“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to [Jesus], ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop [shouting and praising you as king].’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’”
Anybody here take physics in high school? Anyone remember the equation for Newton’s Second Law of Motion, F=MA? Force equals mass times acceleration. The amount of force an object has depends on how big it is and how fast it is moving. An 18-wheeler requires a lot of force to bring to a stop even if it is just traveling 10 miles per hour. A bullet too requires a lot of force to bring to a stop even though it may weigh only a third of an ounce, but it is still difficult to stop because it is traveling so fast- about 1700 miles per hour.
I experienced Newton’s Second Law of Motion, Force equals mass times acceleration, first-hand when I got the not-so-bright idea to join the football team in seventh grade. One practice we were doing what the coach called “blood drills.” Essentially, we were randomly paired up with another member of the team who would be thrown the football and the partner would have to tackle him. I have always been a small guy. In seventh grade I was about 5’5” and weighed about 115 pounds. Of course I was paired with one of the biggest guys on the team. Luck was not on my side. My partner, Justin, was almost 6 feet tall and weighed about 180 pounds. My coach threw Justin the football and I was supposed to tackle him. Well, I ran at Justin as hard as I could and attempted to bring down this giant of a junior high schooler. I bounced off of him like a ping pong ball. Force equals mass times acceleration. Justin had a heck of a lot more mass than I did and he was faster than me too. His force far exceeded my own.
The Good News of Jesus Christ has a lot of force behind it. It is heavy with the weight of God’s continued promises from long ago through the present and in the ministry of Jesus it is moving at immense speed. Jesus is continuing in the promises given to God’s people from ages past. Those promises and hopes have incredible mass and have been constantly moving toward Jerusalem on this Palm Sunday that we celebrate. The prophet Zechariah proclaimed the promise of God’s chosen king who will one day return to bring everlasting peace to God’s people and that this king will arrive “humble and riding on a colt,” (Zech. 9:9) from the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:1-5). The people of the city who see Jesus rejoice and they sing that old Psalm of God’s victory and salvation of the power of evil and suffering (Psalm 118 in our Bibles) that their people have been singing for generations “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Then, the Pharisees, who are afraid that the current sitting emperor wouldn’t appreciate this boisterous welcome of God’s anointed king, approach Jesus and ask him to order his disciples to keep quiet. Jesus then quotes another great prophet, Habakkuk, “If these [people] were silent, the stones would shout out.”
“You can’t stop this,” Jesus says. There is too much force behind it. This promise of God’s complete and good restoration of God’s people is too great to be quelled. This promise contains incredible mass. It is the promise of an end to war, it is the promise of an end to wickedness and sin, it is the promise of an end to division, and it is the promise of an end to death itself. That massive promise has been on the move for generations. The people of Israel have been hoping in the promise and receiving it anew generation after generation. Abraham and Sarah received this promise when they were given the gift of descendants as numerous as the stars who would share the light of God with the world. Moses, Aaron, and Miriam received this promise and shared it when God delivered their enslaved people from slavery in Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. The many prophets of God like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Hosea, Obadiah, Daniel, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Elijah, Elisha, and Amos received this promise and shared it with God’s people, even when those people were lost or wicked or without hope. The people of God who have been singing the Psalms and continue to sing the Psalms, sing of God’s promises in the midst of great fear and loss.
This reality-changing promise found in God’s Good News is too big and too fast moving to be stopped. Force equals mass times acceleration and the force of God’s salvation is unstoppable.
We celebrate that unstoppableness of God’s Good News as people who have received that promise. Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem with the great weight of God’s love being propelled by generations of hopes and faith of those to whom God has been revealed. The fear of the religious leaders could not quiet the joy of those receiving the Christ King. The pain of betrayal and abandonment made by Jesus closest disciples could not stop the force of God’s Good News. The mocking and beating of Jesus by the soldiers could not stop the force of God’s Good News. Jesus’ death and crucifixion, even after three days of silence in the tomb, could not stop the force of God’s Good News.
As we being our journey to the tomb this Holy Week, know that God’s Good News and the massive unconditional love it contains is too powerful to be overcome by anything. No fear, no suffering, no sin, and no death can overcome it. There is no force in the world that can overcome greatness of God’s saving love.