Talking stones


“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

Jesus’ stones crying out always brings to mind Annie Dillard’s essay “Teaching a Stone to Talk”:

“The island where I live is peopled with cranks like myself. In a cedar-shake shack on a cliff is a man in his thirties who lives alone with a stone he is trying to teach to talk.”

Ok. People like this should get help, or at least stay on their small island. But Dillard’s response is more gracious:

“I wish him well. It is a noble work, and beats, from any angle, selling shoes.”

“Reports differ on precisely what he expects or wants the stone to say. I do not think he expects the stone to speak as we do, and describe for us its long life and many, or few, sensations. I think instead that he is trying to teach it to say a single word, such as “cup,” or “uncle.” For this purpose he has not, as some have seriously suggested, carved the stone a little mouth, or furnished it in any way with a pocket of air which it might then expel. Rather – and I think he is wise in this – he plans to initiate his son, who is now an infant living with Larry’s estranged wife, into the work, so that it may continue and bear fruit after his death.”

So, what is more audacious: Jesus’ words and vocation or Larry’s? Is Larry the “crank”, or Jesus, or both? Would it have been better if Jesus had been requisitioned to a small island (like John on Patmos) where he could teach his stones to talk, or even sit and talk with them till his heart was content?

When the Apostle Paul wrote that “the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed,” and that “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now,” he was onto the same thing, it seems, as Jesus. The creation groaning? Stones, trees, landscapes, lakes stirring, speaking? Is this the Bible? Do inanimate objects become animate?

No; they don’t. But the point that Jesus and Paul are making bears radical illustration. Stones do not speak. And post-fall, people do not know God. Post-fall, people do not praise God – period. “You shall surely die” was not an idle warning. Spiritual death is real, as is physical death – and dead people do not talk.

So what are all these people doing, crowding the road to Jerusalem, shouting to Heaven, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest”? What is God up to as this man rides a donkey into the City of Peace, thus disturbing said peace?

Jesus words serve as notice that something far more audacious than stones shouting is about to occur. Jesus’ “fate” is about to be set in stone – literally. But the stone of his destiny is going to open its mouth. The stone will be rolled away. And when Jesus walks from his tomb of his own accord, by the power of the Spirit, stones will speak. 

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Psalm 118:22-23

The “day” is not only the time of Jesus’ emergence from the stony tomb, but the situation of our emergence, in Him, from death:

"I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 11:19b

"As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: 'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.'” 1 Peter 2:4-6

Peter says that Jesus is a precious, chosen, living stone, and so are we, in Him. Thus, in Christ Jesus we begin to see all of what we once called “life” as nothing but death, nothing but futility, an exercise sillier and more futile than teaching a stone to talk. And yet, what are we but stones that have been taught to talk, to live?

So maybe Larry isn’t crazy so much as faithless, hopeless, without a vision for what can become true when God is involved. And it is only by God’s grace that we do not settle for a life, an eternity, of futility.

Jesus would settle for nothing less than the regeneration of the human heart, body and soul. Jesus talks to stones and his words – and blood – make stones speak, even shout.

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our Rock (stone) and our Redeemer. Amen.