Matthew 27:31-34; Mark 15:20-23; Luke 23:26-33; John 19:16-17
A large crowd followed behind, including many grief-stricken women. But Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, don't weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are coming..." – Luke 23:27-29 NLT
Luke is the only one of the gospel writers who includes this exchange between Jesus and the women who were following along as He bore His cross to the place of execution. As they walked along, they wept. They were shocked by the sequence of events that had unfolded over the last 24 hours. Here was their Messiah, beaten and bloody, the skin on His back flayed away down to the bones, being forced to carry a Roman cross on which He would be crucified. Their minds were filled with confusion. Their hearts were filled with sorrow. But Jesus, in the midst of all His pain and suffering, turns to them and tells them not to weep on His behalf. He warns them that their sorrow must be for all those who, in the future, end up rejecting Him. Because a day is coming when they will be judged for their refusal of the Messiah. Their rejection of their Savior will come back to haunt them. Jesus' statement is very similar to His warning recorded by Matthew in his gospel account. At that time, Jesus had told His listeners that "the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14 NLT). He went on to warn them, "The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again" (Matthew 24:15-21 NLT). Jesus had been talking about the great period of tribulation that is to come at the end of time. This literal seven-year period will take place immediately after the rapture of the Church. It is a time in which the Antichrist rises to power and in which he persecutes the Jewish people as they have never been persecuted before.
I believe Jesus is referring to this very period of time when He warns the women not to weep for Him, but to weep for themselves and their children. He tells them that days are coming when it will be best not to have children. In fact, it will be best to have never had a child. That's how bad things are going to be. Jesus tells them, "For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Luke 23:31 NLT). He seems to be referring to what will be Israel's continuing spiritual withering and death. Jesus, the Son of God, was being put to death at a time when Israel was supposed to be worshiping God and keeping His commandments. They were still morally young and spiritually somewhat alive. But the day is coming when they will be withered and dry like the tree Jesus cursed along the side of the road because it lacked fruit. The fruitlessness and spiritual apathy of the people of Israel will one day reach a point where they will be punished by God. The great tribulation will be a difficult time for the people of Israel. But even in those days, God will not abandon them. Thousands will come to faith in Christ. God will miraculously defend them from their enemies and deliver them from the assaults of the Antichrist. And He will send His son once again, as a conquering King, who will set up His kingdom on earth in the city of Jerusalem.
As the women weeped for Jesus, they say this as the end. But Jesus wanted them to know that there was much more to come. In just a few short years, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple would both be destroyed by the Romans. Their whole sacrificial system would be done away with. But there would be even more to come. Jesus' death was far from the end of the story. In a way, it was just the beginning. If tears were to be shed, they needed to be shed for all those who refuse to accept Jesus as their Savior. Judgment is inevitable. Rejection of the Messiah has serious consequences. What the Romans and the Jewish religious leaders were doing to Jesus was horrific and worthy of God's judgment, but all those who reject the gift of His Son will also be worthy of His wrath and condemnation. It is for them that we should weep. It is to them we need to take the story of God's great plan of redemption and reconciliation, made available through the sacrificial death of His Son.
Father, as horrible as the story of Your Son's death is, how much more horrific is the reality that millions of people stand ready to fall under Your righteous judgment because they reject the reality of His death as payment for their sins. They snub Your gift and refuse to accept Your grace. Jesus died, but He rose again. He is alive and well, sitting at Your side and will one day return. But all those who have lived since He died and who have rejected Him will one day be judged by Him. And all those who refuse to accept His death as payment for their sins, will one day have to pay for their sins with their own lives. Give me an increasing burden and heart for those who have yet to hear and those who continue to refuse to listen. Show me how to weep for them as Your Son did for Jerusalem. Amen.