‘I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’ (Luke 19:40)
I have often been left wondering what this little phrase might mean.
It clearly means that the whole of creation, even rocks and stones, cry out that Jesus is King. But what kind of king?
The phrase “the stones will cry out” is a prophetic phrase given to us by God through the prophet Habakkuk and it links Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem, his clearing of the temple of money lenders and his death.
‘Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain,
setting his nest on high
to escape the clutches of ruin!
10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,
shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.
11 The stones of the wall will cry out,
and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.
12 ‘Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
and establishes a town by injustice!
13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined
that the people’s labour is only fuel for the fire,
that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
Habakkuk 2 is a warning of judgement against people and cities which are built on unjust money and the abuse of power. When greed and injustice multiply, the stones of the houses in the city cry out to God’s king for justice. When we see war torn cities in Syria, the buildings lying in heaps of rubble, those stones cry out to God’s king for justice.
And we are left without doubt that this is what Jesus meant when he said the “stones will cry out”. Jesus approaches Jerusalem and laments, he weeps over the city (Luke 19:41). He weeps because judgement is on it’s way and the people could not see it coming. God’s house of prayer had become a den of robbers. Temple workers took money from the poor to keep the religious show on the road. The temple had become a kind of religious shopping centre it was never intended to be. Jerusalem was going to fall, not one stone would be left on another (Luke 19:44), and those stones would cry out. Jesus could see it coming and he wept. His city, God’s Holy city, was meant to be a place of generosity and justice. But it had become a place of unjust gain and bloodshed.
But the bloodshed in the city becomes God’s means of salvation for the ones to whom woe is coming. Jesus sheds his blood to remove the woe.
Jesus is the king who builds a city by shedding his own blood, not the blood of others.
Jesus is the king who lays down his life for the good of others, not by corrupt or selfish practices.
Jesus is the king who gives generously, even giving his life, not by unjust gain.
This is how Jesus came to rule. And he rules by changing our hearts as people see what he did by dying for our sins.
Jesus did not come to rule for us, he came to rule in us.
Jesus is not the king we want, but the king we need.
Do we weep when we see Jesus on the cross?
Do we weep for our sins which held him there?
Do we weep with joy when we know we escape the woe of judgement, because of him?
Do we turn from unjust gain and bloodshed?
Do we shout the praise of Jesus, even when powerful people tell us to be quiet?
Or will the stones of our city cry out?