IF THESE ROCKS COULD SPEAK
A REFLECTION FOR EASTER
I have long admired the writing style of Bill Lawson, the Northton based genealogist. Bill along with his late wife Chrissie have done much valuable genealogical research for island families, but also produced several detailed croft, village and island histories from the Seallam! visitor centre in Northton.
One of the traits of Bill’s style in some of his writing is to imaginatively bestow certain human qualities to inanimate objects such as historical sites and buildings. Thus ancient historical sites are given ‘life, personality’ and ‘senses’ in order to bear witness to the unfolding events of sometimes turbulent passing centuries. Ancient places like the Carloway broch, and island churches such as those at Rodel and Aiginis are given a life of their own and are able to see and perceive the sometimes mundane, sometimes momentous, sometimes tragic life of these islands. These old stones witnessed the rise and fall of various clans and families, times of wars and rumours of wars, reformation, emigration, famine and terrible disease. If these old stones could speak what stories they would have to tell.
The same would surely be true of our own church here in Tarbert. What stories these stones could tell of glorious past days, of generations of the people of Harris coming from all points of the compass to worship and praise God together as one united people. To tell of the anointed preaching of Christ with fervency and power. To tell of days of revival, of days of the Holy Spirit falling upon large gatherings here in Tarbert and other parts of Harris.
If stones could speak what stories they would have to tell? What if still older stones could speak to tell of the events that unfolded at Passover in Jerusalem over two thousand years ago? What stories the ancient stones of the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives could tell? What stories the garden of Gethsemane could tell? That ancient rock known as the Rock of Agony where Jesus the son of God knelt in prayer saying;
“ My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”( Mathew 26:39). What stories the ancient stone pavement in the old city known in Aramaic as Gabbatha (John 19:13) would have to tell of when the Governor Pontius Pilate sat down to pronounce judgement on a prisoner called Jesus of Nazareth brought before him. These old walls would have witnessed all that happened there that morning, and echoed to Pilate finally say the words for which he is remembered still today “ ECCE HOMO” “ Behold the Man “ ( John 19:5).
What stories the winding streets of the old city would have to tell of how this man Jesus “ went out , bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha” (John 19:17 ESV). These buildings witnessed the solemn procession from Pilate’s residence the Praetorium to the place of a Skull – Calvary.
Whenever I read or sing the great words of Stuart Townend and Keith Getty’s hymn the Power of the Cross, I try to imagine what it would have been like to have been there and to witness “ Christ on the road to Calvary”. To witness what is surely for the Christian the key moment of all human history, when Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews carried His Cross to Calvary, to die in the place of you and me. The hymn paints for us the picture of what was happening not only physically but spiritually as Jesus went to the Cross, and died for us there.
The gospels spare us much of the detail, and give really only a very edited censored picture of what happened that day, all the gospel writer’s say is “ And they crucified Him”. The apostle Paul describes that moment in this way “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NKJV) In the same passage Paul goes on to say “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.“ 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)
What story would the stone that sealed the Tomb have to say? That unique stone that was witness to the power of God over death and the grave. In Wesley’s words that we’ll sing on Easter morning;
“Vain the stone, the watch, the seal;
Christ has burst the gates of hell.
Death in vain forbids His rise;
Christ has opened Paradise”
The Angel acted as herald to those disciples who came on that Easter morning to declare “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay”. Matthew 28:5-6
Years before Jesus had prophesied that the great stones of the temple in Jerusalem would be thrown down (Mark 13:2). It is believed that Herod’s great temple had only been finally complete for four or five years when it was torn down by the Romans, stone by stone in AD 70. All that is left now is the crumbling foundation, known as the Western wall the holiest place in Judaism. It is only stone, it cannot speak, it cannot hear, it cannot save. A greater than the temple had come. Jesus Himself had prophetically spoken of this greater temple before
“ Jesus answered them, “ Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” … he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. ( John 2:19-22 ESV)
If these stones could tell us their stories, what stories they would have to tell? But the fact is stones cannot speak ! Only people can tell of the great works of God. And if we don’t then Jesus warns what will happen “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:40) If we would keep quiet the very creation will “ sing the praise of him who died, of him who died upon the cross”.
Buildings, despite their associations and history and the esteem and affection in which they are held, are just buildings. They are not going to last forever. They are buildings in which people have worshipped the One who no building could every contain. They cannot speak or see, they cannot save.
So on this Easter morning we come instead to Jesus, the risen and exalted Saviour, who lives in the power of an endless life, and who alone can save. We come to the one the apostle Peter describes as “the Chief corner stone” ;
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
“The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling
And a rock of offence.” (1 Peter 2:4-8)
A happy and blessed Easter to you all
Ian Murdo Macdonald