The Sound of Silence

This Sunday is known as Palm Sunday because as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people waved palm branches.  Why palm branches? Because they were something that was available and symbolic in their community and culture.  Let me ask you this…. What would you wave today?  If Jesus arrived in your town, coming down the street toward your house, and you only had a moment to run inside and gather one thing to wave as He passed by, what would it be?

In Luke’s account, the people threw their cloaks over the colt and on the road in front of Jesus. Luke doesn’t mention that people waved branches, but Luke and two other gospel accounts do mention that they threw their cloaks on the road.  The important part is not what they used, but that they shouted and cheered Jesus’ arrival, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38)!

And as they cheered, the religious leaders standing nearby scolded Jesus.  “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” they said.  In other words, they were offended by the cheers of the people.  And in response, Jesus said,  “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:39-40)

In this great account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, we find a very important lesson for today: If we were those cheering for Jesus, waving whatever it is you have in your hand, how many of us would be quiet if we’re told to be silent?  If you were told to keep quiet, would you? 

Over the past decades, we’ve been told to be silent.  What I see happening in the world today is fueled by the unseen.  Make no mistake, this is a spiritual battle.  There is a spiritual war going on between good and evil.  Between light and dark. If you listen to any of the prophetic voices in this season, you’ll probably hear that those with the gift of spiritual discernment are sensing three spirits involved with this illness. There is a spirit of fear.  We’re all familiar with fear.  We’ve all felt it at times over the past few weeks.  There’s also a spirit of death.  God’s word tells us in John 10:10 that Satan’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. 

And then there’s a spirit of suffocation at work.   Think about the way that this virus affects people.  It attacks the victims’ lungs.  But the spirit of suffocation is attacking more than our physical breathing.  This spirit is trying to suffocate the church by keeping us apart.  It’s trying to keep us from cheering HosannaBlessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! 

Satan’s MO – his modus operandi ­– is to keep the church from proclaiming that Jesus is King.  This same spirit of suffocation was in play that first Palm Sunday when the Pharisees criticized Jesus’ followers for cheering him on.  In short, they wanted Jesus’ disciples silenced.  Just like Satan wants us silenced today. What I’m asking today is, “Are you comfortable with being silenced?”  If we don’t share Jesus with those we encounter, we’re saying that this silencing is ok.  That bland, lack-luster faith tells the world that Jesus really isn’t important to us.

I’m asking you today to look deep inside yourself.   While you’re waving your palm branches to get Jesus’ attention, what are you doing to share Him with the world?  If you’re a Christian, you’ve already gotten Jesus’ attention.  His eyes are already locked with yours.  It’s our job to get others to shift their attention from the idols of the world and to see that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. 

Friends, we’ve in the process of being suffocated — silenced.  Church, we’re being called to cry out.  We’re called to be those stones that Jesus tells about when He says – “If they keep quiet, these stones will cry out!”

In Ps. 62:6 Jesus is called our Rock“Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”  A Christian is a “little anointed one.”  So, if Jesus is the Rock, what are little rocks?  Stones.  Jesus says, THESE STONES WILL CRY OUT! Friends, be a stone — Cry out!  Tell the world what Jesus has done for you.  If you don’t, the world will continue in its darkness.  We have to be willing to cry out or we’ll be left beside the road with those who are lost.

I had a seminary professor, Dr. Randy Clark, who said that the problem with the church is that we invite the Holy Spirit into our worship but when he arrives, we ask him to sit in the back row and be quiet. We have to be willing to invite Him in and not expect Him to stay quiet. 

Here’s my point.  We’re comfortable with what I like to call pew-Christianity.  We sit in church and then go home.  We have to be willing to change.  The church wants to grow but we have to be willing to embrace Jesus.  This is a radical change from what the church has been doing for the past century.  We have to be willing to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit. 

We can’t put new wine in old wineskins.  If we want newnew people, new excitement, new faith, new everything, we have to be willing to change.  We are the wineskins.  We have to be willing to be transformed.  We have to be willing to look toward Jesus and become like Him — to be transformed into new wineskins.

This is the beginning of Holy Week.  This entire week is on a path of deeper and deeper darkness.  We experience the pomp and circumstance of Palm Sunday; see Jesus overturn the tables in the temple and have his last supper with his disciples; betrayed by one of his followers; tried in a Roman court, his flesh ripped to shreds; beaten beyond recognition; crucified on a cross; and then we find that He died and was buried in a tomb that didn’t even belong to Him. Can you see the continuum of light to dark all this week?  When we remain silenced, we are saying that we’re comfortable with the rest of the world remaining in that darkness.

Picture the darkest room you’ve ever been in.  So dark you can’t see the hand in front of your face.  But off in the distance you see a pinpoint of light.  That, my friend, is the light of Jesus.  As you walk toward it, your wineskin becomes more like Him.  You become brighter and brighter.  Until you’re completely bathed in that bright light of Jesus.  Our life has to become like that.  We have to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to change us.  And then when the Spirit changes us, we learn to carry the Spirit of God – the New Wine in all the Spirit’s fullness and to let the Spirit overflow our lives and every action of our lives. 

We’re currently spending 2020 learning about the person, power, and presence of the Holy Spirit. This is it, folks; we’re putting a face to all that we’ve been learning about the gifts and how we are changed in His presence.  If you’re serious about being radically changed, you need this new wineskin. 

A great teacher and pastor, Dan Mohler, puts it like something this:  if you squeeze an orange, you don’t expect to get motor oil out of it.  If you squeeze an apple, you don’t expect to get gasoline out if it.  If you squeeze an orange, you expect orange juice.  And if you squeeze an apple, you’d expect apple juice.  Here’s what I’m trying to say — In this time of pressure – this spiritual warfare of the coronavirus, when you squeeze a Christian, you’d expect the New Wine – the Holy Spirit – to come out.  What do people see from you when you’re under pressure?  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?  Or are you silent when it comes to sharing Jesus?

The people who cheered “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday shouted “Crucifiy him!” on Good Friday.   They didn’t change.  There was no love posted on their FB timeline! God will change our wineskins if we let him. But when our wineskin isn’t changed, we burst.

Are you a stone? Have you allowed God to change your wineskin so that you can truly and full of love for Jesus cry out, Hosanna to the King of kings?  Or are you willing to be silent.  Friends, let’s be a stone. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can shout Hosanna as Jesus passes by and when we do, when we are willing to put our own reputations and pride behind us, the world will see the light that is called Jesus. Mark my words.

Published by Mark Heckman

Mark Heckman is the Senior Pastor of the Greater Blairsville Cooperative Parish in Blairsville, Pennsylvania. A Spirit-filled follower of Jesus, Mark's passion is to share the Gospel with as many people as God puts before him.

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