When I first set out on this study through Matthew, I told myself I would stick to that man’s outline. I didn’t want to make this a study of the life and ministry of Christ, but rather a study of Matthew. There are several events recounted by Mark and Luke which we have touched only in passing. And there are a great many things in John which we haven’t addressed at all, because there is no hint of them in this book. But despite my original plans I have on a couple of occasions deviated from my intentions. And as we come to the conclusion of the earthly life of our Lord Jesus, I am going to do it more often. We are now into an area which is so incredibly important and eternal that not a drop of it should be missed. We are dining on a meal so spiritually delectable and nutritious that we can’t afford to miss a single crumb.
Before arriving at Calvary, but after leaving Pilate’s judgment hall, we find ourselves traveling down one of the streets of Jerusalem. Last week Simon, the Cyrenian, was introduced to us – we see him in all three Synoptic Gospels. And here we are told that Christ was followed from the governor’s palace by “a great company of people.” Then somewhere along the road Luke – only Luke – introduces us to a group of mourning women who are bewailing and lamenting Christ and this situation.
Why should we include this in our study? Consider the fact that this is the last known extended statement uttered by Christ before His death. From here on out, the ink in your “red-letter edition” of the Bible highlights only short sentences. Statements like, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” At the very least, this last, short paragraph demands some consideration.
Who were these ladies and why were they weeping?
Of course, we have been given no names. In fact, our only information is that they are “daughters of Jerusalem.” Which makes me think that they are not from among the female disciples of Christ. These are not Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, Salome or any of the other Marys. These are just some of the citizens of Jerusalem.
So why are they wailing and lamenting Him? Why haven’t they joined those men who were crying for Jesus’ head – “Crucify Him, Crucify Him?” Obviously, I can’t give you anything concrete as an answer – I can only guess and surmise. But could it be because they were convinced of Jesus’ innocence? Maybe I should say that unlike many of the men of the city, they had not become “unconvinced.” I hope that you don’t think of this in any demeaning way – but isn’t true that most women are more emotional than most men? I can’t speak for all couples, or even for all the couples in this room, but my wife is far more emotional that I am. That isn’t to say that she – or any other woman – is not practical or intellectual. But often, a woman’s practicality is lead or influenced by her emotions, whereas the same may not be true of her husband. Whatever took those men from shouting “Hosanna” as Christ rode into Jerusalem a few days earlier – had not taken these women. And whatever arguments the high priest had poured out on his tribesmen and the Sanhedrin – they had no effect on the hearts of these women. Their hearts told them that this man, Christ, is innocent, so far as this execution is concerned. Perhaps none of these ladies had the dream that Mrs. Pilate had, but the results were the same. Perhaps they wept because their hearts told them that this was a travesty.
And then, unlike her husband, one of them remembered the wife of the friend of her second-cousin, whom this same Christ Jesus had healed. The stories were still vivid in some of their minds about strangers who had been cured of deadly diseases. And the visitors from Galilee, celebrating the Passover in their city, spoke of miraculous feedings, dead people raised to life and storms which suddenly ceased. “This Jesus Christ has been a kind and benevolent man, and the world certainly needs more of them. If there is the slightest possibility that he could do more of such things – especially here in Jerusalem – how can these men consider putting Him to death?”
And that relates to something even more important – it is said this Jesus is the Messiah – the hope of Israel. Every Jew – whether liberal or fundamental – every Jew knew the promises of God in this regard. Many were living in the hope – in expectation – of the Messiah. For centuries the Syrians, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Greeks and now the Romans had been raping their land like constant plagues of locusts. But Jehovah had promised a son of David and a restoration of the glory that was Israel in the days of Solomon. The more spiritual citizens were looking for the kingdom where the lion, the lamb, the child and the serpent could all play together. Sure, there had been military rebels over the last few decades and even some powerful religious leaders. But here, in Jesus of Nazareth, was a genuine hope – perhaps THE hope of Israel. But the Romans were going to kill him at the behest of their own government. They felt that they had every right to weep, lament and bewail what was coming up.
But why did Jesus refuse their sympathy?
Not for a moment was it because their weeping was bad. It was not SINFULLY out of place – it was just SIMPLY out of place. There are a great many differences between people, even between Christian people, and the Lord is aware of them. In fact in many cases the Lord created them or decreed them. There are many sinful differences between people created by us, but then again they may be innocent differences. And the tears of these women were in no way sinful.
He said, “Ye daughters of Jerusalem, weep (but) not for me.” Why? Because Christ knew full well that He would be able to bear what was coming. Have you seen that chart in the hospital room with the ten circular, yellow faces depicting various degrees of pain – the happy face all the way down to the very ugly face? Christ will refuse the drugs necessary to dull His pain, and yet He will still be able to bear the pain depicted by the ugliest picture on that chart. Why does Hebrews 12:2 speak of Christ “enduring the cross and despising the SHAME?” There was the shame of bearing the cross, and then a shame of being nailed to a cross. There was a shame in the nakedness which Jesus was forced to suffer. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Is there a chart somewhere depicting degrees of shame? Perhaps there are ten round yellow faces with differing levels of pink and red in the cheeks and eyes getting lower and lower. Christ could endure the pain and the shame of the crucifixion. And He will endure the coming darkness, and His aloneness. He will endure the taunts and mocking. Don’t weep for Christ, thinking that this will all be too much for Him. And besides, what can your tears accomplish – what do they avail against the decree of God? Those tears may make the mourner feel better, but they do nothing for the deceased, or in this case – the sufferer.
Christ told them to stanch their tears, because whether or not they understood, all this was necessary. Those women probably understood the need for animal sacrifices, in the sense that the law proscribed them. Leviticus 17:11 – “The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” Did those same ladies weep when the lamb was slain for her Passover supper? Perhaps they did as children, but now a couple decades later, the meaning and importance of the Passover – and the Atonement and all the others – was clear. But then again, this was no mere lamb, goat or bullock. Little did these ladies understand that in Christ Jesus was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. “For it is not possible that the blood of fulls and of goats should take away sins.” That is why Hebrews 9:12 says, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”
Do people ever weep watching or listening to a good love story? I’ll confess that I sometimes do. Ladies, consider your tears in the light of John 15:13 – “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for (the salvation of) his friends.” But they were NOT weeping in this sort of way, so it was time to dry their eyes. Christ was in the process of willingly giving “himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a peculiar people…” Christ Jesus has “given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.”
The time and place for these women’s tears was not at this moment on the way to the cross. It should come when they were convicted of their sin, and beginning to see the sacrifice of Christ for what it really was. It is the repenting believer who should weep, not merely these emotionally-charged ladies. But as we see here, Jesus doesn’t get into a discussion of His sacrifice at this point.
Christ directs their tears in another direction.
“For behold the days are coming, in the which they shall say, blessed are the barren….” Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah. But the Messiah’s Millennial Kingdom was not to be for another two thousand years or more. These women were not going to see it in their lifetime, and never, if they weren’t soon born again.
But some of these women were young enough to be alive when the Romans will stop being so nice. Some of these same women will be in Jerusalem in 70 AD when General Titus will decimate Israel and her capital. The children of some of these women will be sliced open by Roman swords. The grand-children of some of these women will be picked up by the feet and slammed against the stone walls of their own houses. Some of these women will wish for any kind of death rather than the one the Romans will inflict against them. “They shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.”
The Lord was looking into the future of Israel, telling these women, and countless others, “surely your sins will find you out.” One of the interesting, and confusing, things about Bible prophecy is that often, peering into the future brings both near and distant things into focus at the same time. Was Jesus speaking of the fall of Jerusalem which took place less than forty years later? Or was He speaking about the fall of Jerusalem which shall take place during the Great Tribulation? Don’t we read words quite similar to what Jesus said – in the Book of Revelation? As the wrath of God falls on Israel and the rest of the world, “the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” – Revelation 6. Christ tells these ladies, who are mourning over what they believe is going to happen to Jesus, to mourn for themselves and their families.
“For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Now there is a cryptic statement for you. Succinctly put it suggests – “You ain’t seen nothin yet.” Green wood is harder to burn than dry wood. Jesus’ day, in comparison to the days of the coming Tribulation, was moist and luscious. The days of Pontius Pilate were peaceful and prosperous when compared to those of the Anti-Christ and his false prophet. Was the Lord making a reference to one of the prophecies of Ezekiel? “Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field; And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched” – Ezekiel 20:45-48.
About what should those ladies weep? They should weep for the judgment of God on their sins and the sins of their children. John 1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “In the beginning was Jesus Christ, he was with God the Father because He was God the Son.” “All things were made by him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” They cried, “Crucify Him, crucify Him! We will not have this man to reign over us.” The people of Israel, and the people of the world generally, have been rejecting the Messiah for more than two millennia. But that is contrary to the reason and purpose for which God created us in the first place. We were created to love, to worship and to serve Jehovah. But with the introduction of sin, we have become a race of rebels, despising our Creator and loving our sin. “He came unto His own and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” So, “the Word (the Son of God) was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
This Word of God, this Christ Jesus, spoke to these women who were weeping about the wrong things. He said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and your children.” Weep in repentance; weep for your sins; weep for the sins of your children. Because without repentance before God, and without the upcoming sacrifice of Christ, there is no escaping from the wrath of God.
Admittedly, the context of these verses do not apply to us in the same way that it applies to these women, but the principle still applies. You and I were born sinners, and sinful things we have chosen to commit. With out the shed blood of Christ, we will die in our sins and spend eternity under the wrath of God. Weep not that Christ died. Weep that you were so slow in humbly coming to Christ, trusting Him. Weep that so many of our kindred, our neighbors, our fellow human beings are still determined to live in sin rejecting the Saviour. It is time to stop weeping about the wrong things and to weep properly about the right things. “Repent before God and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”