Luke 23:27-31 “A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed! Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’”
Jesus’ words to the women weeping for him help to clear up some misconceptions that people have about sin and God today. In the past it was true that people often saw God only as the angry judge. They were driven to approaching him in a works-righteous way. They were never certain of his love or their salvation.
Today, perhaps, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. People forget that God is Judge. They see him as someone who excuses sin instead of forgiving it. Jesus’ words open our eyes to the truth. They help us understand that sin is serious, and so is God’s judgment of it.
How serious? Think about the dearest people you know. Can you imagine wishing they had never even existed? Some watch their loved ones go through such severe pain that they pray for the Lord to let them die and end the suffering. I have never known someone to wish the person they loved never existed.
That is the picture Jesus paints here. Is there a love more tender than the love of a mother for her child? In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day, it was considered a curse for a woman never to know that love. Jesus warns that, when God visits his judgment on the unrepentant people of Jerusalem, these mothers will see such suffering that they will wish their children never existed in the first place.
Still not sure whether to take his warning so seriously? Jesus has one last way of driving home the horror of the judgment to come. “For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Jesus was the green tree. He was full of spiritual life, a life of perfection. Look at how he suffers now. If this is what happens to the innocent Son of God, what will happen when those on trial are sin-filled human beings, without any spiritual life in them?
Get the point? God considers sin a serious matter. Nor is there reason for us to think less seriously about our own. Those who face judgment won’t have to be told to weep. Jesus warns many times that those who are thrown into the outer darkness will experience “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
If all that we produce are tears of sorrow, tears of dread, tears of fear, then we have failed to take in the whole scene again. More was waiting at the end of this road along which Jesus traveled than his executioners. God was waiting there. He was waiting with the very judgment on sin about which Jesus warns. It was the punishment we and all people deserved. Jesus bore it all in our place.
Our story doesn’t have to end with the judgments Jesus describes. All that made him so pitiable that day, all that led those ladies to tears, were things he was suffering so that we might be forgiven. Jesus carried his cross, and then he died on it, so that we can escape God’s judgment.
Jesus’ pain may make us shed a tear. God’s judgment might fill us with a sense of dread. Don’t miss the peace and joy his cross provides as well.