We have here the blessed Jesus, the Lamb of God, led as a lamb to the slaughter, to the sacrifice. It is strange with what expedition they went through his trial; how they could do so much work in such a little time, though they had so many great men to deal with, attendance on whom is usually a work of time. He was brought before the chief priests at break of day (Luke 22:66), after that to Pilate, then to Herod, then to Pilate again; and there seems to have been a long struggle between Pilate and the people about him. He was scourged, and crowned with thorns and contumeliously used, and all this was done in four or five hours’ time, or six at most, for he was crucified between nine o’clock and twelve. Christ’s persecutors resolve to lose no time, for fear lest his friends at the other end of the town should get notice of what they were doing, and should rise to rescue him. Never any one was so chased out of the world as Christ was, but so he himself said, Yet a little while and ye shall not see me; a very little while indeed. Now as they led him away to death we find,
I. One that was a bearer, that carried his cross, Simon by name, a Cyrenian, who probably was a friend of Christ, and was known to be so, and this was done to put a reproach upon him; they laid Christ’s cross upon him, that he might bear it after Jesus (Luke 23:26), lest Jesus should faint under it and die away, and so prevent the further instances of malice they designed. It was pity, but a cruel pity, that gave him this ease.
II. Many that were mourners, true mourners, who followed him, bewailing and lamenting him. These were not only his friends and well-wishers, but the common people, that were not his enemies, and were moved with compassion towards him, because they had heard the fame of him, and what an excellent useful man he was, and had reason to think he suffered unjustly. This drew a great crowd after him, as is usual at executions, especially of those that have been persons of distinction: A great company of people followed him, especially of women (Luke 23:27), some led by pity, others by curiosity, but they also (as well as those that were his particular friends and acquaintance) bewailed and lamented him. Though there were many that reproached and reviled him, yet there were some that valued him, and pitied him, and were sorry for him, and were partakers with him in his sufferings. The dying of the Lord Jesus may perhaps move natural affections in many that are strangers to devout affections; many bewail Christ that do not believe in him, and lament him that do not love him above all. Now here we are told what Christ said to these mourners. Though one would think he should be wholly taken up with his own concern, yet he found time and heart to take cognizance of their tears. Christ died lamented, and has a bottle for the tears of those that lamented him. He turned to them, though they were strangers to him, and bade them not weep for him, but for themselves. He diverts their lamentation into another channel, Luke 23:28.
1. He gives them a general direction concerning their lamentations: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me. Not that they were to be blamed for weeping for him, but rather commended; those hearts were hard indeed that were not affected with such sufferings of such a person; but they must not weep for him only (those were profitless tears that they shed for him), but rather let them weep for themselves and for their children, with an eye to the destruction that was coming upon Jerusalem, which some of them might live to see and share in the calamities of, or, at least, their children would, for whom they ought to be solicitous. Note, When with an eye of faith we behold Christ crucified we ought to weep, not for him, but for ourselves. We must not be affected with the death of Christ as with the death of a common person whose calamity we pity, or of a common friend whom we are likely to part with. The death of Christ was a thing peculiar; it was his victory and triumph over his enemies; it was our deliverance, and the purchase of eternal life for us. And therefore let us weep, not for him, but for our own sins, and the sins of our children, that were the cause of his death; and weep for fear (such were the tears here prescribed) of the miseries we shall bring upon ourselves, if we slight his love, and reject his grace, as the Jewish nation did, which brought upon them the ruin here foretold. When our dear relations and friends die in Christ, we have no reason to weep for them, who have put off the burden of the flesh, are made perfect in holiness, and have entered into perfect rest and joy, but for ourselves and our children, who are left behind in a world of sins, and sorrows, and snares.
2. He gives them a particular reason why they should weep for themselves and for their children: “Fore behold sad times are coming upon your city; it will be destroyed, and you will be involved in the common destruction.” When Christ’s own disciples sorrowed after a godly sort for his leaving them, he wiped away their tears with the promise that he would see them again, and they should rejoice, John 16:22. But, when these daughters of Jerusalem bewailed him only with a worldly sorrow, he turned their tears into another channel, and told them that they should have something given them to cry for. Let them be afflicted, and mourn, and weep, Jas. 4:9. He had lately wept over Jerusalem himself, and now he bids them weep over it. Christ’s tears should set us a weeping. Let the daughters of Zion, that own Christ for their king, rejoice in him, for he comes to save them; but let the daughters of Jerusalem, that only weep for him, but do not take him for their king, weep and tremble to think of his coming to judge them. Now the destruction of Jerusalem is here foretold by two proverbial sayings, that might then fitly be used, which both bespeak it very terrible, that what people commonly dread they would then desire, to be written childless and to be buried alive. (1.) They would wish to be written childless. Whereas commonly those that have no children envy those that have, as Rachel envied Leah, then those that have children will find them such a burden in attempting to escape, and such a grief when they see them either fainting for famine or falling by the sword, that they will envy those that have none, and say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, that have no children to be given up to the murderer, or to be snatched out of his hands. It would not only go ill with those who at that time were with child, or giving suck, as Christ had said (Matt. 24:19), but it would be terrible to those who had had children, and suckled them, and had them now alive. See Hos. 9:11-14. See the vanity of the creature and the uncertainty of its comforts; for such may be the changes of Providence concerning us that those very things may become the greatest burdens, cares, and griefs to us, which we have delighted in as the greatest blessings. (2.) They would wish to be buried alive: They shall begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us, Luke 23:30. This also refers to a passage in the same prophecy with the former, Hos. 10:8. They shall wish to be hid in the darkest caves, that they may be out of the noise of these calamities. They will be willing to be sheltered upon any terms, though with the hazard of being crushed to pieces. This would be the language especially of the great and mighty men, Rev. 6:16. They that would not flee to Christ for refuge, and put themselves under his protection, will in vain call to hills and mountains to shelter them from his wrath.
2. He shows how natural it was for them to infer this desolation from his sufferings. If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? Luke 23:31. Some think that this is borrowed from Ezek. 20:47: The fire shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree. These words may be applied, (1.) More particularly to the destruction of Jerusalem, which Christ here foretold, and which the Jews by putting him to death brought upon themselves: “If they (the Jews, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem) do these things upon the green tree, if they do thus abuse an innocent and excellent person for his good works, how may they expect God to deal with them for their so doing, who have made themselves a dry tree, a corrupt and wicked generation, and good for nothing? If this be their sin, what do you think will be their punishment?” Or take it thus: “If they (the Romans, their judges, and their soldiers) abuse me thus, who have given them no provocation, who am to them as a green tree, which you seem to be as much enraged at, what will they do by Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, who will be so very provoking to them, and make themselves as a dry tree, as fuel to the fire of their resentments? If God suffer those things to be done to me, what will he appoint to be done to those barren trees of whom it had been often said that they should be hewn down and cast into the fire?” Matt. 3:10; 7:19. (2.) They may be applied more generally to all the revelations of God’s wrath against sin and sinners: “If God deliver me up to such sufferings as these because I am made a sacrifice for sin, what will he do with sinners themselves?” Christ was a green tree, fruitful and flourishing; now, if such things were done to him, we may thence infer what would have been done to the whole race of mankind if he had not interposed, and what shall be done to those that continue dry trees, notwithstanding all that is done to make them fruitful. If God did this to the Son of his love, when he found sin but imputed to him, what shall he do to the generation of his wrath, when he finds sin reigning in them? If the Father was pleased in doing these things to the green tree, why should he be loth to do it to the dry? Note, The consideration of the bitter sufferings of our Lord Jesus should engage us to stand in awe of the justice of God, and to tremble before him. The best saints, compared with Christ, are dry tree; if he suffer, why may not they expect so suffer? And what then shall the damnation of sinners be?