1. Lesson One of the Book of Daniel, Introduction to the Book of Daniel

The Book of  Luke, Godís Messiah Rejected Ė The Way to the Cross - Lesson 239

 

Via Dolorosa - Latin for the Way of Grief

Luke 23:26-32,  And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. 27And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. 28But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. 29For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. 30Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. 31For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? 32And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.

Luke has given us accounts of the trials of Jesus Christ which took place before Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate.

Each one of these accounts should convince us of what the Bible says about the nature of man.

Last time we met I read a passage from R. C. Sproulís book "The Holiness of God" where he proposed that men have not the love of God in them and that because of that void they have instead, malice in their heart toward God.

It is not a posture of indifference toward their maker but an firm and unyielding stance that their creator is their enemy.

For their creator is the highest possible threat to manís sinful desires and the realization of those desires.

God is always in the way!

R. C. Sproul concluded that no amount of persuasion by men or argumentation from philosophers or theologians can induce men to love God and that men despise Godís very existence and would do anything in their power to rid the universe of His holy presence.

This truth is most clearly displayed in what we see taking place as we study this passage concerning the way to the cross.

If you believe that in the heart of men there exists a spark of divinity then the crucifixion account should dispel any particle of that position for it reveals clearly the utter depravity (destitute of holiness) of the hearts of men.

This truth is impossible to get across to the natural man for it must be spiritually imparted to those whom God draws to himself.

But it is a necessary truth that is known in those who come to Christ, for only sinners come to Christ for Christ does not receive the self righteous.

This incident, on the road to Calvary, and then the crucifixion itself, reveals both God and man as they truly are.

It exposes man as incredibly cruel, and shows us our God who is infinitely kind and compassionate.

It is man who is evil, and God who is good.

This is not only shown in this passage, but everywhere in the Bible, and throughout all of life as well.

Luke 23:26-32,  And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. 27And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. 28But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. 29For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. 30Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. 31For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? 32And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.

Luke points out in this passage two major events that occurred on the way to Calvary.

The fist incident involved Simon of Cyrene (sahy-ree-nee) who was commandeered by the Romans to carry the cross of Christ.

The second incident was the response of Jesus to the wailing women of Jerusalem.

It was a response given to them with regard to the danger which lay ahead for them since they were a part of the generation which rejected Him.

Luke tells us that a very large crowd followed Jesus out of the city of Jerusalem, as He made His way to "Calvary," the place of His execution.

As was the usual case during the Passover week there were people there from all over the known world.

This supports the idea that all men of all nations, tongues and races are complicit in the death of Christ for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and therefore all need redemption.

Their very presence there was symbolic of that fact.

It was also the custom of the Romans to parade those condemned to die though many streets so that others would see what would happen to them if they defied Roman rule.

Simon we are told, was coming into the city from the country at the same time this huge contingent was coming out of the city on its way to Calvary.

Simon was at this place at the right time for most likely Jesus faltered under the weight of the cross.

He had collapsed from the weighty burden having already on his body the marks of great cruelty put there by his Roman and Jewish persecutors.

Remember what He has already been subjected to.

Remember the tense atmosphere of the upper room with his disciples, the betrayal of Judas and the confrontation in the Garden.

Remember his hours in the garden at Gethsemane where he sweat, as it were, great drops of blood.

Remember the desertion of his disciples, the hypocritical trial before the Sanhedrin, the mockery in the palace of Caiaphas.

Remember His numerous beatings, handed out during the night of His arrest at the palace of Herod and by Pilate.

Humanly speaking it was a wonder that he was able to carry the cross any distance at all.

This man Simon, who was given the privilege of bearing the cross of Christ was from a Greek established city in Africa called Cyrene (sahy-ree-nee), located in the area known today as Libya.

History tells us that this city had a fairly large Jewish population.

Mark tells us that Simon was the father of two sons, Alexander and Rufus.

This reference and a reference in Romans by Paul leads us to believe that Simon and/or his sons later came to faith in Christ and were known by the church in Jerusalem.

Certainly this task of carrying the cross of Christ and being witness to what took place, must have had a great impact upon Simon.

But the point Luke is making is that Simon was an innocent bystander in this scene.

He was a man from another place, a faraway place, and he was not in Jerusalem; he was heading to it, from the country.

He was not part of this conspiracy yet he was the man who was commandeered by the Romans to carry the cross of our Lord the rest of the way to Calvary.

He was forced to go in the opposite direction of his travel with a burden not his own, the burden of a man whom he had never seen before.

Most likely, thinking at first, this bearing of the cross of an unknown man was a great intrusion and embarrassment in his life, but later Iím sure understanding it to be an honor and a privilege he alone was given.

While Simon was bearing the cross for Christ on the way to Calvary, Jesus looked past the large crowd that followed him and focused his attention on a small segment of weeping and wailing women who had followed him from Jerusalem.

The reason for their mourning seems to be their knowledge that Jesus was to die, not for being guilty, but for being innocent, not for being unrighteous, but indeed, righteous.

Instead of receiving their weeping and wailing and mourning to himself, he told them to change their focus to themselves.

He told them not to weep for Him, but for themselves and for their children.

Jesus had already done his weeping for them and their children.

Remember his weeping as he entered the city in what is called his triumphal entry and as reported in:

Luke 19:41-44,  And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

The future destruction of Jerusalem, which caused Jesus to weep as He entered that city, was the same destruction over which the women of Jerusalem were now told to weep.

They were not to mourn over Jesusí death for that death would open up the doors of salvation but they should mourn over that destruction which would take such a terrible toll on them and on their children.

Jesus knew, but they did not know of the destruction of Jerusalem that was to be brought on the city and its inhabitants by Titus.

Titus was the commander of the Roman army which sacked the city and executed thousands of the people in 70 AD.

Luke did not experience this destruction before he wrote his gospel, for he wrote his gospel approximately ten years before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.

Jesus knew exactly what was to take place in those years in which these very women would take part and he knew the suffering and torment that they and their children would experience.

Only God can love like this.

Here was our Lord, too weak to carry his cross, suffering agonizing pain and yet showing compassion on those who have great suffering to face, the suffering of seeing their children die by the sword and die by starvation.

Donít weep for me but weep for yourselves and for your children.

Things will be so bad that child-bearing, normally a blessing to women, will be considered a curse.

Better not to be a mother, than to be a mother at this future time, Jesus said.

Mothers will be so distraught in seeing the plight of their children that they will call upon the mountains and the hills to fall on them and cover them up, wishing rather to be dead than to see the fate of their little ones.

He lastly addresses those who do these things.

31For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?

The Amplified Bible gives it this way:  For if they do these things when the timber is green what will happen when it is dry?

Those who do these things are the Roman soldiers.

Jesus uses an analogy here to show the women that what takes place here, the slaying of an innocent man, by these Roman soldiers is far less of a punishment than that which will be applied to the guilty.

Jesus is telling the women "If the Roman army will deal with me in this way now, what will they do to you, then?"

The Roman army is unjust and cruel in killing an innocent righteous man.

If they will crucify a righteous man now, what will they do then to those who are guilty?

So "now" is equated to the green timber and the "then" is equated to the dry timber.

A green tree is vital and alive and is fruitful but a dry tree is dead and fit only for fuel, it is fit only for the fire

Jerusalemís "greenness" is the presence of her God.

Her "dryness" is the absence of God.

Jesus is saying, "If, when the Messiah, the very Son of God, is in your city, and the Roman army deals with Me as such, what do you think your destiny will be in My absence, when Jerusalem is abandoned by God, and fit only for the fire of destruction?"

The Roman army compelled Simon to carry the cross of this innocent man but in times to come thousands of Jews will not only carry a cross but will be nailed to those crosses by the Romans.

Certainly it was cruel of the Romans to force Simon to carry a cross for another but not so cruel as compared to the thousands who will be on the cross in that day soon to come.

Crucifixion would be the rule of the day when the Romans came to sack the city of Jerusalem.

History tells us that there were so many crucified that there was a shortage of crosses and of wood to build them.

Jesus is saying here that what was happening to him was the tip of the iceberg of cruelty that would be fully manifested in years to come.

This was nothing, humanly speaking, to what the Roman army was going to do in the days to come.

This army, fed up with the rebellion of this nation, was going to take out its frustration and vengeance on the people.

And of course as in all wars those who would be most affected would be the women and children.

Peter, as reported by Luke in the book of Acts would call this people a perverse generation however he expressed the same compassion that Jesus extended to these women and calls them to repentance.

That generation of Israelites who lived in Israel at the time of Jesus, and especially those who lived in Jerusalem, had a particular privilege in seeing and hearing Messiah.

But they also had a greater guilt for having rejected Him.

The sacking of Jerusalem was to be a special judgment of God on that generation and on that city for their rejection of Jesus as Godís Messiah.

No other city or people has been under such guilt and doom as Jerusalem and that is what the women are told to weep and mourn over.

This passage of course shows the contrast between the cruelty of men and the compassion of the Lord Jesus, Who thinks not of His own suffering, but of those who follow after Him mourning.

It is unbelieving men who are the cruel ones, and it is God Who is kind.

Can God extend kindness in any greater way than to give his own Son in response to such cruelty?

God is Love and men can only love if God is in them.