A Homily Preached at Luther Memorial Church by The Rev. Dr. Russell L. Lackey
April 15, 2022 | Luke 23:28-31
When Jesus approached Bethany and learned that Lazarus died, Jesus wept. When Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw a city that would reject peace, Jesus wept. But when Jesus was approaching the cross and saw a crowd weeping for him, he said, “Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and your children!”
Why would Jesus say this? Is he being bitter? Hardly! Is he being stoic? No, Jesus was never afraid to show his emotions. With these words, Jesus is loving these women and loving us. Listen again. Verse 28ff:
But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me,
but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Two things jump out in this passage.
First, Jesus is talking to the daughters of Jerusalem. This is important because throughout the gospels, Jesus cares deeply for daughters. Early in Luke, a woman who was hemorrhaging touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed. Jesus said to her: “Daughter, your faith has made you
well; go in peace” (8:48). Then Jesus continued to Jairus’ house and healed Jairus’ daughter by saying “Child, arise!” (8:54). Later, during the Sabbath, Jesus healed a woman cause consternation among the religious leaders. Jesus’ response: “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” (13:16).
You see, Jesus cares deeply for these women. He cares enough to notice, in the midst of his passion, their own passion. He noticed their tears and cares enough to stop and speak to them.
Second, Jesus not on only cares for them, he redirects their tears. That is why Jesus says: For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (23:31). Jesus is telling them the kind of Messiah he is. Jesus is not dry wood. Jesus is not timber ready to burn everything down. Jesus is not a revolutionary. Jesus is the opposite. Jesus is green wood, filled with life. Jesus is fresh, new: his mission is all about peace and repentance, about God reconciling work on the cross.
By saying, “Do not weep for me…,” Jesus is telling the woman that they have bigger things before them. If the Romans are going to crucify the prince of peace, what will they do when the city is filled with revolutionaries? If the religious leaders are going to murder the light of the world, what will happen when the city is filled with zealots? If the powers in charge are willing to burn green wood, how much hotter will the fire be when everything is dry?
The obvious question: what does this mean for us? As Christians, when we weep, we have one who collects every tear. When we weep over our sin, he is there. When we weep over our loved ones, he notices. When we weep over the state of the world, he has a bucket ready.
There is more. As Christians, we also know that that there will be a day when we will no longer weep tears of sorrow. In Holy Baptism, we have been grafted into the green wood. We are part of life itself. Remember, Jesus is the source of living water. In baptism, we have been united to Christ’s death and to his resurrection. Grafted in, we wait for the day when there will be no more tears of sorrow but only tears of joy.
Until that day, let us join the Daughters of Jerusalem and weep. Let us weep for ourselves, our loved ones, and this world. Let us not weep for Christ. He is green wood. He is filled with living water. And he has enough living water in him to overcome the fire of sin, death, and the devil. And he has enough living water in him to overcome these enemies for us as well.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.