Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jesus and the "Daughters of Jerusalem"

While Jesus was carrying His Cross, He stopped and spoke to the “Daughters of Jerusalem,” but what He said to them was difficult to understand. What did He mean?

This scene is found in Lk 23:27-31:
And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us'; and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
I did some research on this passage and, as I understand it, Jesus is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple there when He speaks of these terrible days that are coming. Earlier, in Lk 19:43-44 and Lk 21:20-24, Jesus prophesied that this day of destruction was near, as a punishment for the faithlessness of the Jews, and He described that day in much the same terms that He is using here.

I’m sure that Jesus is touched by their mourning for Him, but He also knows that the greatest possible good will come from His current suffering. I think Jesus is basically telling the women that they need not worry about Him. Instead, they need to worry about their people, particularly the faithless from among them. When the Temple comes crumbling down and the entire city is destroyed, that will be such an awful day that people will consider it a blessing to be barren (and thus spared from bringing a child into those dreadful days). They will rather have mountains and hills fall on them then suffer the torments of that day! History tells us that, in 70 AD, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, and it was every bit as bad as Jesus said it would be.

As for the green and dry wood that Jesus mentions at the end, this is His clever way of warning them of their impending doom. If you’ve ever tried to make a fire, you know that green wood is still moist and thus unsuitable for burning, but dry wood makes excellent kindling. In Scripture, fire is often a symbol of God’s wrath (cf. Ezek 20:47). The green wood are thus the innocent, those who do not deserve to be punished, and the dry wood are the wicked.

Knowing this then, Jesus is basically saying, “If this is the type of thing that happens to the innocent (to Jesus, who is being beaten and crucified), just wait and see what happens to the wicked!” Our God is a Just God. The wicked never go unpunished.

Pax Christi,

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