39And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, Teacher, rebuke your disciples. What else could they say? They were caught between a rock and a hard place. They had made their stand against Jesus very plain and very public – and the public disagreed, as we see so jubilantly in our text:
36And as [Jesus] rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37As 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, 38saying, Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!
The words of this preacher resonated too powerfully, His miracles demanded praise and adoration. Here is the king promised of old. The one who comes in the name of the Lord God Himself. The one who will usher in peace and glory! Were there any but those Pharisees who doubted it? All of Jerusalem seemed to be welcoming this Jesus with open arms and joyful hearts.
Even today the first glimpse of the holy city can move a heart like few other sights. Imagine seeing it spread out below you in the very company of the one who has come to take up His rightful throne and claim it as His own. As they crest the hill the enthusiasm of the disciples knows no bounds. The memory of the miracles, the promise of salvation, the future full of glorious possibilities all laid out before them cannot be bottled up! Words of praise echoing the great Messianic psalms and the very praises of the angels on that first Christmas eve bespeak an obvious meaning: “God and man are reconciled in this Christ Jesus and now, God, in highest heaven, is glorified.”
Yet the hearts and heads of the Pharisees remain hard as a rock. “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Yet even immovable rocks can be swept away in the fast rushing flood now cresting the mount of Olives. And so, 40He answered, I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.
“I tell you” indicates the divine authority of Jesus. The shouting is inevitable. Even nature yearns for this coming salvation of the world. Jesus will accept this rightful praise. The hour set by the Father has come. All things are in place and there will be no changing them now! The donkey fitting a king was waiting, the owners already willing to give it up for the Lord. The disciples had found it all just as Jesus had said – just as Zechariah had prophesied some half a millennium before. The crowds building. The palms gathered. The cloaks spread. Just as Jesus knew they would be. Just as they must be for the scriptures to be fulfilled.
For on this first day of the week, Sunday, the 19th Nisan, according to Exodus 12:3, the paschal lamb needed to be selected. And on this day He, the true Paschal Lamb, that takes away the sin of the world, had come to Jerusalem to suffer and die. And the Pharisees could tell the people to shush all they wanted, but it could not stop anything now. For even if the people were silenced the very stones would cry out!
This moment was foreseen in Psalm 98: 4Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! 5Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! 6With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD! 7Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! 8Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together 9before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. Yes the stones would cry out in praise to God and in rebuke of those who would not welcome the King, the Lord!
But then, the stones had always had more sense than some. Think back to the debate between John the Baptist and these Pharisees back in Luke 3. There John said 8Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
God has come to change stony hearts, softening them with the Gospel of forgiveness. But if they will not be softened, He will not be stopped. If there are those among His children who will plant themselves like stones in opposition, then God Himself will raise up new children (from the stones beyond count) to receive His salvation and sing His praises! If the people will not the very stones will cry out.
And cry out they did. All through this week of our Lord’s passion. Pointing people again and again to the rightful praise of this King who comes in the name of the Lord. Consider the cry of the stones as they open wide at the moment of Jesus’ death. Shouting out the death of death itself. Matthew 27: 51And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
Consider the cry of the stone on that glorious Easter morning. Luke 24: 2And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, The stone of the tomb is opened wide to sing the praises of the one who had died but was now alive once again. Alive forever more.
Yes, the hard heads and hard hearts of this world may do their very best to place us between a rock and a hard place, to quiet our praise, and deaden our joy … but the truth is that long before they decided He was a relic of the superstitious past God had set all the events of this next week in motion. The Pharisees couldn’t stop Jesus then, and there is still no stopping Him now. If you won’t go out to meet Him. If you won’t stand up to praise Him. If you won’t look to Him for your peace and salvation … God will raise up others who will. For His kingly grace and compassion will find subjects to lavish upon. And He will be praised for all He is about to do – all that He has done – to save us from ourselves.
We have God’s own Word that it will be so: 9God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.