This sermon was partially preached before and that sermon is posted here. However, I did change the beginning, because I was really looking at the fact that the night I wrote this sermon marked 30 years since Dr. King was killed. And the only way I felt I could do justice to his memory on that day, was to incorporate a previous sermon with this one.
The sermon this morning is taken from Luke 19: 29-40
When he had come near Bethpage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village ahead of you and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden before. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, "Why are you untying it?" just say this, "The Lord needs it." So those who were sent departed and found it as her had told them. As they were untying the colt, it's owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt." They said, "The Lord needs it." Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 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 you disciples to stop." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out." Let us meditate on the subject:
Thirty years ago yesterday, America bore witness to what happens when hate manifests itself in it's most grotesque and ugly manner. Thirty years ago yesterday, a servant of God was slain for nothing else than he was a threat and he told the truth. Thirty years ago yesterday, black people around the world lost a leader and a spokesperson, and some would say that the world has not been right since.
1968 was a very interesting year, particularly in my case. As I have read over the accounts of those times, it is interesting how so much happened in such a short span of time. Two of this countries most outspoken and controversial leaders were slain. A war raged in a foreign land, that to this day, most people still do not understand. Violence erupted at a political convention, forever altering our view of the political process. America was preparing to put a man on the moon, giving rise to the possibility that we may not be alone in this universe. Possibly the greatest science fiction movie of all time, 2001: A Space Odyssey was released. 1968 was a time of civil unrest, a time of great change. 1968 was a time when times changed, some for the better and some for the worst. And as much as it was a time of conflict, some found a way to find peace. And to top it off, 1968 was the year that I was born.
With the deaths of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, with the violence that plagued our nation, with the changing social and economic climates, some had to wonder, what direction our country was going in. They had to wonder how things could ever get better. Some may have even wondered where was God.
If I remember correctly, the 60's gave birth to the "God is Dead" movement. People, who for someone reason could not see the hand of God in everyday activities, figured that since God was they could not see God doing anything, God must be dead.
When Dr. King was killed, the world stood still for a few moments. With the violence that erupted in cities across the country, there was no doubt that the people who were responsible for his did not account for this. And even though the influence of Dr. King was beginning to wane, the fact was he was still, in April of 1968, the leader of blacks in America. The people who killed King did not account for the fact that they were indeed making a martyr out of him.
I am sure that most of us here have seen Star Wars. There is a point in the first movie where Obi Wan Kenobi is going off to meet Darth Vader. Once they finally meet, they begin their battle. At one point during the fight, Obi Wan looks over at Luke Skywalker and something clicks. Obi Wan puts down his sword or light saber, and allows himself to be killed by Vader, knowing that through his death, he would be able to help Luke Skywalker become the Jedi Knight that he was destined to be.
And in fact, by the third movie, we see that Obi Wan never left young Luke, in fact, was still with him, teaching him and guiding him. He wound up becoming so powerful that he was able to finally defeat Vader and turn him from the Dark Side. And this happened because Obi Wan allowed himself to be killed.
I bring this up because it is similar to the instance of Dr. King. 1968 was not a good year for Dr. King. It was not a year of great strides like the previous years. But he was still trying. He was trying to make a difference, to affect change, to open minds, to create possibilities. And despite all of his faults and his meandering, womanizing ways, he was a man of God. He believed in the power of God to overcome any obstacle or problem. He knew that unless the Civil Rights Movement had a healthy dose of God, that the struggle would be for not.
And the people who killed King did not take into account that King, despite everything, had God on his side. Now I keep saying "the people who killed King" because I do not believe that James Earl Ray is solely responsible for King's death. Many newspapers, magazines and talk shows have been analyzing and going over all of the evidence, and some agree with my conclusion and others don't.
But the reality in this country is that white America has and always will be more afraid of an intelligent black man rather than a simple nigger. And in fact, white America will use that simple nigger for their purposes, and in turn, that "simple nigger" will wind up betraying the black race. Now I know I said a few months ago I wasn't going to use that word, but it was the best word to illustrate my point.
So while Dr. King is dead, the dream lives on. As they say time and time again, you can kill the dreamer, but you can't kill the dream. You can erase a man, but you cannot erase his spirit. If a man has injected others with his dreams and hopes, then it is too late to neutralize him. Because especially if his cause has been inspired by God, if he has been touched by the Holy Spirit and is being lead by Jesus, then how can anyone erase what God has placed.
In his last speech, it has been said time and time again, and it bears repeating here, Dr. King knew he was going to die. Whether God told him it was time to go or he just got a feeling of what was to happen, Dr. King knew something. And in his last speech is proclaimed that he just wanted to do God's will. And the tone of his entire sermon that night was that if God wanted him dead, then he would die, because it was God's will. But Dr. King got a glimpse of what was coming. He got a glimpse of the promise land. He knew the Lord was coming. And with that, he knew that God was going to take care of things.
So we come to Palm Sunday. It is during this time that we begin the celebration of the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a time for reflection and repentance, for we do not wish for our Lord to have died in vain. But it was also a time that Jesus knew what the result was going to be. Jesus also knew that the time for his death was fast at hand.
This particular event is interesting, because we find in the four gospels four different versions of what happened when Jesus approached the temple. In the Gospel According to Matthew, the 21st chapter says that Jesus drove out those who were selling merchandise they should not have been. Jesus also performed miracles in the temple. But according to the 16th verse, he makes a statement that is not found in the other gospels, where he says, "and he said to them, 'Do you hear what these are saying?' Jesus said to them, 'Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself?'"
According to Mark, Chapter 10 verse 11, "He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve." In other words, according to Mark, he walked in, looked around, and left.
Then the 12th Chapter of John says that he goes into the temple, and tells the attendees present, that not only was his soul troubled about the current status of the world but that he also was preparing to die. He tells them that the light will only be with them for a little while longer and that they should take advantage of the light while the have the opportunity. He ends his sermon by telling the crowd, in the 36th verse, "While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light."
Then, in the verses that I have used, Jesus warns them by telling them His enemies and the enemies of those who followed Him were amassing their forced, but by the time the masses realized it, it would be too late. Jesus also makes a statement that struck me tremendously hard the first time I read it. It is found in the 40th verse, where it says, "He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out."
These four versions of the coming of the temple are interesting because they all give a different slant on what happened on this particular day. It is also interesting that the Palms for which today is named, are only mentioned in Matthew and Mark. In one instance, the palms are laid upon the ground while Jesus rode to the temple on the colt, and in another instance, the palms are waived as the Savior rode by, meekly on a colt, that has never been ridden.
I find the version in Luke interesting for what it says in 40th verse. It's interesting because it says to me that no matter what the method, no matter who brought the message of the divinity of God and of Jesus, that somehow, some way, this message would come out.
This verse also answers those critics who were always trying to get Jesus to say in explicit terms, that He was the Messiah. But the 40th verse says that he didn't have to say who He was and what He had come to do. That even if he had not said it, the truth would have come out in the end. God, would, has, and will find a way to make sure that the truth is proclaimed.
And this is a policy that we should adopt in our personal lives. It would be very easy for us to stand on the street corner and tell everyone who we are and what we are about and all the good deed that we have performed. But that is not necessary. Sometimes, it is more influential when someone else proclaims your good deeds and your good nature. Often, it is more credible coming from someone else than coming from you yourself.
But Jesus also makes another interesting statement in this set of verses. When He tells the crowd that despite this time for peace, His enemies have amassed themselves against Him, which is a situation we find ourselves thrown in on almost a daily basis. Those people who seem to be in our corner have blinded and deceived us through their slick ways and cunning style. But because we want to believe what we want to believe, we often do not see their true nature and purpose until it is too late. But Jesus, being the Son of God, a prophet, a teacher and a Messiah, saw his enemies long before any of them knew that they would be the enemies of Jesus. Jesus had the light of God on His side which enabled His eyes to be open wide, and He did not need to live a life of self denial. Jesus saw what needed to be done and did it.
Now is a time for peace. It is a time for us to realize that the more peace we try to bring to this Earth, the happier our lives on this earth will be, and which will in turn, enable us to walk with the Father. Peace begins with each and everyone of us.
We should not be content with just improving ourselves. We should be about the business of becoming one of the stones that Jesus talked about. We should become as a stone one the side of the road, ready and waiting to hit someone in the leg and shout out the truth.
Have you ever really looked at a stone? A stone, like one you may find on the street, may sit in the same place for hundreds and hundreds, even thousands of years, just waiting to be used. It can be used to build things up, or destroy them. A stone can be used to fence people in, or enable someone to go free. A stone can be thrown in the ocean, sit at the bottom of the ocean for years and years and years, and in the process, become a catalyst for life. A stone can be bigger than this church or smaller than a penny. It can weigh more than 50 elephants put together, or weigh as little as a feather. Rains, snow, hurricanes, thunder, lightning, none of that can affect a stone in a moments notice. A stone can change. It can also create change. It can improve the current order of things. It can shout out truth. It can shout out lies.
But the thing of a stone is that when you look at it, you know what it is. Sure, you may wonder what is within it, and you may wonder where it came from, but the truth is that stone is a stone. Often it is nothing more and nothing less. It is sincere as we all should be.
The sincerity of being a stone means that you will be unswerving in your own personal pursuit of the truth. It means that when you are attempting to lift people up that you are supposed to be helping, you will not be cutting them down in the process. It means that no matter what lies or modifications of the truth you may be confronted with, you will have the resolve of a stone. Hard and steadfast. Reliable and unswerving. And if it starts raining lies and untruths, by being a stone, the assault of those things that have not business or place in your life will have no effect on you. For if your truth is like a stone, no one will be able to harm you.
When Jesus came to the temple, he was a stone. He chased out the thieves and the money changers and allowed himself to be a catalyst for change. He allowed His truth to be as a stone. When the Pharisees told Him to stop preaching, He told them that if no one else said anything, the stones, in their solid, sincere state, would scream out the truth.
The truth is something that we cannot avoid. It is something that will always come out. It may not come immediately, but the truth shall always come. People talk about subjective truth and objective truth, but there is only one truth, and that is God's truth. No matter how we try to dissect a situation, the reality is that when God wants the truth to be revealed, it is revealed in a manner that no one is truly ready for.
Because truth, like a stone, is unflinching. It only changes through the manipulations of man. And if we are to be children of truth, acceptors and followers of truth, then we must accept the truth that God gives us. We are not perfect, we are not always right, we are not always in the right. There are a lot of things that we can and will do that we do despite the truth that we hold near and dear.
But when Jesus was riding down that road on that donkey, the truth was about to reveal itself. The truth that the son of God, who was also the son of man, was about to die so that others might receive the truth. Jesus said "I am the way, the truth and the light." The truth manifested itself and shone from him. So when those people who were on the road who before doubted who he was, during that time they got a glimpse of the truth.
It is time for us to take up our own stones and take on stone like attributes. It is time for us to stop trying to hurt our brothers and sisters with stones of deceit and hate and suspicion, but instead lift them up with stones of love and joy and peace. It is time for us to plant ourselves along that road and allow ourselves to shout out the sincere truth, when no one else is bothering to say it. Proclaiming the truth can be dangerous. We know that because of what happened to Jesus when he proclaimed that truth. We know what happened to Dr. King when he proclaimed the truth. We could run down the list of many, many people who shouted the truth, only to be cut down. But if we have the resolve of a stone and the truth on our side, armed with the knowledge that Jesus came into the temple, and not only warned us about our enemies, but also told us that by believing in the light we would become children of the light, our truth, the God truth, the Jesus truth, will prevent our enemies from doing us harm.
So when the times comes, we must act, think and live as the stone on the side of the road. We must be willing to proclaim the truth and sincerity of Jesus. Even unto death. We must become the stones on the side of not only Jesus' road, but the roads that we walk and drive down everyday. Even unto death. We must not get caught up in the trap of those who wish us to be silent, but instead, be solid and steadfast in the knowledge that as we speak for Jesus by being that stone, that Jesus has and will always be that rock of our salvation.
Return to The Sermon Experience
Return to my homepage
(Charles E. Smoot © 2000-2009, all rights reserved)