The Stones Would Shout!
28 After Jesus said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
29 As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. 30 He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If someone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’” 32 Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said.
33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “Its master needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it. 36 As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road.
37 As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. 38 They said,
“Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”
39 Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!”
40 He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”
Luke 19:28-40 CEB
This scripture, and pretty much any scripture telling the Palm Sunday story make me very uncomfortable. This mindset has evolved over the generations.
When I was a child, and had no context for Holy Week, it felt fun and innocent. I was one of the kids who carried palms in, dropping them at the Communion table. Palm Sunday was Cantata day. (Cantata here means a bunch of musical selections, sung by the Church choir.) The kids led the way, and the Choir walked in behind. I always wondered, why was it just the kids? Wouldn't the adults want to drop palms too?
College was the time I was frustrated I wasn't learning anything new, and anxious to get into seminary. I began to show interest in other holy days. I wanted to have the ashen cross put on my forehead during Ash Wednesday. I wanted to participate in a Maundy Thursday service. I yearned to know more, and no one was telling me. This was the first time I saw something confusing in Palm Sunday. I had seen Palm Sunday like the pre-party to the Easter celebration. It made Holy Week confusing. Why are we joyfully putting down palms when we are going to be mourning Jesus' death in just a few days? How odd I thought it was that we spend 30+ days in Lenten Preparation, when Palm Sunday just shows up at the end of it. It didn't make sense.
After ordination I ate up resources. I devoured commentary. Seminary didn't teach me everything, but it gave me tools to find it out for myself. My first Palm Sunday as an ordained minister, I was excited to finally do some real research. Opening up my books, I began to read, and the answer was horrifying. This first level of research delved into the word, "Hosanna." Yes, the people where celebrating, but they were celebrating with a word that historically meant, "Save us!" On top of that, I hadn't considered the very people who were joyfully yelling for salvation, were the same people who would also yell, "crucify him!"
There are a few things here that keeps this event from being a simple celebration. Jesus had asked the Disciples to get him something to ride. Was it a colt, a donkey... both? It only matters in that Jesus riding into Jerusalem really looked like a prophecy coming to fruition. While that might make you go "Woo Hoo!" it was enough to bring the Pharisee's out of their prowling silence. At least in the Gospel account of Luke, they had been silent for some time, but they never left. I believe they were waiting for the perfect moment to catch him in a legal argument.
Instead they saw something unexpected. People throwing coats and palm fronds in the road. Jesus riding in like the preordained King that was going to save the Israelites. While the people might not have realized what "Hosanna" meant, the Pharisee's knew. Then the icing on the cake, the Disciples yelling, "Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.” The Pharisee's were waiting for their moment, but this moment must have caught them off guard. They yell to Jesus to tell him to shut the Disciples up.
This is not the happy-go-lucky Palm Sunday I participated in as a child. This is dangerous, and no one except Jesus seems to get it.
The people are screaming something they don't even realize they are screaming.
The Disciples are yelling, probably for that warrior king they still think is coming.
The Pharisees are yelling to Jesus, telling him to tell the Disciples to shut up.
Only Jesus, who hears it all. "The rocks would cry out if everyone else was silent." What would they cry? A lament? A hope? I want to hear the rocks. The rocks must have more sense. On Palm Sunday we are all so blind, and nuts. I wanna hear the rocks.