There was a vast crowd thronging Jerusalem that morning when Jesus came riding in on that humble donkey. Pilgrims from all over the world filled the city streets, some of them had come here as part of their once in a lifetime visit for the religious festival of Passover. It had taken months of journeying to get there and no doubt they were delighted for some added spectacle and excitement.
They had heard of Jesus, they knew he was a controversial figure, they perhaps didn’t particularly like the political or the religious rulers, so here was a chance to give them a bloody nose. They laid their coats on the ground in front of the donkey as it passed. They cut palm fronds and waved them in honour of this unusual person, singing his praises to the heavens. The sounds of their shouts resounded off the ancient stones like the whole city was alive.
Those with most to lose confronted Jesus. It seems they did this even as the parade was happening. If so they no doubt had to shout to be heard. Jesus, in response, maybe smiled, waved his hands in the direction of this happy throng and shouted back to them, “If you silence this crowd from singing their praises, then the stones on the road will cry out.” It was almost as if he was saying that someone, or something, must mark my arrival. If not the people then the dumb rocks.
It’s a not too subtle criticism of the religious leaders. The ones charged with noticing the turning of the religious clock. The ones supposed to be sensitive to spiritual things. But it seems they may have been too concerned with the political implications and with their own power and that of their institutions to be aware of what was happening on the street. Jesus warned them that this might be an occasion when the stones had more spiritual sense.
I see in this a warning for me too. Sometimes wisdom is found in the most unexpected places and from the most unexpected people. Sometimes the dumb rocks know more than me.
So this Palm Sunday, when we Christians celebrate the triumphal parade, lets remember that we don’t know everything. That we are not the measure of all wisdom nor the source of all piety. Let’s remember not to despise the others among us that we might otherwise think have the spirituality of a stone. For there are occasions when the stones know far more.
Thought for the Day, broadcast on Radio Ulster on Palm Sunday, 09 April 2017