Who were these “many grief-stricken women” who followed Jesus on the way to the cross? Were they the small band of women who have followed Jesus along the way since Galilee or are they a larger group of women who have gathered since the events of the trials? The text could be interpreted to conclude there was a huge crowd of people who were calling out for Jesus crucifixion so why were there now a large group of women weeping over what was going to happen? I don’t think the crowd calling for His death were so large. I think they were small in number but oh so influential. They were a small crowd of rabble rousers who had been incited by the Sanhedrin. They were not necessarily large in number but the crowd mentality kicked in and others joined in the chant. This segment shows us clearly there were many others who still followed this healer, Messiah. They were not the followers of Jesus who had been with Him on the road for a long while. They were the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Jesus specifically called them that. Neither were they followers in the true sense of the word. Most probably they were those who had followed the events of the trial in Jerusalem and concluded with Pilate that He had done nothing wrong. They had likely heard stories of what Jesus had been doing in healing the sick, casting out demons and setting the captives free. Actions which were in accord with the Coming Messiah. In fact a few days before the crowds had gathered beside the road and cried “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.”
These women (and men who followed) must have been somewhat bewildered. How could their Messiah so quickly now be heading to His death? When the Roman soldiers took someone to the Cross it was the end. There was no turning back from the pending crucifixion. Thus they walk along weeping, probably even wailing at the thought of this innocent man’s pending death. But when Jesus addresses them He tells them not to weep for Him. This could have two interpretations.
- He did not want them to weep for Him. I.e. There was no point to weep for Him because He was doing the work of the Father. Rather He was on His way to fulfil the work of God having been strengthened to do so in the Garden of Gethsemane.
- While it was appropriate for them to weep for Him it was more appropriate for them to weep for themselves. While His redemptive work would be painful it would be short-lived and in the end He would be glorified and seating at the right hand of God the Father. However it was far more appropriate that they should be weeping for themselves because of the pending disaster about to fall on Jerusalem and its inhabitants.
Note the strong emphatic contrast between “Me” and “yourselves”. The object of the grief, the weeping or the wailing is not to be Jesus, but rather it ought to be for “you yourselves”. The statement is introduced with the Greek word [πλήν – plēn] which means “but”, “rather”, “yet”, “moreover”, “on the contrary”. This construction has a strong adversative sense. No, not that but this. Learn to look in the right direction. Weep for yourselves! Why? That does not seem to make sense. Jesus is the one who was heading to the Cross and the most gruesome death that mankind has contrived. Why not weep for Him and what He was about to suffer?
There is a grander backdrop than we might imagine. It is like Jesus’ entry into the city is being contrasted with His exit from the city. In Chapter 19:41-48, Luke takes time to spell out for us what is going on here in his description of the bigger picture behind the events. If you missed this segment because you were not getting the Gems at that time (there have been a large number who have joined Bible Gems since that time) then you will find I took 11 Gems to cover those eight verses in chapter 19 [Gems 1141–1151] available on the website. Now Jesus spells out the bigger picture behind what is happening on His exit from the city. Do you see how it is highly significant that Simon of Cyrene (likely a Jew) is entering the city for Passover while the One who has come in the name of the LORD is exiting the city to His death. A death that has to occur to enable Him to seek and to SAVE THE LOST. You and me and Simon of Cyrene. This is a very poignant moment. One who has come into the city for Passover is forced by the Romans to carry His cross, little realising at that moment what he was doing. But clearly on reflection it is a life changing moment for Simon and his family. Has it done that for you? Don’t weep for Me but weep for yourselves and for your children! Simon, clearly had done this in the days after the cross.
Why the focus on the children in the words Jesus has spoken? Because there is a much larger picture in focus here. This is happening around AD 32 or 33 or 34. Most likely AD 32 as I explained in Gems 1145 and 1146. Jesus was talking about the coming judgement on Jerusalem. “Daughters of Jerusalem, women of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me but weep for your children.” He is not referring to the woman with their little children at the time of the cross. Rather He is referring to a time 40 years into the future when Jerusalem would be in turmoil and women and children would run in fear. He is making a prophetic statement which picks up on the prophecy of Hosea 10:8 which was in reference to the Assyrians’ destruction of Samaria and the northern kingdom. But here Jesus uses the same prophecy but applies it very clearly to Jerusalem. Women, weep for yourselves and your children. Likely as not they were in their twenties and thirties at the time Jesus made this statement to them. 40 years later when Jerusalem fell in AD 70 they themselves would be in their sixties and their seventies while their children would be in child bearing years and their grandchildren would be living in Jerusalem. Weep yourselves and for your children.
I am going to leave you with that thought and suggest you ponder now the events of the cross in the way that Simon of Cyrene would have done. Also take time to ponder the meaning of Jesus’ use of Hosea’s prophetic statement and its application to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
- Why should they pray for the hills and the mountains to cover them or fall on them?
- Why would it be better in those days for barren women than it would be for those who were with child?
- And what on earth does the statement “For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry” mean?
Time now for you to do some thinking and investigation. It’s a good time for you to ponder the text at a deeper level. It is a meaty passage. There’s lots for you to do.
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