SUNDAY 9 APRIL, 2017
THE PHARISEES WERE NOT HAPPY WITH JESUS
“And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out”, (Luke 19:39-40).
Jesus and the disciples came to the village of Bethany and Bethphage, nestled on the Eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, only a few miles outside Jerusalem. Jesus stayed in Bethany during the nights of that last week, entering Jerusalem during the day.
However, Jesus was extremely well known. Everyone coming to Jerusalem for the Passover feast had heard of Him and for time, the popular mood was favoured toward Him. Therefore, they lined up at His triumphant entry to Jerusalem, waving palm branches and throwing their cloaks in front of the colt as it passed before them. “Long live the King” was the meaning behind their joyful shouts because they knew that Jesus was intentionally fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9: “Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. To announce that He was indeed the Messiah, Jesus chose a time when all Israel would be gathered at Jerusalem, a place where huge crowds could see Him and a way of proclaiming His mission that was unmistakable. The people went wild. They were sure their liberation was at hand.
Regrettably, the Pharisees thought the crowd’s words were sacrilegious and blasphemous. They didn’t want someone challenging their power and authority and they didn’t want a revolt that would bring the Roman army down on them. So they asked Jesus to keep His people quiet. But Jesus said that if the people were quiet, the stones would immediately cry out. Why? Not because Jesus was setting up a powerful political kingdom but because He was establishing God’s eternal kingdom a reason for the greatest celebration of all.
By way of contrast, however, the Pharisees (most of whom had set themselves against the Son of God), urged Jesus to silence the worship of these disciples (Luke 19:39). In despair, they lamented that it appeared that “the world is gone after him” (Jn. 12:19). O that it had; and yet would! But Christ retorted: “I tell you that, if these [people] should hold their peace, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). One scholar thinks that this “personification of nature recalls Isaiah 55:12, where the mountains and hills ‘burst into song’ and the trees of the field ‘clap their hands,’ rejoicing at God’s deliverance. There may also be an allusion to Habakkuk 2:11, where the prophet announces that ‘the stones of the wall will cry out’ in judgment against Babylon” (Mark Strauss, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary and Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002, Vol. I, p. 469). In a manner of speaking, the “stones” of the Temple, as they were “thrown down” by the Romans, did testify of Heaven’s judgment upon a people that crucified their Messiah (cf. Mt. 24:2).
Nevertheless, the Saviour’s “Triumphal Entry” into the city of Jerusalem, one week before “Resurrection Sunday,” signaled both deliverance and doom. The former would obtain for those who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah and surrendered to His will; the latter would prevail for those who rejected Him. The same (in principle) and in a final, ultimate sense, applies today as well. The question that must challenge us today is that, are we among those who are not happy with Jesus? If the answer is yes, we need a change of heart for Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”, (John 14:6). Therefore, it is my prayer that we should not be among those who are not happy with Jesus as He courageously enters into Jerusalem before His death. May the Holy Spirit be our guide!
VEN. ERNEST ONUOHA
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,