In the ninth Station of the Cross, Jesus speaks to the women who are following him to Golgotha. The Message says:
A huge crowd of people followed, along with women weeping and carrying on. At one point Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children. The time is coming when they’ll say, ‘Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!’ Then they’ll start calling to the mountains, ‘Fall down on us!’ calling to the hills, ‘Cover us up!’ If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they’ll do with deadwood?”
And the New Revised Standard Version reads:
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?’
Many interpretations of this read that Jesus is consoling the women, based, I guess, on the line do not weep for me. But these words of Jesus are far from comforting. He says, weep for yourselves and for your children. The implication is that the suffering of Jesus will be short, but the suffering of all who live here will be long and miserable. I can’t imagine ever wishing that my children had never been born. I can’t imagine railing out at the unfairness, cursing wombs that have given birth and blessing wombs that never have. This passage confuses me.
In this place in the story, Jesus is walking from the place where he was judged and condemned to the place where he will be crucified. He has been brutally and cruelly scourged, and the crossbeam on which his hands will be nailed has been placed across his shoulders. The weight has proved too much for his beaten and broken body, and a bystander has been pressed into service to carry the beam to Golgotha. Once that weight is off of his torn shoulders, perhaps Jesus feels some physical relief. He is still dressed in tatters, still walking barefoot through the streets of Jerusalem, still in terrible pain from his flogging, still abandoned by his disciples, still betrayed by one of his closest friends, still alone and afraid… and maybe angry, as well.
Could it be that, as Jesus faces what is happening here, realizing that yes, indeed, I am about to be killed in the most painful and humiliating way that Rome has found, could it be that Jesus is lashing out at the crowds? Could it be that he is looking for a single friendly face, but seeing only strangers? Were these strangers the same ones who became a mob, back at Pilate’s palace? Were these strangers the same ones who shouted Crucify him? We know that hypocrisy may be the one thing that frustrates Jesus the most — does he think these women are hypocritical, for calling for his death at Pilate’s palace and then wailing for him on the way to Calvary? Could it be that Jesus found himself overwhelmed by all that had happened since his dinner with his closest friends? Were his senses overcome with the pain? Did he lash out at these women with the worst possible thing he could say, simply to make them be quiet?
Is Jesus, perhaps, warning the crowd against Rome? Is he telling them that today, the Romans will condemn an innocent man to death out of expediency… so just think about what they will do tomorrow, next month, next year. What is keeping Rome from bringing all of the Jews to heel? Is he warning about the spiritual authorities in Jerusalem? Is Jesus telling this crowd that the chief priest and the scribes have taken too much power?
I don’t know. All I can find is questions. Perhaps that is what Jesus intended, for all of us to hear his words and wonder, what on earth does he mean by that?