? Am I silent in a World that needs to know that their King has come, that He has saved them, that He is with us, and that He will come again to take us home? Be encouraged for every time you have stumbled along the way Jesus remained surefooted, He has not stumbled and will not stumble, your forgiveness is in Him. You need not remain silent and if finding the words to say is not easy plan to bring them to the place where you know they will hear God’s Word preached. Whether they see themselves as not needing Jesus, or profess to not believe at all, whether they are heavy laden and in desperate need of rest regardless of how they see themselves in this World they need the salvation Jesus brings. Invite them to hear God’s Word, to hear His praises sung, invite them into the joy of Advent the Joy of preparation, the Joy of Christmas the Joy of celebration, the Joy of Christ Jesus the Joy of their Saviour: and be present here that you too may be encouraged in your faith and built up day by day, an encouragement to each other with your very presence.
Added to our voice, like the stones we contemplated today, will be our Church Buildings in the streets, the Nativity Sets in our homes and in our front yards, your Christian Christmas Cards and greetings in the mailboxes and online, and our Christian decorations of every sort crying out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Let all of creation cry out for joy as we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. In the darkness of these days may your voice ring out with the Good News of Jesus.
And remember on that Holy Saturday when only the stones spoke, the following day on Sunday Jesus came to those disciples in the upper room and the first thing He said to them was “peace be with you” and from there He sent them out and they were never silent again. They spoke and spoke and spoke and sometimes it got them killed but they didn’t stop speaking about Jesus and you don’t need to stop speaking about Jesus either. There is no pressure in our World that needs to keep you from speaking about Jesus, tell the story, everyone needs to hear it. God bless you as you speak. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Romans 10:13
 Romans 10:14–15
 Luke 23:53
 Romans 6:23
 Luke 24:2
 Luke 24:5–7
 Joshua 24:24–27
Photo Credits: Main Photo stones from pexels; rough stones from pexels; detail of donkey on road from pexels; gravestones from unsplash; open tomb with linen from upsplash; inside of open tomb from upsplash; detail of back of crucifix from unsplash; baby Jesus manger from pexels; detail baby feet from pexels; Colt foal of a donkey from pexels; last pictures details of a nativity set both from unsplash.