What is the meaning of the odd phrase even the stones will cry out?
Jesus makes an amazing statement as He rides into Jerusalem on the Sunday before Passover. The people are shouting “Blessed is the King Who comes in the Name of the Lord!” Jesus welcomes their shouts of praise “Hosanna to the Son of David!” – a profound declaration appropriate only for the Messiah. This infuriates the Pharisees and they demand that Jesus rebuke His disciples for allowing this praise from the people.
Luke 19:39-41 (NKJV)
Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:
“ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
This pent up hope and expectation must have erupted into praise when Jesus came into Jerusalem to celebrate the coming Passover feast. They knew He was a miracle worker and a great teacher. He spoke with great authority and was fearless. Many of the people knew He would make a great leader.
The people were in touch with their ancient prophecies of a coming Messiah. They longed for the day that He would appear and set them free. Like Moses, they had hoped for a deliverer to come for hundreds of years.
What is the meaning of this odd phrase “even the stones will cry out”? Jesus seems to be contrasting the praise of people to the praise of stones. We of course understand that stones do not talk as we do. So this contrast grabs our attention by how strange it is. Does creation literally groan and do rocks cry out in praise? I would venture to say that we do not take these thoughts literally but use them to direct our thinking correctly.
Jesus was also in a very strange situation. He knew He was to be illegally arrested, beaten, and crucified in a few short days. He knew most of the people would turn against them. Yet He allowed the people to praise Him and declare He was the Messiah.
So many of Jesus’ words echo Old Testament Scriptures. Here He echoes Habbakuk 2:11, in which the prophet condemns those who build cities by bloodshed and injustice with the words, “The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.”
There is a fascinating scripture in Romans 8:20, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope.”
We read here in this passage that Paul the Apostle uses emotional terms such as frustration, eager expectation, and groaning to describe how ‘creation’ feels about bondage, decay, freedom, and the glory of the children of God.
Today, we also long for Jesus to return as the Victorious and Risen Messiah and deliver His people from the corruption of the world. We also have a wonderful blessing in the fact that we have two thousand years of history to consider since Christ was risen from the dead. The countless miracles and stories of God’s grace revealed to mankind continue to point us to praise Him over and over.
As living stones, we can cry out and declare Jesus to be our King!