Now as he was 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, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” - Luke 19:37-40
I’m picturing this massive crowd of Jesus’ followers: In my mind they are the poor; wearing shabby, thread-bare clothing. They are dirty, and probably tired and hungry, too. They are the ‘outcast’ in society; un-educated and their life is hard. Physically and mentally hard. But here they are, singing praise to God, joyful, and full of hope. Now pan to the Pharisees: Stoic, educated, wearing handsome robes, and they don’t smile much. (They’re also all men with pointy noses – remember this is just the picture in my head.) And in this passage, they are annoyed. All this commotion, this loud singing and praising to God. “Please, Jesus, tell them to tone it down!” It’s almost comical that they would ask Jesus to do this. Has Jesus ever done what the Pharisees asked him to do? But they ask anyway. Like when I would ask my toddler to tone it down and try to be reasonable. You can’t reason with toddlers, but that never stopped me from trying! It’s so much easier just to be annoyed and ask them to stop. It takes a lot more energy to meet them where they are, put myself in their (tiny) shoes, open my heart and mind to better understand why they’re acting this way. Was it much easier for the Pharisees to dismiss this commotion and just be annoyed instead of trying to open up a little, to allow themselves to be curious and wonder why Jesus had moved so many people? Did the education and the structured religious life that the Pharisees developed over the centuries hinder that curiosity? Maybe some of them were secretly very curious about this Jesus character but were too afraid to entertain those thoughts. The life that they had created didn’t allow that kind of questioning behavior.
I admit that I’m more often in the “Pharisees Camp,” than in the “Praising-God-joyfully-in-a-loud-voice Camp.” I like living the structured, organized life with all its comforts, and I’m so incredibly fortunate to have them. When I reflect on this passage, I see that this way of life can make it more difficult to empathize with those that are marginalized in our society. Or even worse, to be annoyed by it! I don’t want to be a modern-day Pharisee, but I don’t want to give up my comforts, either. I want both, and I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to hold on to both.
And then there’s Jesus, telling me: “…if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” He’s saying – “This is so much bigger than you can even imagine. Silencing them won’t stop the salvation I bring. It won’t stop the forgiveness and grace that God has for you. That is unstoppable, it is infinite, and it is for everyone. Don’t be annoyed by it. Have the courage to accept it and to go forth.”
Dear God, give me the courage to step out of my comfortable life. Give me the courage to question, and give me the strength to empathize and meet people that I encounter every day “where they are.” amen.