16.01.09 Lk 23:27-31
WOMEN WEEP FOR JESUS
27 A large crowd of people followed Him, including women who were mourning and lamenting Him. 28 But turning to them, Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and your children. 29 Look, the days are coming when they will say, ‘The women without children, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed, are fortunate!’
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 wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
“For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” This was a prediction of the suffering that would come in only four decades at the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. A similar thought is expressed in I Peter 4:17, “For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?”
The phrase is another example of Jesus’ use of nature to explain His point. It cannot be understood without its reflection on the words of an early sixth century B.C. prophet who gave warnings to the rebellious children of Israel when they were in Babylonian captivity. The warning was words of judgment that would fall upon the people as fire destroys a dry tree in the desert. In this short allegory, the “green tree” represents the righteous Jews and the “dry tree” is representative of the wicked and religiously dead Jews. The impending judgment that would fall upon Jerusalem would not only destroy the wicked Sadducees, but also engulf some of the righteous as well. There were many righteous Jews living in Judaea, but their faith was tested when the judgment of God fell upon the land. Another way to explain this passage is to say that, if the leaders of Israel were willing to do this horrific act of rebellion now, how much worse would be done in the future when apostasy would be commonplace? The judgment of God would bring a greater infliction upon the rebellious children of Abraham.
At some point during the years A.D. 115 to 117, the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus wrote an interesting comment recognizing the suffering of Jesus, as well as those who became known as “Christians.” They were blamed for all the troubles of the Roman Empire, including the fire in Rome, which was started by Nero himself. Tacitus said:
But neither human resources, nor imperial generosity, nor appeasement of the gods, eliminated sinister suspicions that the fire had been instigated. To suppress this rumor, Nero fabricated scapegoats – and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they had been popularly called). Their originator, Christus [Christ], had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus.
Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome 15.41
The words of Tacitus are important for two reasons:
- Jesus is the originator of a religious movement known as “Christians.”
- Jesus was crucified by the direct command of Pontius Pilate.
The Romans could not understand how the Jews, and later the Christians, could worship a god they could not see, touch, or smell. Furthermore, they certainly wondered what Jesus taught that would make so many be so willing to die for their faith. The Roman mind could not comprehend a mystery. However, it was not the death of Christ, but His resurrection, that was the passion of His followers.
. Bivin and Blizzard, Understanding the Difficult Words. 82-84.
. The Latin form of Pontius Pilate.
. Book XV of Tacitus’s Annals is preserved in the 11th–12th-century Codex Mediceus II, a collection of medieval manuscripts in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, Italy. See also “Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible” by Lawrence Mykytiuk appears in the January/February 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
. For further study on the significance of the physical resurrection of Jesus, see Geisler, Norman L. “The Significance of Christ’s Physical Resurrection.” Bibliotheca Sacra. 146:582 (Apr-June, 1989). 148-70.