From the Garden to the City,
Trees along the way
(c) Copyright 2007 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Some things have to be said. You’ve all been in that situation. Someone has done something and it has to be said: “What were you thinking?” Or someone is wearing some clothing that is so outlandish and inappropriate that someone has to go to them and make a comment. And all to often, there is no one better qualified to make that comment, to state the obvious than a Dutchman.
This passage is a “some things just have to be said” passage. And in this passage we discover those who are eager to say it, those who would say it if no one else did, and those who were determined that it not be said.
We start with those who were eager to say it. The crowds who had seen Jesus ministry, his miracles, heard his teaching, even partially understood what he was saying. Their lives were touched, maybe by the miracles he did, maybe by the words he had spoken - whatever the cause, they were eager to speak and cry our “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Their words were a confession, an acknowledgment that in Jesus they were placing their hope, their future, their security, their salvation. And they expressed that hope by throwing their cloaks in front of the donkey he was sitting on. Their worship was confession, loud words were the first fruits of their lips. They were honouring Jesus as God, the Messiah come to deliver them. We tend to focus on the Palm branches because the Palm branches feel worshipful. But the truth is, the Palm branches were not their worship, their confession was their worship.
As Reformed Christians, we believe that every area of life is worship. That there is no part of our life that should not involve worship. We discover in this passage that worship involves words, confession, acknowledging before others that Jesus is Lord over all. Confession is our first expression of worship. Amanda, Sheri and Ashley, all of us, continue your worship beyond these walls. Continue your confession in Word and action in every part of your life. Some things have to be said. And we are the spokespersons of creation uniquely qualified to say it even though many of us are not Dutch.
Now there were those in the time of Jesus was were determined that it not be said. They were the Pharisees who just had no stomach for acknowledging that Jesus was the Christ of God, the one through whom peace would come and who deserved the highest praises and glory.
The spirit of the Pharisees is in our culture today to. We hear their voices when our culture says ‘keep your religion to yourself.’ Or when our culture says ‘keep your truth to yourself, others have their truths that are equally valid.’ Whatever you do, don’t be loud about it. We hear the spirit of the Pharisees when we want to speak up, confess what has to be confessed, but the spirits remind us that we do not want to look like a fanatic, someone who has lost their marbles for a cause and will lose all respect. We hear the voice of the Pharisees when we hear that confession is such an extravagant act, its not necessary, its going overboard and besides you have to really be a model personality before you should dare say anything about Christ. You best start your confession with your good behaviors, witness just by your actions. Just be a good person, besides, then at least you get some of the credit. And besides, you have to be absolutely sure, 100% scientifically proven before you confess especially Christ. We recognize the spirit of the Pharisees in our culture when we feel that reminder - don’t confess, its too early, its too expensive, you’re being proud even arrogant. Be good, do good works, but whatever you do, don’t confess Christ.
The spirit of the Pharisees is alive and well today. It is expressed in our cultures choice to ignore history, disbelieve against the evidence, avoid the deeper questions. Amanda, Sheri and Ashley, Daniel, you will be influenced by this Spirit, it is part of who we are as North Americans. Learn not to listen to it. Some things just have to be said. If you choose to remain silent...
Well - again we return to our passage.
The time had come to worship with loud exuberant confessions. This had to be said and the people who had been gifted by God to speak were shouting. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. And the spirit of the Pharisees was hard at work in the leaders of the day. “Teacher, rebuke you disciples!” And to that Jesus had one answer.
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
If those who are divinely gifted with the ability to speak remain silent, then those things that do not have the gift of speech will cry out. And the word for cry out a word that the Greek created out of the sound that a crow makes when it cries out (onomatopoeia). The implication is that all of creation will convulse with the message that Jesus is Lord, the Messiah of God.
We are not told how they would cry out. Maybe instead of the palm branches having to be cut off the tree, maybe the palm trees would shed their branches onto the road, dropping their crowns in honour of him. How would the rocks cry out, well, we get an idea on Good Friday. When Jesus died on the cross, once again the Pharisees did not want it acknowledged that this Jesus on the cross was the Son of God crucified. The disciples in fear had turned silent. What happened...
The Sun cried out the only way it could- by becoming dark from the 6th to the 9th hour.
The rocks cried out the only way they could, the earth shook, graves were opened, saints arose to give glory to God, after all the disciples were hiding in fear for the Pharisees.
Even the temple cried out in the only way it could. The whole purpose of the temple was to insulate the holy from the unholy. Now that separating curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. No separation left. Herod’s temple now a useless monument to a ministry that was no longer valid.
Even the cross on which he was hanging proclaimed “This is the king of the Jews.” Now unbelievers like the Centurion would cry out “surely this was the son of God.” and others, because they had no words of faith would beat their breasts.
The point is this.
Creation will cry out in the only ways that it can, all of creation will cry out if we keep our peace, we remain silent, we refuse to put our faith into words. Some things have to be said, and they will be said if we do not say them.
Brothers and sisters
Will you call out his name loudly in this week, in our time, in this culture, Will you who are gifted with words use that gift, or will the rest of creation have to do it the only way that it can, by upheaval?
I don’t know if you have
noticed. But scripture paints the last days of this creation as days
when there will be a turning away from faith and from the truth. And it
will not be long after that that there will be famine, earthquakes, the
moon will turn to blood, there will be terrors and fears. Is that
creations way of crying out because we will not speak loudly?
the Garden to the City - Trees Along the Way
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.