And when he was come nigh, even now at 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 that they had seen; saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. (Luke 19:37-40)
I've been a Full Gospel Christian for over twenty-five years and have heard references to stones crying out probably more than a hundred times. Each and every time the preacher has referred to Jesus' stones as literal rocks laying at the Pharisees' feet ("You know, Israel is full of these big rocks."). And that has led to all kinds of speculation as to how Jesus' words could actually become true. Here's one example:
When Jesus gave up his spirit on the cross, the earth shook and the rocks split. Matthew 27:50-51. In Mark 13:8 Jesus tells us there will be earthquakes in various places, these are the beginning of birth pains. Is this rock splitting in Matthew the stones crying out? Is it the same during the earthquakes during the end times...birth pains, crying out? Is it as simple as that? —ChristianBlog.com
That sounds more like a Star Trek episode in my mind than it does the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
Kirk: Spock, what it is?
Spock: Captain, my sensors indicate that the musical sounds aren't coming from carbon- based creatures at all.
Kirk: My God, Spock, what are you saying?
Spock: Yes, Captain. My sensors have correctly deduced that these musical melodies are coming from the very rocks under our feet.
Kirk: Scotty, beam us outta here, will ya!?!
In the Bible, the first time we see "rocks crying out" is not in Luke, but in the little-known prophet Habakkuk. In Habakkuk 2.4, Habakkuk prophesied of the coming Righteous One ("The Righteous One by faith shall live") and continued with a diatribe against a "selfish man":
Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, To put his nest on high, To be delivered from the hand of calamity! You have devised a shameful thing for your house by cutting off many peoples; so you are sinning against yourself. Surely the stone will cry out from the wall, and the rafter will answer it from the framework. . . . For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 12:9-14, ASV)
If you scuttle over to your local seminary and pull all the dusty commentaries on Habakkuk off the shelves (sorry, Lifeway won't have any of these), they'll tell you that Habakkuk's prophecy against the "evil man" was about covetousness. But that conclusion doesn't jive too well with "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord."
The meaning behind the "shame to thy house" isn't covetousness, but the Jews' exclusion of the Gentiles from the Gospel. Read the verses again, substituting "Jews" with the selfish man and you'll see that Habakkuk says that they've brought shame to their nest on high "by cutting off many peoples" because, in the end, "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord." The stones that cry out of the wall are a metaphor for the Gentiles who have been locked out of the Gospel house.
Far-fetched? Look at Peter:
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:5, KJV)
In 1 Peter 2.5, Peter calls born-again believers "lively stones" that are built up as a spiritual house -- an echo to Habakkuk's prophecy. In Peter's house, the very stones of the house are to offer up spiritual sacrifices, that is, praise, acceptable to God. These "lively stones" are also consistent with Paul's exegesis of Ezekiel's prophecies:
And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh. That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20, KJV)
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27, KJV)
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. (2 Corinthians 3.3, KJV)
Given this insight, we better understand John the Baptist's own use of the crying stones:
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Saducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentence: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (Matthew 3.9, KJV)
John rebukes the Pharisees for their "nest on high" smugness -- that they are saved because of their lineage to Abraham -- by the pejorative declaration that "God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." Was John pointing to the rocks under the Pharisees' feet or to something else? The Gospels show us that John didn't just have a clan of repentant Jews at the Jordan river, but also a lot of ne'er-do-well Gentiles:
And the people asked him, saying, "What shall we do then?" ... Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?(Luke 3:10, 12, KJV)
And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? (Luke 3.14, KJV)
John, by telling the Pharisees that their unfruitful tree was being hewn down, was echoing Habakkuk's prophecy that God would not let the Jews corner the Gospel, but that "the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God." We see the fulfillment of that prophecy in Galatians:
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. (Galatians 3:7-9, KJV)
So when the Pharisees told Jesus to make his disciples stop praising God, Jesus didn't point to some inanimate rocks and tell the Pharisees that they were about to burst out in song. No, instead he was saying that if the Jews didn't offer praise for "the king that cometh in the name of the Lord," then the Gentiles would bust a rhyme. And we have.