The Gospel of Luke:a commentary & meditation

"Do not weep for me, but for yourselves and your children"

Scripture: Luke 23:26-32

26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyre'ne, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. 28 But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 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!' 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?"

Meditation:  Are you prepared to die well?  None of us can avoid the inevitable-- our own death. We try to avoid it, to block it from our minds, but the the truth is we will all die sooner or later. Dying is not easy for anyone.  It involves mental and physical suffering, loss, and separation.  We can choose to live well, and we can choose to die well.  Dying well is a life-long spiritual task.  Fortunately there is something stronger than death and that is love (Song of Songs 6:8).  "For God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Jesus embraced the cross knowing it was the Father's will and the Father's way for him to die.

A criminal condemned to death by Roman law was forced to carry his own cross.  Soldiers made him carry it to the place of execution usually by the longest route possible. This prolonged the public humiliation and agony of carrying a weight that bowed the head and broke the back into a posture of  submission.  Jesus fell under the weight of his cross and could go no further.  The Roman soldiers compeled another man to carry it for him.  Simon had come a long distance from Cyrene (in North Africa, present-day Libya) to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. The last thing he wanted to do was to participate in the public execution of a criminal. But he had no choice since Roman authority could not be challenged without serious consequences. The Gospel of Mark records that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus (see Mark 15:21).  Since Mark wrote his gospel for the Christian community at Rome, it is likely that the two sons of Rufus were well-known to the Church there as fellow Christians. Who knows, if Simon had not been compelled to carry Jesus's cross, he may never have been challenged with the message of the cross and the meaning of the Christian faith which his two sons later embraced.  Perhaps Simon became a believer and passed on his faith to his family as well. Do you take up your cross willingly to follow Jesus in his way of love and sacrifice?

Several people followed Jesus as he carried his cross to Calvary.  They wept for him because they knew he was innocent and was from God.  Jesus addressed the women in the crowd as "daughters of Jerusalem".  The phrase, "daughter(s) of Zion" personified faithful Israel.  Their mourning and lament expressed their deep sorrow over Jesus' fate.  Jesus turned to them as he did to Peter (see Luke 22:61).  His words were meant to bring them from remorse to full repentance and faith in the face of impending judgment.  Jesus' warning focused on Jerusalem and its inhabitants.  Jesus earlier had warned the inhabitants about the destruction of Jerusalem since they "did not know the appointed time of their visitation" (Luke 19:43-44).  This visitation is now as Jesus goes to Calvary to die upon the cross.  God "has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us" (Luke 1:68) through his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus pronounced a blessing on the barren.  This reversal of fortune follows the pattern of Jesus' beatitudes (Luke 6:20-22).  Those who are poor, who weep for their sins, who suffer for doing right are blessed by God.  They recognize that in their nothingness they possess everything which comes from God.  "Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have been in travail!" (Isaiah 54:1)  Those who are childless can have hope in God who gives us a new family in Christ. Do your mourn for sin and separation from God and give thanks for the great victory which Christ won for us on the cross?

"Lord Jesus, you laid down your life for me that I might walk in the freedom of your love and mercy.  Free me from love of the world and from attachment to sin and hurtful desires, that I might love whole-heartedly and sincerely what you love and reject whatever is false or contrary to the gospel."

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 (c) 1999, 2000 Don Schwager