A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely 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 this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ (Luke 23.27-31)
Lament is a powerful, passionate response to grief and this is what we see in these women who are standing, wailing as the prisoner passes by. Some suggest that they may have been professional ‘wailers’ so that what we have here are ‘crocodile tears’. If that is true that may be why Jesus turns and speaks to them. He calls on them to weep heartfelt tears, to express real lament for themselves and their children, not for him. He ends what he says with an enigmatic saying which some people suggest we don’t really understand. It’s worth thinking about. Perhaps it simply means
‘If innocence meets such a fate, what will be in store the guilty?’
But this is the wonderful thing about scripture – the meaning of so much is not obvious and it is good to pray about it and let it take root in us. This is a great prayer for thinking about this.
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.