And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned 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 indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’ For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:27–31)
The Bible doesn’t tell us whether the angels wept as the Son of God walked to Calvary, but if they greatly rejoice whenever a single soul comes to salvation, we can only imagine their response to the Saviour, the King of Heaven, tortured and crucified like a common criminal. Today’s verses are seldom included in teachings on the cross and the road to Calvary. We’re reminded always of the scorn, ridicule, and torment Jesus endured, His abandonment, and His rejection. All these are true, and we can never presume to diminish the eternal truth that every single human emotion and experience came together on the cross. But there were others who chose to follow the cross because they loved Him. Even in the midst of a raging, violent mob and the persecution by the civil authority, they followed Jesus and wept.
In end times, we will have cause to weep as we follow the cross.
Those who remained faithful were those whose lives had been touched and transformed. Mary, His earthly mother, who birthed and raised Him and who felt the grief of a mother and a faithful disciple. Mary Magdalene, delivered of seven demons and released into a life of real freedom. There were the prostitutes, the poor, those whose children were healed or raised from the dead. There were men like John, often called ‘the beloved disciple’ and Joseph of Arimathea who gave up his own tomb for Jesus. We are surprised by those who were not there – the disciples, like Peter, who fled and denied Him – but we must also not lose sight of the many whose faith upheld them and enabled them to follow the cross.
But Christ’s response is telling. It is a harsh reminder of the reality of what it means to be a Christian. It is also a staggering parallel to the times in which we live. As we look around us, we see Jesus rejected, mocked, and humiliated as much as He was then. While it is absolutely true that the cross was a once-and-for-all event, and we cannot literally ‘crucify’ Him all over again, the identical pattern of human behavior is possible. The world is, in a figurative sense, repeating the pattern of human response that predominated at the cross. For those of us who follow the cross, we find ourselves in the same situation.
Our first response is to weep. Those who have been touched by Jesus and whose lives have been utterly transformed cannot help but mourn the tragedy unfolding around us. But, as Jesus taught, we should rather weep for ourselves and for our children – for those who will never enter His blood-bought salvation. We can weep for ourselves because, when we follow the cross, it always leads to Calvary. There is no ‘alternative route’ to avoid it. If we follow the cross, we will face the same things that Jesus faced – a reality that is growing ever more apparent as friends, family, society, the government, and even the church in many places raises up in rejection of the pure teachings of the Word and the reality of Christ and the cross.
But we can also weep for ourselves in that Calvary was the direct result of our sinfulness. It was you and I, and the whole of humanity, that caused the cross. Our natures made it a necessity, and His love made it a reality. As we follow the cross and weep for ourselves, it is with the thanksgiving of hearts forgiven and made new. But even as we weep, we can see the full truth of the cross – the victory, the resurrection, and the full life and freedom of Christ in us. There are many – even many who profess Christianity – who will one day weep in earnest when they face eternity without Him. These are the ones Jesus commanded we weep for.
It is virtually impossible for the human understanding to fully comprehend the agony, the suffering, and the spiritual torment Jesus endured for the sake of those whom He loved. When we follow the cross and encounter those around us who reject this truth, it’s all too easy to react with impatience, frustration, and even anger. But to fully comprehend the cross, we need spiritual understanding. Human understanding simply cannot do it. Those who seek will find, but those who reject will lose it. Just as Jesus wept for Jerusalem, so we are called to weep for those who turn away.
We are living in a ‘time of the cross.’ Anti-Christian and anti-Christ sentiment is on the increase. Those who faithfully preach the Gospel or share the teachings of the Word will face rejection as we never have before, even from many within the church who have been seduced by wrong teaching. But if we faithfully follow the cross, we need to remember that it is not us, personally, who are rejected. It is Jesus. Just as the mob turned against Him and the authorities and spiritual leaders plotted to destroy Him in biblical times, so they repeat the pattern today.
It’s encouraging to remember that this is, in fact, a fulfillment of prophetic Scripture. All of the false doctrines, all of the virulent anti-Christian sentiment, all of the false accusations against the nature of God and the person of Christ are simply setting the scene for a one-world order and paving the way for the Antichrist. Satan is stirring up the masses now just as he did then, and it’s increasing because he knows he has little time left. The stage is being set for the prophetic events that herald the end of the age. For those who truly follow the cross, it’s a time of enormous significance, of an importance that is eclipsed only by the cross and all it represents and accomplished.
The encouragement we need to continue to faithfully follow the cross lies in the reality that Jesus went before us. He knows the way. He knows every pebble, pothole, and precarious position. He lived the journey, totally and completely, and has provided the way to victory. We simply follow in His footsteps and manifest His nature. We do not need to weep for Jesus. He has been resurrected and glorified, and will return as the conquering King. He has already endured the sins and sufferings of mankind, and those of us who follow Him have our place in glory beside Him.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we will be excluded from the ugly nature of the rejection of God by humanity. We will witness it every day, more and more. We will be on receiving end of any number of horrible assaults. But as we obey Him and learn to weep instead of to grow angry, He will release His love in and through us. Though we weep, it should not be because of the price Jesus paid. It should always be for the fact that too many will refuse the gift. This does not render His sacrifice worthless. Jesus did what He did, willingly and without reservation, even though He knew that so many would turn away and refuse it.
So why, then, should we weep? Because the way to Calvary is the way of intercession. The cross is the ultimate act of intercession, and this is our example. Just as Jesus prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified Him, so we should forgive those who reject Christ in us. If we can allow Him to stir our hearts to weeping, it puts us in a place of interceding instead of reacting. When we follow the cross, this is an integral part of our purpose in Him – not simply to love, worship, and obey Him, but to learn to weep, to truly grieve, for those who do not.
Lord Jesus, change our hearts today. Teach us to weep for the lost, for those who ridicule and persecute us, and to remember that it is You in us they reject. Thank You for Your perfect, eternal intercession. Remind us always that it only by Your grace that we are saved, and help us to see as You saw – a lost world with no other hope but Your faithful love, mercy, and forgiveness.