Summary: The Palm Sunday crowds, like Job’s friends, shouted their slogans too glibly, communicating only popularity and prejudice, substituting religiosity and mere activity for knowing Jesus personally.
Declare if you know. Declare. Interesting word, “Declare”. It
suggests that when we communicate, there are a variety of
levels at which we can speak. There are different intensities
we can use when we want to say something.
Some folks merely suggest. They offer timid little ideas and
almost apologize for having dared to offer a creative thought.
One person I know offers ideas, but they are so hedged
around with, “Maybe this isn’t necessary” or “You’ve probably
already tried this” that I hardly even notice that it. A
suggestion, a timid little thought.
Other folks go beyond suggestion, and propose. They think
about some issue and come up with a way to make it work.
They call or they write, they offer to partner in making things
happen. They are not so timid that you cannot hear them,
nor are they so strident that you will not hear them. They do
not merely suggest, they propose. May their tribe increase!
They can be heard.
But then there are others who neither suggest nor propose,
but who announce. There are some folks who do not believe
they need to consult with anyone, but who just announce
what they are going to do, take it or leave it, thank you very
much. Sometimes that works. Years ago, in the old Soviet
Union, they thought that everything should be done by
consensus, and so the Moscow Symphony Orchestra
attempted to play without a conductor. The result was a
musical disaster. Sometimes somebody just has to
announce and lead.
But communication styles do not stop there. While there are
some who suggest, timidly; and while there are some who
propose, lifting up ideas for discussion; and while there are
still others who announce what they are going to do, there is
another level yet. There are those who declare. There are
those who with the force of personality, the authority of
office, the dignity of language, and the power of the moment,
declare. That is the most vigorous form of communication.
To declare. “By the power vested in me, I do now declare
that you are husband and wife”. I like doing that! “In the
name of the Lord, I do declare that you are now in full
fellowship with this congregation.” I like doing that too.
Declare! It communicates confidence, boldness, authority.
So Job says to his friends, after listening to their rhetoric,
“Declare! Declare if you know.” If you know.
You see, I think Job is aware that just because we say
something, that does not mean that we know anything. Just
because we are loud, that does not mean we know what we
are shouting about. It was said of one politician that he was
in love with the sound of his own voice. He just kept on
talking, whether he was saying anything or not, because it
sounded so good. A South African humorist, Roy Campbell,
described himself that way:
“Of all the clever people round me here
I most delight in me –
Mine is the only voice I care to hear,
And mine the only face I like to see.”
Job felt that his friends just talked to hear themselves talk.
They approached things not with an open mind, but with an
open mouth. Their declarations were empty, because they
really had not experienced what they were telling him. So
Job challenged them. Declare – if you know.
On Palm Sunday, don’t you get the feeling that maybe the
crowd was declaring what they did NOT know? If it is true
that the shouts of “Hosanna” turned in only a few days to the
cries of “Crucify”, then you have to wonder. Is it possible
that all this exuberance, all this energy, is only a front, and
nothing lies behind it? Like Job’s friends, who said what they
said with such emphasis, but who had never really
experienced life the way Job had, with all its pain and loss
and anguish – like Job’s friends, is it possible that now the
crowd, that day in Jerusalem, is just “sound and fury,
Declare if you know. It’s worth pausing to admit that
sometimes we declare ourselves precisely because we do
not know. Sometimes we make pronouncements to cover
over the truth that we have no idea what we are talking
about. A seminary friend of mine said that he didn’t prepare
his sermons ahead of time because he didn’t know what he
thought until it came out of his mouth! Imagine declaring,
what you have not reflected on, but you just opened your
mouth and let whatever come out. Don’t laugh. Many of us
do it. Some of the best funeral sermons I’ve preached were
for people I didn’t really know, and so I could be very clear,