“I tell you if they are silent even the stones will shout.”
Have you ever been in a situation, you know the kind I’m talking about where it’s quiet and there is an expectation of quiet. Whether it’s a worship service, a meeting, a bible study, a quiet room, a library, the list goes on and on and the person you are with won’t be quiet, won’t lower their voice. It’s embarrassing. Why won’t they be quiet? It’s uncouth, it’s uncivilized, it’s maddening.
I know this because I have two young children, I know this because I like my family have loud voices that carry a long way, I know this because if you tell me to be quiet I’m either going to get really, REALLY loud or I’ll shut down completely, I know this because I am easily embarrassed.
That’s what the Pharisees were doing right? They were just asking Jesus to calm his disciples down, they were creating a scene, they were too loud, they were uncouth, they were embarrassing.
You see there was another parade going on that day. One that was very different than the one we celebrate on Palm Sunday.
The other parade was taking place across town, that parade was for Pontius Pilate. It was filled with large warhorses, weapons, banners, trumpets, and all the pomp and circumstance that could be mustered. This parade had a very different point, it was meant to intimidate, to remind the Israelites who was in charge, it was in it’s very nature the height of psychological warfare. It was as good or better than anything we saw from the USSR during the Cold War and still see by North Korea today.
As biblical scholars Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan put it, “From the west came Pilate draped in the gaudy glory of imperial power: horses, chariots, and gleaming armor. He moved in with the Roman army at the beginning of Passover week to make sure nothing got out of hand. Insurrection was in the air with the memory of God’s deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt.”
From the east, a commoner’s procession, Jesus wearing an ordinary robe and riding a donkey; some of the Pharisees were scared, they were nervous that the procession of Jesus and the exuberance of his followers was going to upset the delicate partnership they had with Pilate. Everything would be all right as long as Jesus and his disciples didn’t upset anyone.
To their command to “scold your disciples, tell them to be quiet.” Jesus quotes the prophet Habakkuk “If they were to be silent, even the stones would shout.”
You see the deal the Pharisees had struck with Romans, the deal that Jesus was coming dangerously close to upsetting by his teachings and his miraculous works was an unjust system. It was a system that benefited the Pharisees and those in power; it did not care for the poor, the widow, the children, the orphan. It had gotten to the point that the cries of injustice were so loud that even the stones would cry out for justice. Justice for those who were oppressed by the same Old Testament laws that had been created to lift them up, left to fall by the same covenant designed to catch them. Jesus had come to do, what he had been called to do, he had come to speak truth to power regardless of the consequences to his own health and good name. Within a week it would see him betrayed by his own disciple, have the back of the people he came to lift up be turned, and he would be executed as a common criminal.
Every time I read this story, I get so mad, so mad because this story continues to be told over and over and over again. People, groups, organizations rise up to speak against injustice and then they become subsumed by the power or silenced by the power, through execution, inaction, or slander.
The Tea Party, the Occupy Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, the list goes on and on. I want to focus on two people that you may never have heard of, these two I believe are the stones shouting for justice.
The first is Mary Harris Jones, in Appalachia she was known as Mother Jones. Jones worked as a teacher and dressmaker, but after her husband and four children all died of yellow fever and her workshop was destroyed in a fire in 1871, she began working as an organizer for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers union. From 1897, at around 60 years of age, she was known as Mother Jones. In 1902 she was called “the most dangerous woman in America” for her success in organizing mineworkers and their families against the mine owners. In 1903, upset about the lax enforcement of the child labor laws in the Pennsylvania mines and silk mills, she organized a Children’s March from Philadelphia to the home of then president Theodore Roosevelt in New York.
Mother Jones worked tirelessly until her death in 1930. Her work saved countless children from working in the mines and helped many men fight for a decent wage. Her work continues to be seen in my home state of West Virginia, where she stood up to those in power even leading to her being beaten by security from the coal companies when she was in her 80s. Mary Jones refused to be silent; she refused to allow children and those whom she loved to be treated as chattel to line the pockets of big city coal barons.
Can you hear the stones shouting?
Another stone that shouts is a young woman by the name of Malala Yousafzai. Malala is a student in Pakistan. Malala has become known for her work for women’s rights and for the education of girls in the Middle East.
In early 2009, at the age of 11/12, she wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. The following summer, a New York Times documentary was filmed about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region. Yousafzai began to rise in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television and taking a position as chairperson of the District Child Assembly Swat. She has since been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu and has won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. She was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is the youngest nominee in history.
On October 9, 2012 a Taliban gunman shot Malala in the head and neck in an attempt to assassinate her while she was getting off her school bus. Malala was unconscious, in critical condition and was taken to the hospital.
After she was stabilized she was flown to England for treatment. After reconstruction of her skull and her hearing restored she was released in February of this year.
This week Malala returned to school, now in the United Kingdom. When asked about her first day she said, “I am excited that today I have achieved my dream of going back to school. I want all girls in the world to have this basic opportunity,”
Regardless of those in power telling her to be silent, regardless of the fear she felt, regardless of the attacks she has endured, Malala still fights for right for women and girls all over the world to get an education.
Can you hear the stones?
Who are the stones in our lives that are shouting? What are the things that are so necessary that they have to be said? What are you willing to shout, even when those around you tell you to be silent?
The Good News is even though they crucified him, they could not silence Jesus! Even though his disciples shuttered themselves in a room, the word got out! Friends, Jesus calls us to a better way, not an easier way. Jesus calls us to shout from the mountaintops and in the gutters and on the streets and in the hills. We will not be silent, we will shout with out loudest voice. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the one who comes to set the captive free. Blessed is the one who gives voice to the voiceless, power to the powerless, and never forgets that we are called to love….first.
Can you hear the stones?