You know the sound of eggshells being cracked open. You will likely hear that noise next Sunday. Hardboiled Easter eggs, decorated by families, soaked in dyes of purple and blue and red.
That particular cracking sound is not much different from the sound a chick makes when it first cracks out through the shell. A little peck here, a little push there, the hard shell starts to shatter, and before you know it, a new life has emerged. Cracking an egg is a unique sound.
Imagine a different cracking sound with me. What if, instead of a delicate eggshell, what if it was the sound of a stone cracking open?
John the Baptist came preaching a baptism of repentance (that is, both contrition and faith). But some went to see the spectacle full of self-confidence rather than in repentance. In part, because they were children of Abraham, they had the right lineage, they had the right bloodline, the right church membership, they had nothing to worry about.
So, John says in Matthew 3:7, “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” For God to be God, He does not need us. For God to be Father, He can raise up children. Even if all of humanity were to completely abandon Him and to forsake His ways and utterly deny any family ties, it would in no way diminish God or detract from Him being Father.
His power and His goodness are so deep, that the very stones of the earth would crack and hatch and produce children for Him. Can you imagine the sound of countless stones of all shapes and sizes, cracking likes eggs, producing new life where humanity had abandoned their God?
Stones cracking open like eggs, raising up new life.
His power and His goodness are so deep, that the very stones of the earth would crack and hatch and produce children for Him.
Stones figure into Luke’s account of Palm Sunday as well. But the image here is less about new life, and much more about a bursting forth of praise. The image on Palm Sunday is about something so primordial, so powerful and ancient, so deep, that it would shatter any kind of limits. It would break through any attempt to restrain it. It is as frightening as it is beautiful.
Rather than the sound of an individual egg cracking open, it would be much more akin to a spring thunderstorm, when that boom from the heavens is so massive you feel it in your chest, as if the heavens themselves were being rent asunder. It is the sound of crashing and cracking and rending which can send even the bravest guard dog to its imagined place of refuge beneath the kitchen table. I imagine the crack of rocks bursting in Luke 19 to be like that, peals of awe-full thunder.
Jesus makes His way towards Jerusalem. The narrative moves slowly in verses 28-37. The deliberate pace seems to pack the scene with potential energy that is about to burst into action. Some of the disciples echo the angels of Luke 2 and sing, “Glory in the highest,” as Jesus, the King, the Lord, draws near as the blessed and blessing One. But others want to silence their shouts.
“Can’t you keep them quiet? Don’t you hear what they are saying? Shut them up!”
To which Jesus responds: “But do you not see, this kind of praise cannot be stopped. Nothing can stop it. Creation itself has been singing this praise since its birth.” Jesus says, “I was there! The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Such praise extends to the very ends of the earth. It resounds in the depths of the sea. Any attempt to plug up this praise, would only create a new bursting fountain of glorious praise elsewhere. If you attempt to silence this song, the very stones will shatter and cry out!”
Can you hear it? Can you imagine it? It would be but a prelude to what John got a glimpse of in Revelation 7:9-12.
Any attempt to plug up this praise, would only create a new bursting fountain of glorious praise elsewhere. If you attempt to silence this song, the very stones will shatter and cry out!
But before we can hear that chorus echoed, we first have to hear another choir. Pilate stands above the crowd, in his balcony. Beneath him a mob has assembled. Beneath the crowd, the silent stones are caked with dust and dirt and all the grime of life, everything the people have stepped in.
See those silent stones beneath their feet. Hear their silence. Notice the dust and dirt and all the grime. Focus on a single stone in that courtyard. Silent. Cold. Covered in filth. Imagine the ripples in the dirt, like the ripples in your water when you pound the table with your fist.
See those ripples in the dirt, reverberating as the sound waves resound. Watch the little specks of dirt lift off the stone for a moment, and then resettle. Beautiful circles in contrast to the ugliness of the scene.
The filth of humanity dances on those stones with every angry shout: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
Finally, the crowd is sated, their bloodthirst has been quenched, the stones are silent, and creation falls silent. When Jesus calls to His Father from the cross, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” the very heavens answer back with silence.
Silent stones, caked in human filth, seem to have the last word. Jesus, the Word, is silenced and sealed behind the large stone.
Friday evening... silence. Saturday morning... silence. Saturday afternoon... silence. Saturday evening... silence. Then, on Sunday morning, about dawn, the bedrock of creation felt a tremor. The earth began to quake. The stone was rolled away!
Maybe it is cheerful like the cracking of an egg, as the sealed stone creaks and new life emerges. Maybe it is a sudden burst, like a startling clap of thunder. It is the sound of victory. It is the sound of the stones crying out. Our voices, as God is faithful on this Palm Sunday, are part of that beautiful chorus of creation, receiving life and giving glory to our coming King.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Luke 19:28-40.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Luke 19:28-40.