“Right at the crest, where Mount Olives begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed . . . . Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But Jesus said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them” (Luke 19: 32 -40, MSG).
Luke’s story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday makes it clear that Jesus was not afraid to draw attention to himself even in the midst of controversy. The crowds were shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David/Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” This allusion to a Messianic psalm (Psalm 118) drew resentment from the religious leaders present.
As Greg Carey writes, “’The whole multitude of disciples praises God. And the Order-Keepers implore Jesus to shut the thing down (19:37-39). Luke’s whole story has anticipated this moment, and we find ourselves in the midst of conflict. ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop'” (Working Preacher website, March 24, 2013). But Jesus, unafraid of this threat, refuses to tell the crowds to stop. And so the week that will see the crucifixion of Jesus begins.
Jesus’ response to “authority” is instructive for today’s disciples. What do we do when society tells us to “stop?” Christians are often present in the arena of “purity” issues. We can always be heard protesting abortion and gender issues (sometimes with little interest or care about the individuals involved.) But are we heard when Syrian children are killed by chemical warfare? Are we heard when families in South Sudan and Yemen are dying from lack of food?
Do we protest the gerrymandering schemes that manipulate votes in city or state elections? Do we even realize that the head of the Health and Human Services Department of the Federal government has used his position as a legislator to buy preferred stock and influence regulations for the pharmaceutical companies that offered him that stock? Are we present to protest the Trump administration’s callous rollback of regulations – such as allowing the use of pesticides that are known to be dangerous.
Jesus was not shy about confronting the establishment of his day; the Gospels brim over with examples of his refusal to accept their schemes and discriminations. He encouraged his disciples to speak the truth about who he was. He visibly protested in a spirit of concern and love. Our role as Christians today is to have the same visible presence among the “Order-Keepers” of our world. Unless we would rather leave that task to the stones.