The Stones Would Cry Out

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

“If these (people) should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

For the three years of His public ministry, the Lord had been trying to attract attention to Himself, to do things that would get people talking about Him, to get them to come and hear the new things that He had to say. He carefully chose the time and place of everything he did so that they would have all the greater publicity and impact. Take for example when He delayed His journey to heal His friend Lazarus so that when He did finally arrive, Lazarus was not only dead but obviously decomposing. When he then raised Lazarus from the dead it had far more impact than if He had arrive early and only healed his disease.

The Lord consciously and deliberately did things in such a way as to attract people’s attention and to draw them near so that they could hear Him. What good could the Sermon on the Mount have done if there was no one there to hear it? He went into the temple both to teach, and to publicly argue with Scribes and Pharisees, arguments which the people enjoyed and looked forward to. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the Lord marked the beginning of what He knew to be His final week on earth with His dramatic entry into Jerusalem in the manner of a king.

The Lord had prophesied through Zechariah that He would eventually enter Jerusalem in such a manner when he said, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. (9:9) We know from the accounts of all four gospels that that is exactly what He did. He borrowed a colt that had never before been ridden, and made His way to the city. Because of His teaching, and especially because of His miracles, He was recognized by the people. They remembered the many things that had been said about Him, and particularly those things that had to do with the kingdom that He was about to establish.

It is recorded in John that His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. (John 12:16) No one really understood what He was doing. It looked to them as if He was preparing to proclaim Himself the new king of Israel, and to use His miraculous powers to defeat the armies of Herod, and eventually Rome itself so that Israel could once again take its rightful place as ruler of the world. That was a pretty exciting prospect, even if it was only a distant hope, and the people watched the proceedings with great interest and enthusiasm.

This was exactly what the Lord intended. That all would be talking and thinking about the things that He was about to do and say, for in that way, those few who would be able to see the true meaning of what He was doing would be reached, and would therefore be in a position to receive the new and wonderful truth, and be the first members of the Christian Church which He was about to establish.

However, we must not think that the Lord did it only for show. The Heavenly Doctrines of the New Church tell us that everything that the Lord did while He was on earth corresponded to spiritual things that would serve for the instruction and enlightenment of both men and angels – but particularly for the angels who immediately understood the spiritual sense of the things that He taught.

It is incredible to reflect on the fact that every word that the Lord spoke while on earth was carefully measured and considered for its impact not only on those to whom He was speaking, but to the millions of men women and children who would later read His words in their Bibles, and the untold multitudes of angels who followed His work and teaching in the world. We must also remember that the spiritual world was at that time in a state of disorder, and so while He taught in this world, He was communicating the very truths that were needed to bring about a judgment and an ordering in the spiritual world at the same time. It is truly humbling to contemplate the power of God’s mind.

The doctrine that tells us that everything that the Lord did while He was on the earth was done for the sake of its correspondence is an extension of the doctrine that tells us that in a similar way, the same thing is true for each one of us; that is to say, that every single love or desire or feeling or emotion that exists within our will has an outward manifestation that corresponds to it.

When a man and woman are truly conjoined by their love, they cannot help but express that love by word and touch and tender embrace. When people of all ages are in the presence of a little child, they express the universal affection that we feel for the helpless and innocent, and reach out to caress and comfort that child. This is a universal truth regarding human affairs that can be easily perceived by anyone in a moment’s reflection on the matter.

And yet, otherwise reasonable people deny it! They say that they understand God in a “private way” so they do not need to come to church, they say that they believe in Christian charity, but give nothing of themselves to others. In spite of these opinions, the doctrines are quite clear: we do what we choose to do because we love to do it, and those things that we do not do, we do not love, no matter how much we may say that we do. And so, we can know ourselves and our ruling loves by looking at the things which we do – not which we tell ourselves we are going to do someday, but the things which we actually do.

This doctrinal principle that every affection of the will has an outward manifestation that corresponds to it has an application in the way we conduct our services of worship. We know that each region of the body corresponds to a different region of heaven: the head to the celestial heaven, the trunk to the spiritual heaven, and the extremities to the natural heaven. The knees are at the border between the spiritual and natural regions, and it seems that in the time of the Most Ancient Church when people were much closer to heaven and much more sensitive to the changes in their spiritual states, when they felt humble in their worship of the Lord, the outward manifestation was a weakening of the knees, which led them to actually, physically kneel. It was a spontaneous thing for the people of the Most Ancient Church, and continues to this day for those who are of a celestial genius. (While this may perhaps seem magical and strange, it is no different than having an upset stomach when you are nervous. The spiritual principle is exactly the same: that every affection or feeling or emotion within man’s spirit has some outward manifestation or symptom that corresponds to it.) Those of us who are spiritual, however, do not feel this spontaneous need to kneel in states of humility, we need to compel ourselves to it, and so kneeling in prayer is an important part of our worship ritual.

The spontaneous kneeling of the Most Ancients is connected to the Palm Sunday story through the fact that in the earliest days, the people would spontaneously kneel in the presence of the king because a king represented the Lord as to the Divine truth, and those good people would humble themselves before that truth which the king represented. Thus kneeling became a symbol of acknowledging the presence of the Divine truth in the royalty or office of a king.

The Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem was a dramatic statement about His mission in the world of men. He had, during the previous three years, established Himself as a great teacher. He had shown that He had power over disease by healing leprosy, blindness, and many other natural diseases. He showed that He had power over the processes of the natural world by cursing the Fig tree, feeding the crowd of thousands with a few loaves and fishes, and by calming the terrible storm with a word. And finally, He had shown that He had power over death itself by raising Jairus’s daughter and Lazarus from the grave. But now it was time for Him to add the final aspect to His public personality, the aspect of royalty, for in so doing, He was symbolically drawing closer to union with the Word itself.

The Lord rode into Jerusalem as a king, and the people responded by kneeling to place palms and their clothing in the road, protecting the feet of his donkey from the dust and the filth, and so representing in many ways their humility before His presence, and their respect for His royalty. As said before, the origins of these symbols are from the Most Ancient and Ancient Churches where they knew that the king was to be respected not for his person, but from the fact that he represented the Lord as to the Divine truth, and the chariot in which he rode signified the Word.

We also know that it is a common thing for people to call out when they are excited, or happy, or witnessing something special. In ancient times, people would call out to the king as he went past, just as we might shout “hello” or the like to a beloved leader in a festive parade.

This tradition of “crying out,” as it is called in the Word, is also from the principle that all loves have their outward expression. “Crying out,” as when the people shouted “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (Mark 11:9) is an act that corresponds to a living confession or acknowledgment from faith. (See AC 5323)

They key word here is that “Crying out” is a living confession that Jesus Christ is He who comes in the name of the Lord, that is, who is the Messiah, the one who saves. A living confession means that it is a confession made not through mere words, but a confession, or statement of belief, that is made through every action of every moment of every day, a faith that lives in the heart and mind.

This is one of the many lessons that is contained within the record of the events of that day, that the faith that we have in the Lord from the Word must be living, that is, must be expressed in the day to day course of our lives. We are all sorely tempted to let it go at knowing what the Lord teaches because we often find it difficult or inconvenient to do the things we know we ought to. We need to have the strength of our convictions to realize that there is no possibility of living life without problems, and the quality of our spiritual life is measured by how we deal with those problems.

Just as the physical body cannot grow without exercise and nourishment, neither can our spirit grow with exercise and nourishment. Spiritual nourishments may take many divergent forms, but they all have one thing in common, that they are all “living,” that is, they partake of the angel’s life.

We may at times read the story of the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem with a little envy, envy that we could not have been there ourselves to experience the excitement and adventure of knowing Jesus in those days. Perhaps we feel that it would be much easier to get fired up spiritually if we had been there ourselves, but now it all seems like so many dry stories of the olden days.

We can see the Lord’s triumphant entry. He will come to us as a king, any time that we in true humility, invite Him to. We are the Church. We are Jerusalem. But it is our choice as to whether we are the consummated church, or the newly established one, and we make that choice by our choice to follow the Lord’s commandments or not.

When we choose the path of humility and devotion to eternal truth, He will enter, and we will be filled with such a feeling of gratitude and pleasure that we will cry out with a happiness that cannot be silenced. “If these (people) should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40) AMEN.

1st Lesson: I Samuel 7:2-8

So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. {3} Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the LORD, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” {4} So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only. {5} And Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD for you.” {6} So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water, and poured it out before the LORD. And they fasted that day, and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah. {7} Now when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel had gathered together at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. {8} So the children of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.”

2nd Lesson: Luke 19:28-40

When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. {29} And it came to pass, when He came near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, {30} saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. {31} “And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.'” {32} So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. {33} But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?” {34} And they said, “The Lord has need of him.” {35} Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. {36} And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. {37} 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, {38} saying: ” ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” {39} And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” {40} But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

3rd Lesson: AC 5323.

…All inward endeavors that are of the will, thus of the love or affection, consequently of the life, have outward acts or gestures corresponding to them; which acts or gestures flow from the very correspondence of outward things with inward ones. Holy fear with its consequent humiliation (and therefore adoration), has acts or gestures corresponding to itself, namely, bending the knees, falling down upon the knees, and also prostrating the body down to the earth. In this state, if the adoration is from genuine humiliation, or if the humiliation is from genuine holy fear, there is a failing of the spirits, and hence a giving way of the joints in the border or intermediate region where the spiritual is conjoined with the natural, thus where the knees are; for the parts below have correspondence with natural things, and those above with spiritual things. Hence it is that the bending of the knees is a sign representative of adoration. With celestial men this act is spontaneous; but with spiritual men it is a result of will. Amen.

Page last modified April 11, 1999

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