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God’s Word for You

Luke 23:27-31 Daughters of Jerusalem

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, June 13, 2019

27 A large crowd of people followed him, including women who were mourning and wailing for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them…,

It takes no imagination at all to realize that most of the crowd that followed Jesus through the streets and out to Golgotha were the people who had been shouting, “Crucify! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21). Another group that now appeared were women who were wailing. Were these the kind of professional mourners we see in other places (Luke 7:12, 8:52)? “Call for the wailing women to come,” God commanded Jeremiah, “Send for the most skillful of them” (Jeremiah 9:17). If they had been sincere, they would have called for his release. But if they were professional wailing women, then they were paid for grieving and not for preventing grief. They expected Jesus’ mother to pay them for their service after his burial.

Jesus stopped and turned and spoke to them. Too weak to carry the burden of the cross, he could still preach a brief sermon which Johann Gerhard (writing in 1663) called “An epitome of the whole Passion story.”

“Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 Listen! The days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never gave birth, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 Then, ‘they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us.”’  31 For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

In these final words before his crucifixion, Jesus calls the women by the title, “Daughters of Jerusalem,” a phrase that occurs elsewhere only in the Song of Solomon, but seven times there (Song 1:5, 2:7, 3:5, 3:10, 5:8, 5:16, 8:4). Perhaps in doing so he hints that it is proper and fitting to take the Song of Solomon as a poem about the love of God for his bride the Church as well as a poem about the love between a husband and wife.

Here we have:
      I, The law for the unbeliever
      II, The law for the believer
      III, The gospel

I, The law for the unbeliever. Jesus tells the women to stop weeping for him and to start weeping for themselves. Why? Because a time will come when barren women will be considered blessed over mothers and grandmothers because of the agony felt by a mother when her children are slaughtered. This was about to happen to the Jews at the hands of the Romans, and their destruction was a warning to unbelievers everywhere, for all who reject Christ. The daughters of these women and their generation would be the mothers crying out to the mountains and hills, “Fall on us! Cover us!” A dry tree has nothing to offer at all, and is fit only to be burned. So it is with the unbeliever in the final judgment.

II, The law for the believer. The Christian also needs to remember the words of Jesus and apply them to his faith. Christ, the Green Tree, was slaughtered. If he suffered this, he who was Green and healthy and full of perfection and good works, what is it that we deserve? We, who are dry and full of sin and evil deeds? We would surely have nothing but the destiny of the useless dry tree if it were not for the sacrifice of the Green Tree for our sakes.

III, The gospel. The Green Tree, which is Christ and the Second Adam, recalls the first Adam who was so very blessed by God, blessed with seven blessings that continue even today (his form, his life, his soul, his home, his food, his work, and a way to worship, Genesis 2:7-9,15-17) but who lost the one blessing we need more than all others (the image of God, Genesis 1:27; Genesis 5:3). All of Adam’s descendants are nothing but dry, dead and useless trees. We are kindling on the verge of beginning to smoke. But Christ the Green Tree grew up and took our place, and he has given his greenness, his holiness, his purity, his righteousness, his life, and he has given all of this to us through faith. And this recalls Jesus’ sermon from just the day before: “I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him is the one who bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 EHV).

For those with faith and for those without faith—everyone on both sides of the First and Third Commandments—Christ gave up his life to atone for all mankind’s sins. His act must not be taken as if it is only an example for us to follow, but rather as the one historical event that actually made the atonement for all our sins. His was the sacrifice that freed us from the guilt of our sins and from the power of the devil. He died to set us free from the grip of death. “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). This is how we know what love is. This is how we know that we have been given everlasting life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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