A lot can change in a week. Not that long ago, many of us were sharing bunk rooms and meals at church camp, and a week later only one fellowship group at a time could be at church, and three days later we all began 4 weeks at home!
Well, things also changed very quickly for the Lord Jesus in the week that led up to His death. On Sunday He entered Jerusalem on a donkey and was welcomed and honoured by a massive and happy crowd. But now, just five days later, He had been betrayed, arrested, tried, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. And as He headed out to the place where He would be crucified, although He was again followed by “a great multitude of the people,” this time they were not honouring of Him as a king but watching a condemned criminal who would soon be dead.
Now, you and I know that His death is not the end of the story. He rose again on the third day. And we will celebrate that on Sunday! But at this moment, for many in the crowd who followed Jesus, this was a day of sadness, confusion, and despair. All of their hopes about Jesus as the Messiah were dashed.
But it is right at this moment that Jesus preached what I have called The Good Friday sermon. And I have called it a sermon because of what Jesus says, which is what we will consider in the second half of this sermon. But our first point will be the congregation. Jesus addressed this sermon to the “Daughters of Jerusalem,” the women in the crowd who were “mourning and lamenting for Him.” So our two points will simply be the congregation and the sermon. And as we see the good news that Jesus preached on that original Good Friday, we will see why this is a Good Friday sermon for us today also.
- So let’s begin with these women as the original Good Friday congregation.
- Throughout Luke’s Gospel, specific attention is given to women and their role in Jesus’ life, like Elizabeth, His aunt, and Mary, His Mother, and the interactions of many women with Jesus, like Anna at the Temple, Simon’s Mother-in-law, the woman who anointed Jesus, and the women who accompanied Jesus on His preaching and healing tours, just to name some of them. And here too, at the end of His life, Luke specifically notes the presence of these women who followed Him to Golgotha. And later on Luke will note that they stood at a distance, watching the crucifixion, and then as His body was laid in the tomb. And you may remember from our Gospel of John series that the first person to see the risen Jesus was a woman, Mary Magdalene. And all of this is quite deliberate. In a time when women were viewed as second class human beings, we see that that this was not the perspective of Jesus – they were and are of equal worth and dignity in His eyes. And by the way, this is why sexist jokes that demean women, or men, for that matter, ought not to be heard among Christians.
- Well, the women in this passage were “mourning and lamenting for Him.” There was a custom in those days to hire professional mourners. If someone was dying or had died, you could basically rent-a-crowd of people who would cry on demand. But that is not what was going on here. We learn, from the Gospels, that these women included Jesus’ mother, His mother’s sister, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James and Salome. These, and other women, had accompanied Jesus all the way from Galilee in the North down to Jerusalem. So these were women who loved and followed Jesus; they had sung along with the crowd who greeted Jesus as Israel’s king the Sunday before but now they were heart-broken to see Him bruised and beaten and bloodied, to the point that He lacked even the strength to carry His own cross.
- Have you boys and girls been to Rainbows End or another theme park? Have you ridden a roller coaster? One minute you are way up high, and the next second you have plummeted way down low. Well, sometimes our feeling can be way up high – excitement, elation, joy, wonder! and then way down low – sadness, depression, misery, emptiness. And this is sometimes described as being on an ‘emotional roller-coaster.’ Have you heard that term? Well surely these last days, for these women, had been the emotional roller-coaster to end all emotional roller-coasters – total elation to utter despair. It is no wonder that they were weeping.
- Now, there are some who take the words that Jesus directed toward these women as a rebuke – as in, ‘Oh, come on! Stop blubbering! The last thing I need is a bunch of crying women!” Notice though, that Jesus did not rebuke their weeping but why they were weeping. He said, “Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children.” This was a day for tears. This was a terrible injustice. But this was much more than an, “Aww, poor Jesus, moment.”
- As we saw in our Isaiah 53 reading, Jesus had to die, and He had to die in this awful manner. And Jesus had spoken about this, Himself, very plainly, with His disciples and probably these women also, at least three times. But these women had not yet understood this.
- At the moment, this was just a human tragedy for them; a personal loss; a confusing situation that filled them with sadness and grief.
- What they were doing was weeping for Jesus, but not for Jesus Christ.
- They were weeping about a son of man, but not for the Son of God.
- They were weeping because Mary was losing her son, (little s) but not for the Son (Capital S) who would soon be forsaken by His Father.
- Do you see what was going on? They were blinded by pity; their real and understandable feelings had become a barrier to faith.
- And you know, the same mistake can be made every Good Friday. In fact, it is still made by many people today. Good Friday, together with Christmas, are the only two days of the year that a lot of people go to church. They like the sadness of the crucifixion story and the joy of the Christmas story. They weep about suffering Jesus and they rejoice about Baby Jesus, but that is as far as it goes. In regards to the crucifixion account, they do not get past the human tragedy – aww, poor Jesus!
- Now, none of this is to deny that what happened to Jesus was a human tragedy. But faith has to look past that to the story of judgment and salvation, which is exactly what Jesus will say to these women, as we shall see in our second point.
- What we need to realize though is that the understandable tears of these women actually became another temptation that Jesus had to resist. The devil was at work in these weeping women to try and get Jesus to forget the fact that He came to serve and not to be served. He wanted Jesus to think that He deserved their pity; that the pathway of suffering that lay ahead of Him was somehow unfair. So the tears of these women were not just a barrier to faith for these women but also a temptation that Jesus had to resist.
- And if we understand that, then we will see why their pity became one more part of the enormous pile of sin that Jesus had to carry to the cross. And you say, what? Their tears were sin? Yes they were. And that is because, we sin not just when we do what is wrong, but also when we fail to do what is right. So their pity, which became a temptation for Jesus, and their failure to believe in Jesus, as the Christ, at that moment, was sin, even though it was out of ignorance.
- We generally cut people a lot of slack if they fail to do something because they didn’t know they were supposed to do it. I mean, no parent is going to give their 4 year old child a stern talking to for not setting up a Kiwisaver account! That 4 year old can’t possibly know what retirement is and that you have to save for it.
- But ignorance is no excuse when it comes to God. Ephesians 4 talks about unbelievers, saying it is “because of the ignorance in them, due to their hardness of heart.” So God ties ignorance to hardness of heart. And He has every right to do this because these women had the OT and the words of Jesus; they should have understood and believed in Jesus, and their failure to do so was sin.
- And this is a powerful lesson about the sinfulness of sin. Sin is utterly and powerfully and completely deceitful. Even things that look so right can be so wrong. But it also a powerful lesson about the love of Jesus, who went to the cross to pay for all our sins, including sins of what we call ignorance.
- And I hope that makes a deep impression on you today – the debt of gratitude that you owe Jesus for your wilful sins and your ‘ignorant’ sins is beyond measuring!
- So we are very much like that original Good Friday congregation of women, aren’t we! We too fall far short of the perfection that we owe God, such that we also are in need of this beautiful Saviour. And it is to Him that we turn our attention to next as we consider His Good Friday sermon.
- Can you remember your last pity party? A pity party is when you give in to your feelings and allow yourself to wallow in misery and pity at whatever sad situation it is that has come your way. You know what I am talking about? We all have them, don’t we! Well, humanly speaking, if ever there was someone who ‘deserved’ a pity party it was the Lord Jesus. But as we have noted, this was a temptation that He resisted. This battered Shepherd, whose sacred head and body had been so horribly wounded, turned to these weeping women and preached to them.
- And He didn’t speak to them as a son or a nephew or a friend, but as the Christ. And I want you to see that that title, Christ, is fundamentally important for our understanding of who Jesus is and what He says here. What does Christ mean? It means ‘Anointed One.’ It refers to the fact that at His baptism Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our prophet, our priest, and our King. If you have read the OT you will know that it is basically about a bunch of prophets, priests, and kings – Adam, Abraham, Melchizedek, Moses, Aaron, Eli, Samuel, Elijah, David, Solomon, Isaiah, etc. And they all pointed forward to and prepared God’s people for the coming of THE Prophet, Priest, and King. And that prophet, priest, and king is Jesus – the Christ. And it is as the Christ that Jesus preached to these women.
- For notice, first of all, how He spoke as a Prophet.
- What do prophets do? They preach. They warn. They foretell future events.
- For notice, first of all, how He spoke as a Prophet.
Well, what Jesus said in vv28-29 about barrenness and children came from a sermon He preached a few days before, near the temple, which is recorded in Matthew 24. So Jesus wanted them to remember that sermon. And what He said in v30, about people calling on the mountains to hide them, are words from Isaiah 2:10 and Hosea 10:8. So Jesus wanted them to remember those OT prophecies. And like any good prophet, His message was a message of Judgment. He was warning these women that a time of Judgment was coming.
- But He also spoke to them as a Priest.
- What do priests do? They offer sacrifices. And Jesus came not just to present the sacrifice but to be the sacrifice! His duty was to satisfy the demands of God’s wrath by offering Himself as a sacrifice. So this sermon was Him saying that He would not let these women distract Him from fulfilling His priestly duties.
- But He also spoke to them as a King.
- What do kings do? They receive the honour of their people and the rule. Well, back in Jerusalem, the Jewish rulers and the people of Jerusalem had said to Pilate, “Crucify Jesus … let His blood be upon us and our children.” So rather than honour Jesus as King they basically declared war on Him.
- But Psalm 2 is very clear: “[The Lord says] worship the Son, or He will become angry, and you will be destroyed.”
- So while these women felt pity for Jesus, Jesus was saying, weep for yourselves because I know what is going to come upon you, because of what you have done.
- And if you know your history you will know what happened to Jerusalem 40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus – it was put under siege and eventually destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. It was an horrific slaughter.
- And one of the realities of that horrific siege was that women ate their own children out of desperate hunger. It is just too awful to think about. But it is why Jesus talked here about the barren or childless woman being blessed. Throughout Israel’s history, barrenness had always been seen as a curse. But in that siege, the woman who had no children was the blessed one.
- And such was the violence of the Roman soldiers, you can understand why people would say what v30 talks about and seek any place to hide, even that the mountains and hills would cover them so they could escape the killing rampage.
- And Jesus His sermon with those words about the green tree and the dry tree that seem rather cryptic, don’t they. But their meaning is plain.
- Imagine that we were all heading out to Graham and Julie Cooper’s house for a bonfire. Now, if Graham cut branches from two meter high young green pine trees and lit them for the bonfire, what would happen? A lot of smoke and a bit of singeing, is about all, right? But if he cut branches from old trees that were dry and lit them, what would happen? Whoosh!
- So Jesus was saying that what was happening to Him then was like fire on a young, green branch, but what was going to happen to the Jewish rulers and the people of Jerusalem in AD 70 would be like fire on a dry branch – whoosh!
- And that is what Jesus wanted these women to understand with His Good Friday sermon. He wanted them to remember and understand this sermon so that they would worship Him as the Christ!
And now that we understand that, we are ready to finish by hearing Jesus preach His Good Friday sermon to us today. And the message is that we too, because we are sinners, have declared war on Jesus. And it only takes one broken commandment or one commandment not kept, perfectly, for us to be sinners in God’s eyes. So we too are like old, dry branches that deserve to burn. And while the destruction of Jerusalem was a horrific ‘whoosh’, there is a far worse ‘whoosh’ to come. It is the Second Coming of Jesus and all that goes with it for those who have not put their faith in Jesus Christ. Revelation 6:15-17 describes that day in this way: “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”” Same language.
- And the only way to escape that Judgment is to put your faith in Jesus, today. And what that means, as we heard last Sunday, is the ABC of faith – Accept what the Bible says about who Jesus is and what He did, Believe that what He did and what He promised is for you, personally, and commit yourself to following Jesus as your Saviour and Lord every day of your life.
Jesus came to die on the cross. Jesus paid the debt that you owe. Jesus suffered so that you do not need to suffer. And if you have repented of your sins and put your faith in Jesus as your Saviour and Lord, you do not need to fear Judgment Day. You can look forward to it because it is well with your soul. You can say, Hallelujah, what a Saviour! You can say, My Jesus, I Love Thee, I know Thou art Mine. For Thee all the follies of sin I resign. My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour Art Thou, If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now. Amen.