Were you there—when they crucified my Lord?
5. Women Weeping
Luke 23:24-27; 47-49; 55-56 (NIV)
27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 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!’ 30 Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills ‘Cover us!’ 31 For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
The ‘man’ for the job
A missionary society, then named the ‘Worldwide Evangelisation Crusade’ (‘WEC’ for short) had an unofficial motto that ‘A woman is the “man” for the job.’ The Bible teaches that men are normally responsible to lead a Christian work. But there are so many examples where God uses women in all sorts of situations and challenges, either on their own or with their husbands, quite apart from the unique role that a good mum or grandma has in the family. Women often put men to shame for their willingness to sacrifice in Christian work.
Women at the cross
We now look at the women present as Jesus is about to be crucified upon Calvary’s cross. As we look at three different, but closely related, situations covered in Luke chapter 23, we meet first some women from Jerusalem. We will then twice meet some of the women who followed Jesus to Calvary from His native Galilee. As the crow flies, Jerusalem is about 60 miles from the nearest part of Galilee. Let us learn from both sets of women, as we look at the three ‘snapshots.’ The Jerusalem group was probably mixed—almost certainly some loved Jesus, but some did not. The Galilean women had probably walked at least 60 miles to show their love and reverence for Him. In His death, as in His life and teaching, Jesus divides people into two groups: those who trust Him and His word, and follow Him; and those who do not, however they express and live out that unbelief or disobedience.
What can we learn from those women from Jerusalem and those from Galilee about what it really means to trust, love and follow Jesus?
Snapshot 1—Luke 23:27-31
Our first snapshot of women at the cross is from verses 27-31. We take up where we left off when Simon of Cyrene was made to carry the cross of Jesus behind the wrongly condemned Son of God. After His cruel humiliation and beating by the soldiers (Luke 22:64), and scourging (John 19:1), Jesus was bruised and bleeding. These ‘Daughters of Jerusalem’ in the large crowd follow Jesus and Simon to the hill called ‘Calvary.’ Jesus will soon be crucified there, nailed to His cross.
Dying for us
We now can look back at history and see Him dying for us, bearing our judgment and punishment in our place. (1 Peter 2:24). We can now be forgiven if we turn from our sins and trust Jesus personally. Some at Calvary will recognise the unfair crucifixion of this guiltless victim of ‘rough justice’, and bigoted, religious but godless, leaders who manipulated and spurred the crowd on to be a cruel mob. Many of those in the crowd earlier howled for Jesus’ blood like a pack of vicious wolves.
For or against Jesus?
We do not know who amongst those women is for Jesus and who is against Him. Mourners often gave loud theatrical ‘performances’ in those days. Some of them openly ‘mourned and wailed’ for the dead person without any feeling for them at all. It was a paid job for some and a hobby for others. But some would be sincerely heart-broken at the loss of the dead person mourned. It is easy to believe that many people whom had been personally blessed by Jesus, and their grateful relatives, now sincerely mourn His loss, even though those of them who have put their trust in Him know they will see Him again in Heaven after they die. Some who have not yet trusted and followed Jesus personally will nevertheless appreciate the wisdom and good common sense of what He taught and the loving care He showed, without having turned to Him personally. We do not know how each of these Jerusalem women feel individually. Some may be hostile or insincere, some may be friendly and sincere, and hopefully some love and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, or are on the way to doing so.
Jesus too preoccupied and stressed?
You might think that as Jesus passes by these women on His way to die on the cross, in the hardest and darkest hours of His earthly life as a human being, that He is so preoccupied and stressed with His own horrific situation that he has nothing to say to them. He could justifiably avoid making any helpful comments to them that show His unfailing concern for them. In fact, it is a token of His immense and divinely perfect love for others that He even notices them.
But He turns to them and calls them ‘Daughters of Jerusalem.’ He then says ‘do not weep for Me.’ How unselfish and courageous is that? But He goes further. He tells them not only not to weep for Him, but to weep for themselves and their children. He says that childless women will one day be regarded as more ‘blessed’ than those with children.
Why does Jesus warn them?
Why does Jesus warn them? Perhaps, apart from any future problems and troubles yet to be faced in troubled Jerusalem, He knows that unless each one of these mainly insincere women sincerely repents from her sins and believes in Him, she will be lost eternally (John 3:36). He also knows that those who are on the way towards trusting Him can get side-tracked or put off when they will learn how opposed many are towards Him and His followers. Jesus knows that cruel persecution will hit the early church after His departure. (Acts 8:1). But, even at this stage as He goes to die on the cross, He prepares people to repent and trust Him by warning them. It is out of love for them that He warns them: He wants to see them in Heaven after they die. What amazing love, compassion and selflessness we see now in Jesus, our ‘Emmanuel’ (or ‘God with us.’)
Second snapshot—Luke 23:47-49
Verses 47-49 give the second snapshot. It is of the second group of women who so love and trust the Lord Jesus that they have walked all that way from Galilee to be near Him. They do not stand in the main crowd—this is not a ‘performance’ for them to watch or enjoy, but the deathbed of One they love, trust and follow. From the crowd’s edge, these godly, caring women witness three hours darkness descend at mid-day on the cross and blot out the sun, as the great Creator-Saviour commits Himself to His Father in Heaven and dies, bearing their sins and suffering their judgment. In the temple, the thick coloured curtain or veil, keeping the Temple’s Most Holy Place inaccessible to men, is torn in two from top to bottom, thereby signifying that, through the death of Jesus, the way to God is now open for all to enter into a relationship with God, if they will turn from sin and trust in Him. (Luke 23:44-46).
These women will rejoice to hear
These women will rejoice to hear the Roman centurion praise God and declare two vital truths ‘Surely this was a righteous Man’ and ‘Surely this Man was the Son of God’. (Luke 23:47 and Mark 15:39). They will also rejoice to see the once bloodthirsty, rough and crude spectators in the crowd now beat their breasts and leave. Do some repent and trust Christ? Will some do so later? Maybe some do or will, but sorrow is not the same as repentance, which is sorrow that causes a sinner to turn from sin. Perhaps some are among those who later respond to God when Peter will preach the gospel on the Day of Pentecost and 3,000 will be saved? (Acts 2:37-41).
Never underestimate the value of circumstances and events that God uses to prepare people to see the guilt of their wrong actions and attitudes and make an about-turn from sin to embrace Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Sometimes a sinner receives Christ as soon as he hears the good news about Jesus. Sometimes it is days, weeks, months or years later that he is converted. Very sadly, sometimes he enters Hell knowing he should have repented and believed in Jesus: that is both sad and tragic. Be warned!
Third snapshot—Luke 23:55-57
In verses 55-57, we see a few of these same women follow a rich tomb owner, and rare Council member to follow Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea. Pilate lets him collect and place Jesus’ body in his own new tomb. (Matthew 27:60). These women are Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Joses, and probably some others from their group. They both see the tomb and Jesus’ body in it. They plan to go home to prepare spices for embalming the body in that tomb. So, they know Jesus is dead and were He was laid. Later, they will also be some of the key witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Later still, they will meet the risen Jesus personally! These women are truly committed to the Lord: they rest on the Sabbath because they obey the commandments. Those who love Jesus do keep His commands. (John 14:15, 15:10). Still today the fourth commandment bids us keep His day holy for Him each week, (Exodus 20:8-11), as far as we can. This we do on the Lord’s day, the first day of each week, which is the Christian Sabbath and the day we also remember Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Be encouraged! God loves, saves, blesses and uses seemingly ‘ordinary’ people—men or women, as here. Yes, He still saves ‘ordinary’ folks now. He still uses them as His important witnesses today, to share with others how they came to know Him and the great difference He has made, is making, and will make eternally.
How about you?
He loves you, knows about you, and can save and bless you too. You may not believe it right now, but if you trust and surrender to Him, He will not only forgive you and give you eternal life: He will grow you in your Christian life, and use you in the future to glorify Him, encourage other Christians, and help others to trust Him as their Saviour too. Be sure to trust in this crucified and risen Saviour.