Scripture Reading: Luke 23:26-33
Psalters: 310 (1, 3, 4, 6), 140 (1-4), 138 (1-4), 69 (1, 2, 4)
Beloved, you have in this chapter a record of the events surrounding the death of Jesus. The first thing you notice is that he is being dragged around Jerusalem in chains, from the High Priest, to Pilate, to Herod, and then back to Pilate, all of them having trouble in finding an excuse for His execution, until finally Pilate, after insisting on His innocency in verses 14-22, nevertheless condemns Him to death and hands Him over to the Jews. In all this trial, He is struck on the face, spat upon, mocked, and beaten. And so when now He is led out to Golgotha to be crucified, He is unable to carry the cross. For that reason they grab a man from the crowd, Simon of Cyrene. And, He goes forth to the cross.
On the way to the cross He is led by a band of unfeeling Roman soldiers, men to whom the life of another was a trifle. The proud scribes and pharisees and priests follow too, delighted at last that Jesus was now under their power, glad that the eloquent tongue which had exposed their hypocrisy was now to be silenced by death. Then too, there was the angry mob following, mocking, shaking their heads, crying out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
And, amongst all these there were some, a group of women identified by the text as the “daughters of Jerusalem,” weeping, or as the text says, “bewailing and lamenting” the soon-to-come death of Jesus.
Up until this time, Jesus has been silent. Silent in His sufferings. If you have a Bible that has red ink in it for the words of Jesus, these are the first that He utters from the time of His trial before Pilate until now. He has said nothing to His tormentors. He has been silent as the mob cried out, Crucify him! He has not turned His face away from the slapping and spitting of the mocking Jews and Romans. He has given His back to those who smite Him. He has kept silent through it all.
Now, He breaks that silence by turning to these weeping women and speaking. “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For Behold the days are coming in the which . . .”
We will look at those words under the theme:
WEEP NOT FOR ME, BUT FOR YOURSELVES
1. A Surprising Rebuke
2. The Reason Jesus Says This
3. The Significance of These Words
I. A SURPRISING REBUKE
The text describes a group of women, the daughters of Jerusalem, as following Jesus to the cross, bewailing and lamenting Him.
By “daughters of Jerusalem” these women are identified as women who live in the city of Jerusalem. These are not the honorable women of Galilee who were Jesus’ disciples and of whom we read later in the chapter (verse 49) that they also followed. No, these are women from Jerusalem who were not among Jesus’ regular group of disciples. His disciples followed afar off. These women are close, and can hear Jesus speak to them. Probably they crowd the sides of the road as the Roman soldiers lead Jesus out.
Of course, these are women who know Jesus. This is clear from the text in that they are weeping specifically for Jesus. There are two others led forth with Him to be crucified, the malefactors, and these women do not weep for them, but for Jesus.
We should notice that the text uses strong language to describe their behavior. You notice that verse 27 uses two words, “bewail” and “lament.” The use of two words emphasizes their behavior. They were not just mourning; not just shedding a few tears that could be wiped away, but these women were weeping uncontrollably. The idea of the word bewail is that they were beating themselves on the breast. They are wailing and crying out aloud.
This weeping is not just a show. No, there was real and genuine sympathy in this crying. They wept “for” Him, in verse 27. And Jesus recognizes this in His words, saying they “weep for me.” These women know Christ. They have heard His teaching in the temple. They have seen Him healing the multitudes of sick. Perhaps some of them were even the personal beneficiaries of His miracles. And, these women have now witnessed His trial, have heard the false witnesses accusing Him and became incensed at them, have seen Pilate’s injustice in condemning Him and became even more angry, and now this innocent man is being led off to be crucified. They can hardly believe it. He has done nothing to deserve this, and so they weep in sympathy for Him. They want Him to know that they feel for Him in His suffering, and that this should not be happening to Him.
Jesus turns and rebukes them for their weeping. His words are not just a gentle reminder, not just “you shouldn’t worry about me, I’ll be OK,” but, a rebuke that is almost sharp, a rebuke that is forceful. Jesus corrects their behavior. You, He says, are doing something that you ought not be doing. It is wrong for you to weep for Me! Stop doing it now, and don’t do it ever again!
This might at first surprise us. We might say that these women are just trying to be nice. They are just trying to let Him know that they do not agree with the injustices being committed against Him. They are just trying to send a message to the rest of the mob, and to the men of the city, that what they are doing is wrong. We might ask, “How can Jesus tell them to stop what they are doing? How can He be so insensitive to their sensitivity?”
The answer to this is first, that in saying this Jesus does not condemn expressions of emotions, and certainly does not condemn sympathy and weeping with and for others in their suffering. Certainly not. We read concerning Jesus Himself when He comes to the grave of Lazarus, “Jesus Wept.” That is the shortest verse in the Bible, but packed with meaning. It tells us that we have a Savior Who, as He is described in Hebrews, is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” No, emotions themselves are not bad – and in fact it would do good in the congregation if all of us were a little more sympathetic towards one another in others’ needs.
Jesus does not condemn weeping as such, doesn’t just say, “Weep not,” but He rebukes their weeping because they weep for Him. “Weep not for Me.” He says, “Do not weep for Me.” “Do not even cry for Me.” “Do not shed a tear for Me.”
The problem with the weeping of these women is that they weep “for Jesus” and they should not be doing that. The problem is that their weeping is motivated only by emotions and personal disappointment. They liked this man – He had done them good, and perhaps He could do them good again if His life were spared. He was gentle to them, gentle even now. This just didn’t seem right.
In this, something is missing. What is missing is that they do not understand Who Jesus is and why He must suffer.
This is what Jesus is saying, “Do not weep for Me, do not shed a tear for Me, because as soon as you do you have missed the significance of the cross and My suffering.” Not, you are about to miss the significance of the cross, but you have missed it! When your weeping is motivated by sympathy, by injustice, then you have missed the meaning of the cross.
The cross explains Jesus’ rebuke of these women.
What is the cross? It is His suffering for us. His suffering in behalf of His people!
If we put positively what Jesus says to these women it is, “When you see Me suffering for you, do not weep for Me.”
Why? Two reasons.
1. First, because in the cross, in Jesus suffering for us, we must see that He is doing exactly what He came to do.
In John 10:17 Jesus tells us “Therefore doth my Father love me . . .” Why? “Because I lay down my life for my sheep.” This makes the Father happy. The cross is His obedience to His Father’s will. This was why He came into the world.
In John 12:27 you have that expressed as a question in Jesus’ mind. “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? (Shall I say) Father save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour!” Shall I ask God for sympathy. Am I looking for sympathy from Him? Shall I ask man for sympathy? Am I looking for sympathy in My suffering? No, No, No. I came for this.
And that goes all the way back into eternity. In Acts 2:23 you have it expressed this way, that the cross was according to the “determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” He is doing the will of God, of God Triune. Father, Son and Holy Spirit in eternity decreed this. They said, “the Son will go to the cross.” And now He is doing that. This is not something to weep over, not something to cry about.
2. Secondly, we must not weep because in the cross, in His suffering in our behalf, He is demonstrating His love for US.
You have that in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep,” and again in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
In His cross and suffering, he does not ask for, nor does He need our sympathy. The cross is not an opportunity for us to express our love to Him. But the cross is the expression of His love for us.
Jesus does not want us to feel sorry for Him, but He calls us to believe on Him, to believe that He suffered for our sins, to believe the “substitutionary” atonement.
So He says, weep not for me! The cross is no mistake. The cross is not something to weep about. Jesus chose the cross. Jesus came for the cross. Jesus prayed for the cross. Jesus’ love for us is in the cross. Nothing to weep about with regard to Jesus suffering itself. Weep not for ME.
To the women, to us, Jesus says, WEEP NOT FOR ME!
But weep, yes, weep. Weep for yourselves and your children! Stop weeping for Me, and start weeping for yourselves and your children!
To understand what Jesus means by this, we must look at the following verses. These give the reason for Jesus words.
II. THE REASON JESUS SAYS THIS
Why is He telling them to weep for themselves? There are reasons in each of the following verses.
Verse 29 – “Behold the days are coming, in the which they will say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps that never gave suck.”
Why would someone say that? What a terrible thing to say! How can someone without children be happy, be called blessed?
You remember Hannah don’t you? She wept. It says in 1 Samuel 1:10, “She was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.” Why would someone say this then?
You must notice that Jesus is speaking of something in the future, “The Days are coming . . .” What days? Days when, according to verse 30, men will “begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us.” Why would they say this?
Jesus is quoting here from Hosea 10:8. Hosea says the same. Now if you go to Hosea you see that he is speaking there of the destruction that would come on Israel in the Old Testament through their captivity. In Hosea 10:10, God says, “It is my desire that I should chastise them.” Why will they say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us?” Because God will come in chastisement against them.
Now we should bring this into Luke. Why must the women weep for themselves and their children? The answer: Because God is going to chastise them and their children.
Jesus is speaking of the soon coming destruction of Jerusalem under the Romans. That would be a horrible time. A time when the women who were childless would be considered blessed because it would be so painful for the mothers to watch their children suffer. A time when the suffering would be so great that men would cry out to the hills to cover them. A time when God’s judgment would come on Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans.
And that is what Jesus means in verse 31 as well. “For, if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in a dry?” A green tree is a good tree, one that does not deserve to be cut down or burned. A dry tree is a dead one. Jesus says to the Jews, If they, that is the Romans, will put Me to death innocently, then think what they will do to you who are not innocent. If God will use the Romans to do this to Me . . . then think what God will use the Romans to do to you who have not believed.
Now, why would God do this to the Jews? This takes us back to the weeping of the women. He would bring this desolation because they missed the cross of Christ and its significance. God will chastise them because the tears are not over sin, but out of sympathy, are tears of unfulfilled dreams, are tears because everyone else is crying. God will do it because, not only did they miss the cross, but they led their children down the same path. They have missed the cross and will go to hell for it.
This is what the text is saying. Some people will go to hell, crying for Jesus. Just because they wept at the sight of the cross does not mean they are saved!
Many may weep at the sight of an movie star acting out the crucifixion of Christ. Many even may weep over the fact of Jesus crucifixion as they are reminded of it by that movie.
“He is beaten, what a tragedy!! He is innocently condemned, What an injustice!! Now what are they doing to him? Leading him away to crucify him!! How awful!!” they will say.
And they may weep too!!
But, they’ve missed it!! They don’t understand the cross!
You see, the issue is not weeping. The issue is not how many tears you can shed at the sight of the suffering Savior. But, the issue is repentance!!
III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THESE WORDS
This is how the cross is to be preached. Jesus does not tell His disciples to get their acquaintances and neighbors together to watch His trial and crucifixion. That wouldn’t do it. But rather they must take the cross to the people in the preaching of the gospel. And that is what the apostles do, too.
Look at Acts 2 and Peter’s sermon there. He does not dwell on the details of Christ’s suffering, in fact, says nothing of it, except that it happened. How does he bring it? Verse 23, “Whom ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain,” and verse 36, “whom ye have crucified.” There is the punch of the cross, the power of the cross to bring salvation to sinners. Not in the blood and gore and graphic visual display of His suffering, but in this, YOU are GUILTY! And you read in Acts 2, they were pricked in their heart by that word. And they asked, “What must we do?”
Here’s the answer, REPENT! Weep not for Me, But for yourselves! Weep over your sins that nailed Him to that cross. I must weep because of my lust and evil thoughts, because of my covetousness and greed, because of my nasty and destructive words! That is why He is hanging there. Yes, there is an injustice! And the injustice is this, We are not up there, and we deserve to be! The real issue is repentance. The real issue is preparing ourselves for the day of God’s wrath by weeping over our sins.
The whole purpose of the movie on Christ’s passion was to appeal to the emotions of the audiences. To get them to weep like these women are weeping. Ask someone who saw the movie, and they probably say, I wept all the way through. But, these emotional appeals are not God’s way of bringing men to salvation.
This is not a new tactic for evangelism. It was the tactic of Billy Graham in his massive crusades. It is the tactic of Pentecostalism. It was the tactic, back in the 1800s of liberal presbyterians in this country, Charles Finney in particular. Let’s get the emotions stirred up, and perhaps then we can get them saved. The message isn’t getting out through the preaching, so let’s try a new way!
What happens? It never works! You can get the interest and attention of some momentarily, but, there is no root, and the sun comes out, and tribulation and persecution arise because of the Word, and they wither and die, and you never get them back! It is a manipulation of the emotions that they falsely label “a work of the Spirit.”
This does not mean that emotions are bad. No! But, it just depends on their basis, on what you plug them into. Where do they come from? Are they from a mother, sitting in a movie theatre, watching a Mother loose her Son by crucifixion, and crying, weeping, because it is horrible to lose a Son? Or, does this weeping come because of a deep knowledge of sin? Are these emotions controlled by a mind that is regenerated, that understands the depravity of one’s nature and depths of sin in one’s soul, that understands SIN and the justice of God, and in faith sees Christ as the one Who suffered for that sin?
The cross is not about crying, but about repentance.
I leave you tonight with Christ’s words, “Weep not for me, but for yourselves.”
Rev. Rodney Kleyn (Wife: Elizabeth)
Ordained: Sept. 2002
Pastorates: Trinity, Hudsonville, MI - 2002; Covenant of Grace, Spokane, WA - 2009Website: www.reformedspokane.org/
Address7317 N.Deschutes Dr.
State or ProvinceWA