The stones will cry out …
After three and a half years, the time had come. Jesus was to enter Jerusalem for the final time. Of course, many who followed him did so in the mistaken belief that he had come to oust the Romans, under whose hand they had suffered for so long. Very few knew that he was coming to Jerusalem to die. As he neared the city, a great number of people followed him. They had come from Jericho, termed “the city of palm trees” in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 34:3). It is appropriate that branches of these very trees were cut down and laid in his path, as he rode the (previously unbroken) colt towards David’s city. Others spread their clothes in the way, possibly as an allusion to the actions of Jehu’s men when he was told that he was to be king (2 Kings 9:13).
Unsurprisingly, the multitude began to cry out in joy, singing of all they believed that he, as the Messiah, would do. Sadly, this was too much for the leaders. They had seen his popularity grow and theirs dwindle to such an extent that on one occasion they complained that they were achieving nothing because the entire world was now following this one from Nazareth (John 12:19). Perhaps struggling to make themselves heard above the sound of singing, they called the Master to them. He should rebuke the people, they said. What was being said was wrong; it was blasphemous. The response of Jesus is particularly powerful:
“And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40)
Stones “crying out”. What was it that Jesus was saying? Was he indicating that, in years to come, archaeologists would unearth many treasures in the Holy Land, supporting Bible teaching? Possibly so. But surely the primary message from the Master is that, if God’s people do not praise Him and accept His Son, then others – those who previously were “dead” – would be given the opportunity to do so. It is the same message we considered in Isaiah 5, and from the lips of John. If Jews refuse to serve faithfully, then Gentiles will be offered the opportunity. We read this teaching from the Master on other occasions. In interpreting the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, he spoke of the hope of the kingdom being taken from Israel and given to a nation which would bring forth fruits to God (Matthew 21:43).
Immediately after making the statement about stones crying out, the Master beheld the (literal) stones which made up the walls of Jerusalem. Like Jeremiah before him, he wept (Lamentations 2:11; 3:48; Luke 19:41). This is hardly surprising, bearing in mind all that these two men had to endure for the truth. And yet these references show that neither Jeremiah nor Jesus cried because of personal suffering. They wept at the suffering of others. Their tears were shed because of what the people of Jerusalem would have to go through. Jesus cried, considering the destruction of the city in AD 70. In this context, he said that not one stone would be left upon another (Luke 19:44). Gentile stones would come alive in God’s sight, yet the stones of His city would be cast to the ground by a cruel and vicious enemy. Jerusalem would be trodden down of the Gentiles for almost two millennia.
As we consider the natural stones which made up the temple, and the spiritual, “living” stones, which the Master said would cry out for joy, there is a further connection with the work and words of the prophet Jeremiah. Such was the horror which came upon the city and its people in the days leading up to the Babylonian captivity, parts of the wall are portrayed as crying out for pain:
“The LORD hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together.” (Lamentations 2:8)
What an astonishing contrast to the words of Jesus Christ! In Jeremiah’s day, the stones are described as lamenting – in Jesus’ day he spoke of stones rejoicing at the joy which was theirs. There is, surely, powerful exhortation for us in these things. Do we rejoice at all that has been done for us? Are we known as people who are joyful? Do our neighbours or work colleagues see us as people who “rejoice with joy unspeakable” (1 Peter 1:8) because we know that something better is coming on the earth?