You Can Hear Them Shouting

Sermon by Reverend Dr. John W. Mann | April 10, 2022

Palm Sunday

Once upon a time, a long time ago there was a girl whose name was Miriam.

Miriam was 10 years old and she lived with her mother and father and her three older brothers in a small village called “Bethphage.” Bethphage is a word that means “The House of Unripe Figs.”

Miriam thought that was a funny name for a town. There were fig trees all around, but the figs grew and ripened on the trees in Bethphage just like anywhere else.

Miriam’s father was a carpenter. He made wagons and wagon wheels and he made tables and chairs. He could make just about anything out of wood. Her three older brothers, Shem, Japhet and Abednego all helped their father in the shop.

Mariam spent most of her time helping her mother around the house. There was always work to do – cleaning, cooking, sewing, baking bread and fetching water. Mariam’s one big jog every day was to go to the well and fetch water. She would take her donkey Samson and he would carry two large water jugs and every day they would go to the well. She would fill them up and Samson would carry them home.

Samson was Miriam’s very own Donkey. They had had him since he was born, and she got to name him. She named him Samson because he was strong. He could carry just about anything. She fed him and made sure that he was inside the part of the house where the animals slept every night.

Miriam would talk to Samson when they went every day to fetch the water. She would show him things and tell him stories and even though her brothers told her, “Don’t be silly! He’s just a stupid donkey – he doesn’t understand what you’re saying!” she knew that Samson liked her stories. Sometimes when they were walking along, and she was quiet he would nudge her with his head as if he was reminding her to talk to him.

One day Miriam was in the kitchen with her mother and they were making bread. Her oldest brother Shem came in and said, “Miriam, father wants to see you – right now!”

Her mother looked at her and said, “What have you done now?!”

“I haven’t done anything!” she said. But she wondered if she was in trouble.

She went to the carpentry shop with her brothers and her father was there talking with two men. He said to her, “Miriam, this is James and John. They are friends of Jesus. They need to borrow Samson for the afternoon. You go along with them to make sure he behaves himself.”

So, she wasn’t in trouble.

If anyone else but her ever tried to take Samson somewhere, he would sit down and refuse to move. If her brothers ever tried to get him to do anything, they would get end up getting angry because as much as they yelled at Samson, pushed him or pulled him, he wouldn’t move an inch. They would finally call Miriam and she would say, “Come on Samson, let’s go,” and he would get up and walk along beside her.

They walked down the road toward Jerusalem and there was a big crowd of people. Jesus was there in the middle of the crowd. She knew him from the times when he would come through the village. Sometimes he would stop at their house and when he spoke to her, he was always kind and he never talked down to her like some grown up people did.

He saw her walking toward him with Samson and he said, “Miriam, I’m glad you could bring Samson today. I need a good strong donkey to ride into Jerusalem this afternoon.”

It wasn’t that far to walk. She wondered if he was not well. She asked him, “Are you not able to walk?”

“No, no, it’s not that, Miriam. How can I explain it…it’s like…it’s like when a king comes to town? When a king comes to town, he usually rides in a big chariot pulled by many fine horses. Or he himself is riding a big war horse. When the king rides into town it’s to show his power and authority – how big and strong he is. Even how people should fear him. I wanted to ride a donkey because I’m a different kind of king. My kingdom is of the heart and soul. My kingdom is about love and friendship. So I thought riding a donkey would be a good way to show that – it’s not about fear and power. It’s about love.”

Miriam was happy that Jesus wanted to ride Samson. When they were ready to go, he climbed onto Sampson’s back and said, “Let’s go” and Sampson just stood there not moving.

Jesus said, “Go, Sampson,” but Sampson just stood there.

Miriam said, “He only goes when I tell him. Come on Samson, let’s go for a walk.”

And they walked into Jerusalem with Jesus on his back.

As they walked along more and more people joined in with them. People were singing songs and waving palm branches and some of them were yelling out, “Hail to the king! Hail king Jesus!”

When they arrived into the city there were more people there. A group of Pharisees were there, and they looked angry and mean. They said to Jesus, “You’d better tell your people to quiet down or you’ll be in big trouble!”

Jesus laughed and said, “There’s a lot of songs that need to be sung today. There’s a lot of people that need to shout! If they don’t cry out, why I think the rocks in the road would shout!”

Jesus climbed down from Samson and said, “Thank you Miriam for letting me ride your donkey today.” And he said to Samson, “And thank you Samson for giving me a ride. You are a big strong donkey.”

Jesus and his friends continued walking into Jerusalem and Miriam took Samson back down the road to home.

“What do you think he meant; the rocks would shout? That’s funny.” She saw a shiny pebble in the road, and she picked it and put it next to her ear and then she held it next to Samson’s ear and asked him, “Do you hear anything?”

She put the pebble in her pocket and walked the rest of the way home.

A few days later when Miriam’s father came back from the Temple in Jerusalem was very sad. He gathered the family together and sat them down and said, “Today when I was in Jerusalem, I heard that Jesus had been arrested. One of his own friends, Judas, betrayed him and he was condemned to die. Today they nailed him to a cross.”

It was unthinkable. Everyone was sad and Miriam cried for the rest of the day.

Life had to go on. Chairs and tables had to made in the carpentry shop. Bread had to baked. Water had to be fetched from well.

Early in the morning Miriam put the water jugs on Samson back and they walked to well. She was quiet and Samson walked along quietly. At the well she was filling the water jugs when a man who was there said to her, “May I have a drink please?”

Where did he come from? She hadn’t noticed him there when they arrived – but there he was. Strange it was, but she wasn’t frightened so much as curious.

She took the ladle from the well bucket and handed it to the man and when he took it, she noticed that his hand looked as if it had been hurt. She was afraid to ask him what happened. He took a drink from the ladle and handed it back to her and said, “Thank you Miriam.”

As he walked away, he patted Samson on the head and said, “Bye-bye Samson.” And before she could ask, “How do you know our names?” It was as if he just disappeared.

It was very strange. But there were a lot of things in the world Miriam didn’t understand because she was just ten years old after all. When she finished filling the water jugs she said to Samson, “Let’s go home Samson.”

As they walked along the road back to Bethphage she heard the sound of someone running. She turned around and a man was running down the road very fast. She knew him. His name was Peter and he had been with Jesus when he rode Samson into Jerusalem.

When he came close, she shouted to him, “Why are you running?!”

He stopped – he was breathing hard – he said, “I can’t stay…I have to go tell my friends…Jesus…his tomb is empty…he is risen!”

And off he ran. She never had time to tell him about the man at the well who knew their names. As they walked along, she felt in her pocket and found the small shiny pebble she had picked up from the road the other day. She looked at it and how it almost seemed to glow in the morning sun. She held it up to her ear and then she put it up to Samson’s ear.

“Listen Samson, you can hear them shouting.”

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