As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” Luke 19:37-40
Less than a week before Good Friday, Jesus had been traveling along another major thoroughfare that went in and out of Jerusalem. On that day, he was not in danger of falling; he was riding on a donkey and people were spreading their cloaks on the ground, waving palm branches and singing. When the disciples were asked to stop the singing, Jesus answered that if the disciples did not sing, the stones would cry out.
Now Jesus is walking towards his death. This journey has no sense of triumph. Many people follow behind him but no one is singing. As Jesus falls to the ground, do the stones cry out? The haunting Christmas hymn A Stable Lamp is Lighted by Richard Wilbur suggests that they do.
This child through David’s city shall ride in triumph by;
the palm shall strew its branches, and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry, though heavy, dull and dumb,
and lie within the roadway to pave his kingdom come.
Yet he shall be forsaken and yielded up to die;
the sky shall groan and darken, and every stone shall cry.
If both the journeys of Palm Sunday and that of Good Friday pave the way for the coming of the kingdom, what does that mean about God’s kingdom? Between these two journeys, Jesus shares a meal with his disciples. At that meal, Jesus kneels on the ground and washes the feet of his disciples, feet that are tired and dirty from their own journeys to Jerusalem. After he washes the disciples’ feet, he teaches them, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
In God’s kingdom the king who entered the city triumphantly kneels to serve and bids us to do the same. In God’s kingdom, before Jesus falls, he is already on the ground.