Image source: photographed at the San Gabriel Mission Museum.
And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus 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 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 when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
In the painting, the grim looking soldiers continue to lead Jesus step by agonizing step. One of the soldiers is painted behind the Cross and his legs show up underneath the Cross. Perhaps, it is incidental but it hints at twin realities: (1) it is us who should be suffering the penalty of the cross for our sins instead of the innocent Jesus and (2) those who follow Jesus are told to take up the Cross meaning we need to surrender our wills and our agendas to following in the footsteps of Jesus whose life’s goal was to fulfill the will of the Father – Our Father who is in heaven, hollowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done ……
On the left are the “Women of Jerusalem,” four figures of which two are just barely in frame. Two appear to have cloths to dry their weeping eyes. Jesus tells them, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.
Here is a case where knowing the subsequent history of the Ancient Near East and a bit of Christian theology helps us come to understand what is a rather cryptic saying of Jesus – ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that 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 when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
When we think of Jesus and the Cross and his mission of restoration, we often think of the individual dimensions of whether I (or so and so) will trust Jesus’ work of incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. However, there is also a dimension of human history: the events of AD 70 along with turmoil in the Roman Empire occurred concurrently with the rise of faith in Jesus as the Christ.
As the women weeped, they only saw the sad death of one person. But a larger story was being initiated that would turn the world upside down when that crucified Jesus would resurrect on Easter Sunday!
Who breaks the power of sin and darkness
who’s love is mighty and so much stronger
The King of Glory, the King above all Kings
— Jeremy Riddle, Josh Farro, Phil Wickham