I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out. (Luke 19:40)
As Jesus approached Jerusalem one last time, the people received him as royalty. As he drew near, seated on a donkey, Scripture was unfolding:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
The king had finally come. The donkey carried more than its king; it carried its creator. The hope of Israel entered, not in pomp and splendor, but in lowliness. Trumpets did not sound his arrival, but steady hoof-beats.
And the people played their part. They spread their cloaks on the ground before him (Luke 19:36). As the prophecy said, their joy and shouts and praise welcomed him:
The whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works 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!” (Luke 19:37–38)
How would Jesus receive this praise? He often forbade his identity to be known and his glorious works and person to be publicly praised. He had already refused a crown once. Would he silence them now?
Some thought he must. “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples’” (Luke 19:39). Rebuke them. They deemed the praise totally unfitting, a gross exaggeration, something to be met with sharp words. “Tell them you are not worth their Hosannas, not worth their homage, not worth this display.”
Jesus’s response shocks them: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40).
Jesus does not refuse their adoration. He does not rebuke them. He does not reassure the Pharisees that it was an honest mistake. He baffles them. He confounds them. He tells them that if these disciples stilled their tongues in this moment, the very rocks would grow tongues and praise him.
It would be more fitting for inanimate rocks to sing out his worth than that silence should meet him when he entered the city. Someone — or something — must praise. And if man would not lend his lips to the noble task, the privilege would fall to another.
Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. (Luke 3:8)
If Israel would not obey the Lord, the stones could serve as children of the promises made to Israel. If God’s people grew dumb and mute, the stones could welcome their Maker.
Jesus does not take the focus off himself, but doubles down. He says that what his disciples are doing is so fitting that the creation itself would step in if they did not step up. The only ones out of step, the ones obtuse and contrary to nature, are the Pharisees, who not only refuse to join the chorus, but dare to choke it out.
When stones or rocks or men or women or children praise Jesus, they do not participate in something strange. Jesus dwells among a thousand hallelujahs.
This is the scene that John the apostle unfolds in the final book of the Bible. The door to heaven opens (Revelation 4:1). John leaves earth’s shadows and steps into a whirlwind of worship. Lightning flashes, thunder roars, a voice beckons as a trumpet. Elders cast off their crowns and prostrate themselves, as four mighty creatures energetically worship the jeweled King who sits adorned in glory. The soundtrack plays:
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain “to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! . . . To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:12–13)
This is the epicenter of the heaven that is and the age that is to come: a thousand hallelujahs and many thousands more.