Summary: This sermon is about being willing to shout out theglory of God! If we don’t witness, the stones will!
I have recorded in my journal an event that took place in early October 1990 at the Port of Dammam, Saudi Arabia, while preparing for Operation Desert Storm. A central ammunition depot was established in an open sided warehouse at the Port, and worship had been scheduled by a Chaplain with the 1st Cav in a clearing in the center of the ammunition storage area. Two reasons perhaps lead to this being the site for worship, one it was the only possible place that was away from the noise of ships being unloaded, and secondly it was safely out of sight of any Muslims.
Surrounded by ammunition; bombs and projectiles that someone said if it had exploded would have taken out a fifteen square mile area. Nearly 200 people gathered for worship. I wrote of that day "It was truly unbelievable to sit, surrounded by bombs, mortar rounds and many projectiles that cause mass destruction, when the purpose (our purpose) was to Glorify God. The Chaplain had organized a choir who sang two gospel songs; a young man was baptized at a field altar table, and I wrote of that day that "the key: was that no matter where we are - rejoice in the name of the Lord!" - "no matter where we are - rejoice in the name of the Lord!"
During the baptism a Sergeant Major, the highest ranking enlisted Army-man pulled a camera from his pouch and began taking pictures. He was quickly surrounded by Military Policeman, who not only confiscated his camera, but quickly lead him from the worship service. While I believe the SGM’s intentions were good, the MP’s quickly made it clear, "Don’t do that here - don’t take pictures of this classified area!"
And while that may be a slightly different situation, and had the MP’s not acted I myself as a Criminal Investigator may have had to react... I think of that story in the context of the story found in Luke 19:39-40, where the Pharisees, the religious MP’s, if you will, felt they need to act to put a stop to this new wave of worship. To put a stop to people lining the streets and shouting Hosanna. To put a stop to the what the Scriptures describes as "the disciples who began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice, for all the deeds of power that they had seen."
They wanted to put a stop to those who were witnessing about the power of God. To put a stop to those who were singing joyful songs about Jesus. "Teacher" they said, "order your disciples to stop!". And Luke clearly presents the contrast of the event between those who would praise God, and those who would act as the "Hush" police and silence the testimonies about the power of God. A contrast between those who "hear Jesus with joy"...and those who would "seek to trap him with their questions". (1) A contrast between those who have a song to sing, and they sing it freely about Jesus; and those who spend all their energy trying to quell the voices of witness in the world.
Rev. Don Forsman from Oklahoma tells of an Oklahoma Conference pastor who transferred from Oklahoma to a church in California. While serving in Oklahoma, a couple from the Church kept verbally attacking him, and finally after a sort of "come to Jesus meeting" the couple stopped attending Church but did not stop trying to get the pastor moved. On the first Sunday in California they held a reception for the new pastor and family, and the pastor became dumbfounded when he looked across the fellowship hall and there was this couple moving among the congregation...they had driven, what 1,500 miles just to silence the witness of this pastor.
Jesus responds in an intriguing way: "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out." Back in 1995 at a Revival in Cotulla, Rev. Sue Huntsman asked "if someone had a witness about a miracle?". No one in the congregation gave one. I knew there were miracles in our midst, but no one was willing to stand up and give an account of it. There are many reasons why we may not sing a song about Jesus or give a witness in public: fear; afraid we will be criticized; or what people might think. After the second night of the revival, a woman said she had been prepared to give a witness, even lead by the Holy Spirit to do so, but then we didn’t ask. But she also didn’t offer.
II. "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out" Certainly Jesus was responding to the "Pharisaical Religious Police" of the day, that they could not quiet the witness about the power of God. Isn’t that amazing, that even the stones would cry out a witness. You cannot quiet the witness of the power of God. Stones rolled away can proclaim an empty tomb; rubble of stone walls call tell how the walls of Jerico came tumbling down; a picture of a rock taken near Mt. Siani shows where once water just came up out of the center of the rock and flowed like a stream, and the Scriptures tell us how Moses touched the rock with his staff, and God provided water for the people of Israel in the desert. Stone markers that throughout the Old Testament line the routes to by Abraham, Issac, Jacob, David and the like to mark and give witness to the power of God along the way. You cannot quiet the witness of the power of God, and God can even use stones to shout it out.