A Holy Week Meditation: The Stones Will Cry Out

By Jill Ricci

Peter went into the courtyard during the mock trial of Jesus. The other disciples were outside the courtyard, he moved in closer, yet he too denied Jesus. They all did.

What do we do when we despair of losing all hope? Hide, or dig into the hope that dwells within us? Sometimes the pathway to hope is a bit circuitous. Christ is the hope of our salvation.

Denny and I were blessed to visit Israel in February, 2020, right before the world shut down.

When we considered our path upon the Mount of Olives it was a day of encounter for both Denny and myself. He was undone at the stone of Christ’s suffering. I had a prophetic word of an important day of 2-21-2020; it began in the Tomb of The Prophets.

When you’re in Israel you find it’s a thin place between heaven and earth. For Resurrection Sunday 2020 I wrote a blog about The Stones Shall Cry Out based on one of my spiritual encounters there. May this encourage you!

April 12, 2020 – Will you testify that Jesus is Lord, or will you betray Him when it gets messy?

On His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as people were calling out Hosanna, this is what was going on with the Pharisees:

As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works 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!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:37-40 ESV).

I’ve thought a lot about stones crying out since my return from Israel. Jewish people use stones on gravesites as means of honor and remembrance. I did a little more digging into the Jewish why of the stones:

In the Bible, an altar is no more than a pile of stones, but it is on an altar that one offers to God. The stone upon which Abraham takes his son to be sacrificed is called even hashityah, the foundation stone of the world. The most sacred shrine in Judaism, after all, is a pile of stones — the Western Wall. In the words of The Kotel, a popular Israeli song, “There are men with hearts of stone, and stones with the hearts of men.”

Another meaning may hail from paganism. One explanation for placing stones on the grave is to ensure that souls remain where they belong. All the explanations have one thing in common — the sense of solidity that stones give.

Flowers are a good metaphor for life. Life withers; it fades like a flower. As Isaiah says, “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty like the flower of the field; grass withers and flowers fade” (Isaiah 40:6-7). For that reason, flowers are an apt symbol of passing. But the memory is supposed to be lasting.

While flowers may be a good metaphor for the brevity of life, stones seem better suited to the permanence of memory. Stones do not die.”

[The above excerpts are from My Jewish Learning: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/putting-stones-on-jewish-graves/]

So how fascinating is it that what was in Jewish culture meant to keep a soul in place, a stone, was rolled away when Jesus arose?

One of the large rolled stones that would have been like a gravestone that I had encountered with a strong sense of God’s presence was deep inside the area of the Pool of Bethesda, which by the way is huge, like two or three city blocks. What was a symbol of death doing in an area where the angel came to stir the waters that brought life? Sometimes there are truly signs that make you wonder.

Today is Resurrection Sunday. We are on quarantine and sequestered at home. I have gone through some of my thousands of pictures that I took while in Israel, searching for the rocks, from Caesarea on the Mediterranean shore to Skull Hill in Jerusalem and everywhere in between.

At Caesarea, constructed by King Herod (affectionately nicknamed “Bob the Builder” by our tour guide Menashe), Herod’s palace lays in ruins. You see where he had his inside swimming pool, but the structures of man haven’t remained.

We went to Bethlehem to an area where Jesus was likely born in a cave in a hillside. Yet it was in the church there, where there is a stone altar, that several of us experienced the felt presence of God.

Why stones? They call out to testify of His presence, the solidity of who He is.

Even in the ornate churches, the baptistries are made of stone.

On the battlefield where David used a stone to kill Goliath, there is an exposed rock formation in the mountainside. The field was beautiful and verdant in February. A young man took a slingshot and proclaimed who are you to defy the host of Glory. When David spoke to Saul about fighting Goliath he was met with incredulity. But David was resolute in his determination to make a difference. Here is what David told King Saul:

“I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” (1 Samuel 17:36-37 ESV).

Are we as determined in our faith to stand against the unbelief of our age? Will we stand on the rock of our salvation and speak life into a situation that looks like certain death? Goliath thought David was a joke. Most unbelievers consider Christians to be fools. Here David speaks to Goliath with strong faith:

David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head (I Sam 17:45-46 ESV).

I stood on the roadside looking at that valley, pondering what a teenage boy took on. Hubris? Maybe. I like to think that in the midst of our storms we too will take up the rock of our salvation, faith in Christ, and hurl it at our enemies.

I stood underground in the Tomb of the Prophets and was undone as Ken Fish laid two fingers on me. Under the weight of God’s glory I knelt inside that stone cave and God showed up and spoke to my heart about my place inside the body of Christ as one of His prophets. I don’t take that lightly. It was a holy moment. Hidden away from the eyes of the word – inside a burial cave of stone.

At the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus agonized, there is inside the church a rock surrounded by a structure that represents a crown of thorns. My husband was undone there. He sat pondering the moment of his salvation, a day we all remember, as scripture tells us we will.

Stones were speaking again.

Along the Via Dolorosa, the road of suffering, is an arched area and a window where Pontius Pilate looked out over Jesus prior to releasing Jesus to be scourged and crucified.

Stones—they tell a story.

Inside the Garden Tomb where many believe Jesus was laid, you can see a fish-like image on the wall. It’s just there, not painted, but that was the symbol—ichthus—for the early Christian Church.

Stones are still speaking.

In another area underground was an opening for small gatherings. There, Jesus taught His disciples what we now call the Lord’s Prayer.

Stone—walls, caves…talking.

The Wailing Wall is part of the wall surrounding the Temple Mount that abuts the site of the Holy of Holies. The Jews can’t get there anymore because the Muslims have control of the area. Yet, you can go underground in the caves and lay your hand on the side of the wall where the Holy of Holies still is. Are you listening?

As archaeologists unearth ruins, they find symbols with menorahs carved into the rocks.

Inside the building where the Last Supper is believed to have taken place, there is a three-pronged candelabra placed in a niche in one of the walls. As I leaned against that wall, I sensed that was the spot where the Pesach Seder actually took place.

Hebrew culture is all about words. When they find inscriptions to verify what they believe, they get really excited. Stones speak.

In Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant rested for 369 years, the modern-day archeologists identified the location of Shiloh by finding broken pottery shards; after ceremonial meals, Jews must destroy their crockery. Pottery speaks. When we stood on the spot where it is believed the Ark actually sat, lightning flashed, and thunder clapped. Eureka! We were where God’s presence had been resting. Guess what—His presence hasn’t left that place.

We stood in a Roman amphitheater so ancient it is hard to fathom among the ruins everywhere. Our guide asked me and two other ladies to sing. Without amplification, we sang Amazing Grace. WOW – One, we all stayed on pitch, and two, the sound system of the stone reverberated our voices. No need for a microphone.

What’s my point? Stones seem inanimate, yet, they speak.

My question is, will you? Will you tell of the Goodness of God in this hour? When many are hopeless and afraid, will you bring the comfort of the true Comforter?

If you won’t the rocks will still cry out, but you, my friend, will lose the blessing.

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