************ Sermon on Luke 23:27-31 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 17, 2011
"Daughters of Jerusalem"
We've been looking at different people on the way to the cross: Barabbas, Simon of Cyrene, the two criminals, and – today – a group of ladies. All of them helping us to see the meaning of the Savior's cross.
Today, Luke tells us about a group of ladies who mourn and wail for Jesus as He walked to the place of His execution. Who are these ladies? Why were they lamenting over Jesus? What do they show us about Jesus and His cross? And, what is the significance of the words Jesus said to them – His last words before being nailed to the tree?
I The Daughters of Jerusalem Mourn for Jesus
A First, we notice the title for these ladies on the way to the cross. Luke calls them the "Daughters of Jerusalem" (Lk 23:28). Similar titles are "Daughters of Zion," "Women of Jerusalem," and "Women of Zion."
Luke is not the first Bible writer to use the title "Daughters of Jerusalem." The title is used in the Song of Solomon as a complementary and respectful title for any beautiful woman (Song 1:5; 2:7; 3:5,10; 5:8,16; 8:4). Over time it gained some traction as a popular designation for spiritual beauty (cf 1 Peter 3:1-6). As such, the title was used at the time of Jesus for Jewish women who were faithful worshipers of God; women who were devoted to Jerusalem and the Temple.
Early in Luke's Gospel we meet one of these "Daughters of Jerusalem." Listen to what Luke says:
(Lk 2:36-37) There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, (37) and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.Anna was one of the "Daughters of Jerusalem" – a woman devoted to Jerusalem and the Temple. It is very doubtful, however, that she was still alive at the time of Jesus' crucifixion.
B The prophet Zechariah, as I am sure you know, said a prophecy about Palm Sunday.
(Zech 9:9) See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.As I said to the boys and girls, the people thought Jesus – in fulfilment of this prophecy – rode into Jerusalem to claim His crown.
Do you remember how Zechariah starts his prophecy? To whom it is addressed?
(Zech 9:9) Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you ...According to Zechariah, the "Daughters of Jerusalem" will be part of the large, jubilant, noisy Palm Sunday crowd that watched Jesus ride into Jerusalem on the back of the donkey.
But that's not all. Remember where Jesus went right after the triumphal entry? He went to the Temple area and began driving out those who were selling (Lk 19:45). Meaning what in this instance? Meaning that the "Daughters of Jerusalem" – as women devoted to Jerusalem and the Temple – saw what Jesus did in the Temple.
Now, let's fast forward five days from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. Luke identifies the "Daughters of Jerusalem" as part of the crowd watching Jesus making His way to the place of the Skull.
C Notice what these "Daughters of Jerusalem" are doing on Good Friday? They are part of a large crowd following Jesus to His execution. Some of the crowd, as I said in another message, are jeering and mocking. Others, including the "Daughters of Jerusalem," are mourning and wailing for Jesus.
Why are they weeping and lamenting over Jesus? Let's start by talking about the fulfilment of Scripture. Listen to what Zechariah says in another passage:
(Zech 12:10) And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.So, these women, these "Daughters of Jerusalem," are weeping in fulfilment of Scripture.
But why are they weeping? A crucifixion is a public event. It was something done by the Romans. It was something done only to non-citizens. The "Daughters of Jerusalem" were weeping that one of their own was being led to death. They were weeping that one of their own was being led to such a shameful and bitter and painful death. Despite the teaching of "The DaVinci Code" alleging that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married with children, the "Daughters of Jerusalem" weep that Jesus is about to die and leave no offspring. One of the most important things in ancient times was the birth of descendants. Back then, children were not only your descendants but also the descendants of everyone before you. Woe be it to you if you deprive your ancestors of having an unlimited eternity of descendants by having no children. The "Daughters of Jerusalem" were also weeping because of promises unfulfilled. A week that started with so much promise on Palm Sunday – with its hope of a Davidic king on David's throne in David's city – was now ending so bitterly. The "Daughters of Jerusalem" couldn't look at Jesus without knowing this was the end to their hopes and dreams for Jesus.
II Weep for Yourselves and Your Children
A Now, notice what Jesus says to these women: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children" (Lk 23:28). Isn't this a strange thing to say? Jesus is being led to His death. The women are crying for Him. Yet Jesus says they are crying for the wrong person. "Don't cry for me. Cry for yourselves." I repeat, isn't this strange?
You would think that all of Christ's attention would be focused on Himself and the coming horror of the crucifixion with its three hours of darkness and being forsaken by God. Yet, Christ found the time to talk to the women. He turned to them, though they were strangers to Him.
"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children" (Lk 23:28). With the eye of faith we can apply those words to ourselves, can't we? With the eye of faith we realize we ought to weep for ourselves and our sins and the sins of our children. For it was our sins that caused Him to stumble to the cross. It was our sins that nailed Him to the tree. It was our sins that made Him endure the three awful hours of darkness. It was our sins that made Him die. Those with the eye of faith know not to weep for Jesus – the Savior, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Suffering Servant – but for themselves and their sins. We should weep about the misery and the pain we have put upon Jesus. "Do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children."
I want you to notice that Jesus is telling the "Daughters of Jerusalem" to do the same thing that He Himself did. Listen to how Luke states this:
(Lk 19:41) As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.Jesus wept over Jerusalem. And, He tells the "Daughters of Jerusalem" to do the same thing – to weep over Jerusalem, to weep for themselves and their children.
B Now why? Why are the "Daughters of Jerusalem" not to weep for Jesus but for themselves and their children? Here is the reason:
(Lk 23:29-30) 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!' (30) Then "they will say to the mountains, 'Fall on us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!'"
This is a culture that prizes children. That views children as a gift from the Lord. That views barrenness as a sign of disfavor with God. Think of the pain of Rachel and Hannah because they had no children. Yet, a time will come, says Jesus, when they will be glad they have no children and childless women will be called blessed.
As an aside, isn't this the attitude of too many people today? Today, many women no longer believe that children are a blessing but a nuisance and a drain on their quality of life. This sentiment is just as sad today as it was in the days of Jesus.
Jesus' words were fulfilled within thirty years when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman general Titus because Israel rebelled against Roman rule. Six hundred thousand people perished under horrific circumstances. Bodies were simply thrown over the walls to prevent rotting corpses from spreading disease. Those caught attempting to escape the city were killed outright, if they were fortunate, or crucified in full view of the city walls. The Romans attempted to starve the Jews into submission; and hungry men, defending their city, took food from their suffering wives and children and even killed and ate their own flesh and blood. Yet, the city would not surrender. Finally, the city fell and the Temple, only recently rebuilt was burned.
Watching a child suffer from an injury or sickness is hard enough. To watch them die of starvation or to leave them in an attempt to escape is unimaginable. The women without children would be spared this and would ironically be called blessed. In such a situation, says Jesus, the mothers of Israel would cry for the mountains and hills to cover them rather than face the hunger and death of their own children.
This is not the only time Jesus spoke of this. Remember what Jesus all said on Palm Sunday as He approached Jerusalem? He wept over Jerusalem and said:
(Lk 19:42-44) "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. (43) The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. (44) They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."Notice what Jesus said? They did not know what would bring them peace. They did not recognize the time of God's coming to them.
Israel thought she knew the way of peace. Remember that happened earlier? Pilate gave them a choice: Jesus or Barabbas. And they picked Barabbas. "Barabbas. Barabbas. Barabbas." And, they picked the way of Barabbas. They thought the way of Barabbas was the way of peace. The way of Barabbas, you should realize was revolution and insurrection and rebellion against Rome; the way of Jesus was an atoning sacrifice upon the cross.
Knowing what was coming, Jesus told the "Daughters of Jerusalem" to weep and wail for themselves and their children – all because Israel chose Barabbas and the way of Barabbas over Jesus and the way of Jesus.
C But there is more: Jesus' words will also have a final fulfilment. We see this in the Revelation. Borrowing from the language of Hosea, John tells us about a time when people would rather be buried alive than face the judgment of Almighty God. Listen to what the Revelation says:
(Rev 6:15-17) Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. (16) They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (17) For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"It is clear from Scripture that this cry, this plea, this prayer of the wicked goes unanswered. Try as they may like, the wicked cannot hide or escape from the awful judgment of God. Try as they may like, those who reject Jesus cannot hide or escape from the judgment of God. No wonder Jesus says, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children" (Lk 23:28).
Weep, because there is no escape from the coming judgment. Weep, because there is no escape from the final judgment.
Notice how Jesus concludes: "For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Lk 23:31). This well-known proverb reminds us that green trees make poor fires but dry trees burn easily and quickly. As time passes on, green trees become dry trees.
The wood is green at the time of Jesus; however, at the time of the second coming the wood is dry. Then there is no escape from God's judgment if you reject Jesus. If you don't know Jesus as Savior and Lord at that time, you will "weep for yourselves and your children" (Lk 23:28).
So, congregation, believe in Jesus while the tree is still green. Believe, or you will "weep for yourselves and your children" (Lk 23:28).
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