Sermon on Luke 23:27-31
5th Wednesday in Lent
Jesus Came to Seek . . . Weeping Women
Text: Luke 23:27-31
The event is marked as the eighth of nine stations on a path called the Via Dolorosa. In English the path is called The Way of Suffering or The Way of Grief. This Via Dolorosa tracks the journey of Jesus from Pilate to Calvary. Each station along the way identifies an event that took place, such as falling under the weight of the cross and having Simon from Cyrene carry the cross behind him. This event is the eighth along that Via Dolorosa.
An incredibly exhausting and grueling Friday led to this point. Before the sun even rose he was hauled away as a prisoner. His closest comrades had all deserted him. As the morning rooster crowed, even the most devout denied knowing him. The religious leaders mocked and beat him for blasphemy. The Roman soldiers had pummeled him with their fists and bashed his head with a rod. His back had been shredded by scourge. His face was soaked with spit. His brow was bloodied from the thorny crown pressed into his skull. So sapped of his strength, he crumbled under the weight of the cross he carried.
Now Golgotha loomed large before him. In a matter of minutes he would be nailed to a cross and hoisted into the air. But before carrying the guilt of the world, he speaks one last time on the ground. He speaks at this eighth station along the Via Dolorosa. He speaks to weeping women.
What a difference a few days made. Just five days prior the masses of Jerusalem greeted him at the gates of the city. It was a paradoxical entry into the city. The King of kings rode lowly on a donkey. He was hated by the leaders yet hailed by the people as they shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!” But now just five days later the cheering crowd is reduced to the whispers, whimpers, and weeping of these women that followed Jesus.
Who were these women? Had they tasted some of the loaves and fish with the other 5,000 near Galilee? Had Jesus healed their uncle or brother or father? Did they witness a demon cast out? Were they in the audience for the Sermon on the Mount? We don’t know exactly who these women were or where they came from. We simply know that they were there, weeping for Jesus.
We certainly understand their emotion. Many have seen the Passion of the Christ movie, or at least some other painting or reenactment. These last few Sundays we have also been studying the details of Jesus’ passion in Bible class. All of us have some set of images in our mind depicting what took place. We understand their emotion.
This was the one who had let the little children come and bounce on his knee. This was the one who had cared for the sick and had compassion for the needy. This was the one whose heart was large enough even to fraternize with the social scum—the real “sinners” of society. Now here he was betrayed, beaten, battered, and bloodied. How awful. How shameful. How gruesome. Tears are almost expected.
But Jesus scolds these weeping women. Listen to his words: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 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!’ Then ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Jesus was prophesying with these words. A time would soon come, about 40 years later, when the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed. At that time all weeping by the Jews would be turned to themselves and to their capital city. At that time the women without children would be considered blessed because they wouldn’t have to watch their children die. The people would echo the words of their forefathers from the time of Hosea: “They will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’” because that would surely be better than the suffering inflicted by their enemies. If those women thought that Jesus’ suffering was terrible “when the tree is green,” just wait until they see what atrocities take place when disaster strikes Jerusalem and “it is dry.”
The words to these weeping women almost seem harsh and bitter. Weren’t these women just displaying emotion? Weren’t they showing care for Jesus? Weren’t they showing love for the Teacher? Perhaps. But Jesus tells them they are weeping for the wrong person. “Don’t weep for me. Weep for yourselves.” Or rather, Jesus tells them they are weeping for the wrong reason. “Don’t weep because of my suffering. Weep because of your sins.”
These words of Jesus were one final call to repentance for the Jews. The reason that God was going to allow Jerusalem to be destroyed 40 years later was the same reason that God allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed 600 years earlier. The Jews had rebelled. They strayed from the Lord’s words. They rejected God. In fact, Jesus carrying that cross along the Via Dolorosa was proof that they had rejected God. Jesus had come to be their promised Messiah, but he was not the kind of Messiah they had wanted. So they rejected Jesus and sentenced him to die. It was their own wicked rebellion and sin that would bring on their own impending destruction.
These women may have been showing their care for Jesus, but it was the same kind of love that most other Jews had—an earthly one. They loved that Jesus had power. They loved that Jesus helped them. They loved that Jesus healed them. They loved that Jesus could feed them. If Jesus died, they wouldn’t have those things they loved. So they wept. Thus Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.”
Might Jesus say the same to us? It’s quite difficult not to become emotional during the church season of Lent. We remove our alleluias from worship. We sing hymns in doleful minor keys with deeply moving words. We study carefully the passion history. We envision the blood and the gore, the pain and the suffering. How awful. How shameful. How gruesome. We shed tears for Jesus.
Yet Jesus would say the same to us: “Don’t weep for me, weep for yourselves. Don’t weep over my suffering. Weep over your sins.” Indeed, the real reason for tears during Lent is not the barbaric beatings he received or the savage suffering of it all. No the real reason for tears is that my sins put him there. My sins caused this. My sins deserve this.
My selfishness, my greed, my apathy, my lies, my temper, my fowl mouth, my impure thoughts, my unloving actions—my sins put Jesus on this Via Dolorosa. My sins put Jesus on that cross. The Bible tells us, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree,” and “The wages of sin is death.” I deserve the curse of the cross. I deserve the wages of death and hell.
The real reason for weeping in Lent is that, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” It is gross injustice by every measure and every standard. He is the innocent, I the guilty. He is the undeserving, I the deserving. Yet he is the suffering, I the unscathed. And so we weep. We weep with tears of sorrow. We weep with tears of guilt. We weep with tears of repentance.
Yet this is why Jesus trod the Via Dolorosa. His resolute and determined path was to the cross. He came for this reason. He came be the sacrifice and our substitute. It was his loving will to endure what we deserved and to suffer what we ought. It was his kind mercy that moved him to carry our sin and to bear our guilt. It was rich grace that prompted him to die our death.
The suffering and pain, the payment and the death were not in vain. Christ accomplished his mission. The Son’s sacrifice was pleasing to the Father. The payment has been accepted. The empty tomb proves that the strife is over and the battle is won. Sin has been erased. Death has been destroyed. Satan has been vanquished. Forgiveness of sin, new spiritual live, and eternal salvation have been won and are freely given to all.
The passion of our Lord moves us during Lent. It moves us to tears of sorrow and repentance. But this suffering—the physical suffering and the spiritual suffering—is why Jesus came. Jesus Came to Seek the Lost. This evening we see Jesus pausing to seek and save weeping women. And if Jesus came to seek and save weeping women, then Jesus came to seek and to save you. He traveled the Via Dolorosa for those women. He traveled it for you. He won forgiveness for those women (whether they believed it or not). He won forgiveness for you. Weep. Not tears of sadness. Weep tears of joy.
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