The Rocks Will Cry Out!

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Luke 19:37-40 (Palm Sunday)

INTRODUCTION: Today is Palm Sunday, and we are celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There are many things we could focus on in this message. We could talk about the palm branches or the donkey. We could talk about the Mount of Olives or the significance of Jesus entering Jerusalem from the east. We could talk about Jesus driving out the money changers and cleansing the temple the next day.

But today I want to focus on something we don’t often think about on Palm Sunday. I want us to focus on the rocks. That’s right, the rocks. Now you might wonder, what in the world do a bunch of rocks have to do with Palm Sunday? Let’s find out. (Read Luke 19:37-40 and pray.)

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So, did you spot the rocks in the passage? They show up right at the end of the passage. When the Pharisees tell Jesus to rebuke his disciples, Jesus replies, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40) Now that would be quite a sight, wouldn’t it? How would you like to see the rocks cry out? I think it would be really cool.

But as much as I would like to see the rocks cry out, according to our passage today, that would not be a good thing. Because it would mean that we are not doing our job in giving God his rightful praise.

There are three things I want us to learn from this passage today, and all three relate to this mysterious saying from Jesus about the rocks crying out. 1) God is worthy of loud and joyful praise. 2) Our praise should focus on the person and work of Jesus. 3) God must and will be praised through Jesus Christ.

I. God is worthy of loud and joyful praise (37)

First of all, God is worthy of loud and joyful praise. Look at verse 37 with me: “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.” (Luke 19:37)

It’s Passover week. Jesus is on the donkey and headed into Jerusalem. The crowds have gathered, and the atmosphere is electric. Everyone’s emotions are tuned to a high pitch fever of excitement. The crowds welcoming Jesus have not only heard about his miracles. They are eyewitnesses. They have seen things that no one in history has ever seen before. And so, as Jesus approaches Jerusalem, the whole crowd of disciples begin joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they have seen. God is not only worthy of praise. God is worthy of loud and joyful praise.

   A. God created all things for his glory (Revelation 4:11)

Now there are many reasons why God is worthy of such praise, but the primary reason we are given in Scripture is that God created all things for his glory. We read in Revelation 4:11: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)

God is the Creator. He is before all things. All things were created by him, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, without him. The whole reason we have a world, the whole reason we have a universe, life, breath and being is because God chose to create. By God’s will all things were created and have their being. In other words, you’ve got nothing without God. Therefore, God is worthy of all glory and honor and praise. God created all things for his glory.

   B. Our greatest joy is found in praising him (Psalm 100:1-3)

Not only that, but our greatest joy is found in praising him. We read in Psalm 100: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:1-3)

The very first instruction in Psalm 100 is to shout for joy to the Lord. That sounds like loud and joyful praise to me! We not only worship the Lord, we worship the Lord with gladness. We come before him with joyful songs. Why? Because he is God, and he is the Creator. He made us, and we belong to him. We are his people. We are the sheep of his pasture. Our greatest joy is found in praising him.

Jonathan Edwards put it this way: “The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted.” (Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World, Chapter I, Section III) In other words, God’s praise and your joy go together. You will never truly be happy until you are giving God his rightful praise. And you can never truly praise God without being happy.

God created all things for his glory. Our greatest joy is found in praising him. Therefore, God is worthy of loud and joyful praise, just like the crowds offered to God as Jesus approached Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday. That’s our first point this morning. God is worthy of loud and joyful praise.

II. Our praise should focus on the person and work of Jesus (38)

Secondly, our praise should focus on the person and work of Jesus. Back to our passage in Luke 19 now, listen to what the crowds shouted about Jesus in verse 38: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38) As the crowds offered up their loud and joyful praise to God, notice how they focused on Jesus. Luke records two specific statements they made about Jesus. And when you take these statements and compare them with other Scriptures, we see that these statements focus on the person and work of Jesus – who Jesus is, and what he did for us.

   A. Jesus is the king who comes in the name of the Lord (Psalm 118:24-26)

First of all, the person of Jesus – who Jesus is. Jesus is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. This first shout of praise comes from Psalm 118 where we read: “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 118:24-26)

Notice the theme of joy that heads up these verses in Psalm 118, a joy that rests once again in God as Creator. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Notice the cry for salvation embedded in the middle. “O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success.” The word translated, “Save us!” there is the same as the Hebrew word “Hosanna!” that the people cried out on Palm Sunday. That’s what hosanna means – “Lord, save us!” And then comes the part of the verse that the people applied directly to Jesus on that first Palm Sunday. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

But notice how they have also changed this slightly to say, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38) Why the change? The people in Jerusalem are acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior whom God promised he would send so long ago.

They don’t know everything about the Messiah yet. They don’t understand that Jesus is not only the Messiah but the very Son of God. They don’t understand that Jesus came not only to be king over Israel, but King over all the earth. They don’t understand that Jesus came not as a political savior but rather to save his people from sin. They don’t understand any of that yet. But they do recognize that he is the Messiah, the Savior, the Promised One. And so, they joyfully echo the words of Psalm 118: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

   B. Jesus’ death brings peace in heaven and earth (Luke 2:14; Revelation 5:9,12)

God is worthy of loud and joyful praise, and our praise should focus on the person and work of Jesus. Jesus is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. That’s the person of Jesus, who he is. And Jesus’ death brings peace in heaven and earth. That’s the work of Jesus, what he did for us.

Back to Luke 19:38, look at the second phrase the people cry out.: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38) This second phrase echoes the song the angels sang at Christ’s birth. Look at these verses next to each other:

• The angels’ song at Christ’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

• The people’s declaration at his entry into Jerusalem: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38)

At Jesus’ birth the angels cried out, “Peace on earth!” On Palm Sunday the people cried out “Peace in heaven!” Both are wondrously true.

Did the people even realize the significance of what they were saying? Probably not. But God in his sovereignty knew that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem would result in his dying on the cross for sin. And Jesus’ sacrificial death would bring peace in heaven and earth, peace between God and man for all who would put their faith in Christ.

We read this beautiful song of praise to Jesus in Revelation 5: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…. Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:9,12)

This is the song of praise that we will sing throughout all of eternity. “Worthy is the Lamb” – there’s the person of Christ; “who was slain” – there’s the work of Christ. Throughout all of eternity we will sing praise to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He was slain for your sins and mine, and with his blood he purchased men and women for God from every tribe language and people and nation. “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Jesus is the Son of God. He is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Jesus’ death brings peace in heaven and earth. Our praise should focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

III. God must and will be praised through Jesus Christ (39-40)
      – see also Habakkuk 2:11-12

So those are the first two things we learn from our passage this morning. 1) God is worthy of loud and joyful praise. 2) Our praise should focus on the person and work of Jesus. And finally, 3) God must and will be praised through Jesus Christ. Back to Luke 19 now, look at verses 39-40: Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40)

And so, we learn that not everyone along the road to Jerusalem was happy on Palm Sunday. The Pharisees hear the people proclaiming Jesus as Messiah, and so they tell Jesus: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” (Luke 19:39)

And you know what? Any good teacher who was not the Messiah would have rebuked the disciples right then and there. But Jesus did not rebuke them, because he was the Messiah. He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. In fact, rather than rebuking the people, he actually affirmed their praise instead. “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

I love that phrase. It is wonderfully ambiguous, and yet at the same time such a clear affirmation that Jesus accepted the people’s praise of him as Messiah. So, what did Jesus mean that the stones would cry out? There are several possible interpretations.

1) One interpretation is that Jesus is saying it is just as impossible for the disciples to keep quiet as it would be for the stones to cry out. The Messiah is here. How can they not rejoice?

2) A second interpretation would be that Jesus is worthy of praise, and if we do not give it to him, God will find some other means, even if it means making the stones cry out his praises instead.

3) A third interpretation sees the stones crying out not in praise but rather in judgment of those who do evil. We find parallels to this in the Old Testament, for example in Habakkuk 2 where we read: “The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it. ‘Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime!’” (Habakkuk 2:11-12) In this interpretation the stones would be crying out in condemnation of either the disciples who withhold their praises or perhaps the Pharisees who seek to silence them.

I like the second of these interpretations best, that if the disciples remain silent, the stones will cry out the praises of Jesus instead. But whichever Jesus meant, it is clear that he affirms the peoples’ praises over the Pharisees’ objections. God is going to be praised one way or another. And if we keep quiet, the rocks will cry out.

   A. God will not give his glory to another (Isaiah 42:8)

This saying of Jesus is remarkable for a number of reasons. First of all, the Bible tells us that God will not give his glory to another. We read in Isaiah 42:8: “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another.” (Isaiah 42:8) God’s glory belongs to him alone, and he does not share or give his glory to anyone else.

   B. Jesus shares God’s glory; therefore, he is God (John 17:1-5)

And yet, the Bible also teaches us that Jesus shares God’s glory. The night before Jesus went to the cross, he prayed a prayer to God in the presence of his disciples. Hear the opening words of this prayer in John 17. Jesus prayed, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:1-5)

Now remember, God will not give his glory to another. And yet here we see that Jesus shares God’s glory. The conclusion is unmistakable. If Jesus shares God’s glory, then Jesus is God.

   C. Every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11)

The New Testament confirms this in many other places, but perhaps one of the clearest is in Philippians 2 where we read this about Jesus: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

CONCLUSION: So, what does all this mean? Exactly what we’ve just been talking about throughout the whole passage.

God is worthy of loud and joyful praise. He created all things for his glory, and our greatest joy is found in praising him.

Our praise should focus on the person and work of Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God, the king who comes in the name of the Lord. That’s the person of Jesus. Jesus’ death brings peace in heaven and earth. That’s the work that Jesus came to do.

God must and will be praised through Jesus Christ. God will not give his glory to another. Jesus shares God’s glory; therefore, he is God. One day every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

But we shouldn’t wait until the day when every knee will finally bow before the Lord. Let us give God his rightful praise through Jesus Christ right now. Because if we don’t, the rocks will cry out.

© Ray Fowler

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