The Stones Will
by the Rev. Lee Woofenden
March 28, 1999 ~ Palm Sunday
Exodus 24:9-13 Sapphire
stone as clear as the sky
Moses and Aaron,
Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of
Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as
clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of
the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.
The Lord said to
Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you
the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandments that I have written for
Then Moses set
out with Joshua his assistant, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.
Luke 19:28-40 The
triumphal entry into Jerusalem
Jesus went on
ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill
called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them,
"Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find a colt
tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone
asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.'"
Those who were
sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the
colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"
"The Lord needs it."
They brought it
to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt, and put Jesus on it. As he went along,
people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near
the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of
disciples began to joyfully praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they
the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the
Some of the
Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, order your disciples to
"I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
#9407 Deeper truth shining through
made of sapphire stone" means the quality of the literal meaning of the
Bible when we perceive the deeper meaning within it. When this happens, divine
truth flowing from the Lord shines through it, just as it does in heaven. For
the Bible is divine truth flowing from the Lord....
When our lives
are ruled by goodness, and from this goodness we are guided by truth, we are
lifted up into that divine light.... This gives us a general enlightenment
through which the Lord enables us to see countless truths, and to perceive them
from goodness. When we are in this state of mind, the Lord leads us to grasp and
absorb the true ideas that will be most helpful to us.
When he came
near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of
disciples began to joyfully praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they
had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in
heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said
to Jesus, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop!" He replied, "I
tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:37-40)
The stones will
cry out. It's a nice bit of hyperbole. But on that particular day, the disciples
could have believed that almost anything was possible. This, they knew, was the
greatest day their nation had ever seen. The Messiah, long prophesied, was
entering the city in triumph to establish the Kingdom of God, and to rule the
nations from Jerusalem. This was an event that reached right up to heaven.
"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" they shouted.
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
Of course, in
hindsight we know that their hopes of an earthly kingdom were soon to be dashed.
The triumph of Palm Sunday would seemingly end in the death of their great king
on the cross. The nation of Israel, instead of becoming the ruler of the world,
was soon destroyed by the Roman Empire, and its people scattered throughout the
then-known world. And yet, we still celebrate Palm Sunday nearly two thousand
years later. And we still read those cryptic words of Jesus, "I tell you,
if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
Now, you and I
both know that stones are inanimate objects, and they do not cry out. Not
without a little help anyway. Some of you may remember using a crystal radio set
in your younger days. I had one that I liked to play around with, even though
there were much better radios by that time. At the heart of that crystal radio
was an actual crystal, which is simply a highly organized type of stone. The
crystal in the radio did not "cry out" by itself, but took the
incoming signal and helped to convert it into sounds that we could hear in the
earphone. Even today, many radio transmitters and receivers use quartz crystals.
Now, I doubt this
was what Jesus was talking about when he said that if the disciples kept quiet,
the stones would cry out. Even if radios had existed at the time of the Lord, I
suspect he would have been less interested in the technology than in the message
it carried. And even if his words to the Pharisees may have been a bit of
hyperbole, there was a deeper message behind them. This was an event that had
to be celebrated. It may not have been the beginning of an earthly kingdom, but
it was the beginning of a great spiritual kingdom.
Just as the
crystal in a radio only puts out sounds that come to it in the form of radio
waves that are transmitted through the electromagnetic field, the words of the
Lord come alive only when their deeper meaning shines through to our minds. And
to grasp the meaning of his words, we need to look deeper, to their spiritual
sense. For this, we get help from a strangely beautiful passage in the book of
Exodus--at the time the Lord gave Moses the Ten Commandments--and from
Swedenborg's equally beautiful explanation of it. We read:
Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu,
and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his
feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky
like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky itself." We can
imagine the scene laid out in front of these seventy-four leaders of Israel: the
great Jehovah, appearing to them as a glorious human being, standing on a floor
of pure, blue crystal with the sun shining through it just as the sun shines
through the blue sky and gives light to everything below. Perhaps they even saw
Jehovah as the source of that sunlight shining through the sapphire firmament.
It was a rare and beautiful sight.
When we look into
its deeper meaning, we find that the translucent sapphire stone of the vision is
an image of the literal meaning of the Bible when the deeper, spiritual meanings
within shine through to our open and receptive minds.
This openness to
a deeper meaning within does not happen when we read the Bible simply out of
curiosity, or from scholarly interest, or as a historical or cultural text that
gives insight on earlier periods of humanity. When we read the Bible from these
or any other human perspective, it is simply a collection of ancient myth,
cultural history, poetry, stories, and religious teachings. Nothing more shines
through because our mind is not looking for anything more in it. The stories are
ordinary rocks, not translucent crystals.
But it is
different when, from goodness and love in our hearts, we look to the Bible
stories to gain understanding and enlightenment to help us live in a good and
loving way. When we approach the Bible in this spirit, we gradually begin to see
deeper meanings for our own lives. The stories come alive for us, and we see in
them reflections of our spiritual struggles and triumphs. We see the story of
our own spiritual journey told in the journeys and struggles of the people of
the Bible. And we gain insights that help us to take the next steps along our
The story of Palm
Sunday offers an especially beautiful message to our open hearts. "Blessed
is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the
highest!" Jesus' entry into Jerusalem did not bring political peace to the
troubled people of Palestine. Politically speaking, his presence brought not
peace, but a sword (Matt. 10:34).
But he did offer
a much deeper peace to those whose hearts were open to his presence and his
teaching. He offered people then--and continues to offer to us today--the peace
of knowing that we are loved and forgiven; the peace of knowing that God created
each one of us for a purpose; the peace of knowing that we are created as
precious human crystals, able to receive the love and wisdom that comes from
God, and transmit it to others as we show them the love and the kindness that
God has shown us. Jesus offers each one of us the peace that passes
understanding, deep within our souls.
The source of
that peace is the knowledge that our Lord and Savior is the king and ruler of
the world, God with us, enlightening us and showing us the way. As the Gospel of
John says, "In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. . .
. He was the true light that enlightens every person coming into the world"
(John 1:4, 9).
This is what we
celebrate on Palm Sunday. We celebrate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
entering the Jerusalem of our inmost heart and highest mind to bring the joyful
message that God, the Lord, is the true king and the true light of our lives.
And if the stones could cry out today, I am sure that is exactly what they would
be saying. Amen.