Cutting Down the Green Tree
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children” (Luke 23:27).
This is perhaps the most overlooked statement Jesus made on Good Friday. He made it as he walked the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of Sorrows” that led to Calvary. Seeing women weeping for him as he drags the cross on the way to his own execution, he tells them three things:
1. Weep for yourselves and your children (vv. 27-28).
2. Terrible times are coming (vv. 29-30).
3. There will be no escaping that judgment (v. 31)
Weep, but do not weep.
Weep for yourselves, do not weep for me.
Strange words coming from the Savior’s lips.
These words would be fulfilled in AD 70 when the Roman army sacked Jerusalem and tore down Herod’s temple. In the last, terrible days before Jerusalem fell, women and children would suffer the most, as they always do when war comes.
These solemn statements are Jesus’ last recorded words before he is crucified. Shortly he will cry, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” We must take these two statements together, and we must not separate them.
The word of judgment: Weep for yourselves.
The word of grace: Father, forgive them.
We must not pass over the illustration Jesus used: “For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:31). The meaning seems to be, “If they do this to Jesus, the tree of life, what will they do to the nation whose unbelief has made it barren and ready for judgment?” This is Jesus’ final lament over Jerusalem.
When the nation, through its leaders, rejected Jesus, there was nothing left but the judgment of God. We must apply this lesson to ourselves. What will be the outcome for any nation blessed with gospel preaching that does not receive it? Earlier in this Lenten series, I pointed out that Jesus’ Triumphal Entry was a “Day of Visitation” for Israel. For a moment in time, the whole city asked, “Who is this man?” Now we have the official answer: “He is a criminal worthy of death.”
The same Jesus who said, “Come to me, all you weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” also said, “Unless you repent, you too will perish.” Both statements deserve careful attention. The day of grace comes to an end sooner or later. This is true for individuals, families, cities and nations.
Thank God, there is grace for every sinner.
But let no sinner use that as an excuse to sin.
The Lamb of God is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
We must not trifle with him.
Weep for yourself. Weep for your loved ones. Weep for your nation. Pray that we will turn to Christ while we can. As the daughters of Jerusalem learned 2000 years ago, the day comes when they cut down the green tree.
Lord Jesus, forgive us for being complacent in an age of grace. Give us broken hearts for those who do not know you. Amen.