Vol. 7, No. 10
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It is often stated by students of the New Testament that there is very little emphasis placed on the destruction of the Temple and the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70. However, when one begins to study the New Testament, he is amazed at the number of references to the final fall of the once holy city. Jesus himself spent considerable time to speak a great deal about the fall of the city of Jerusalem and the destruction of Judaism as a religious force in the world. As a matter of fact, the Olivet Discourse of our Lord, especially as reported by the inspired Matthew, captures a significant amount of copy in the New Testament. In Luke's record of the events that took place on the very day Jesus was crucified, we find a significant prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem, even as he made his way to Calvary to die for the world.
Luke pointed out that a great number of people, including many women of Jerusalem, followed him to Golgotha, and as they did, they mourned and lamented Jesus. This means they wailed aloud as they followed him to the place where he would die. Hearing this lamenting, Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which 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 in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:28-31 NKJV). These daughters of Jerusalem were told to weep for themselves and for their children because of the great tribulation that was coming upon that city when it was invaded by Titus. Jesus cannot have had reference to the final judgment in this passage of Scripture because in that judgment there is no mention of people crying for the hills to cover them and the mountains to fall on them. Furthermore, Jesus in predicting the fall of Jerusalem in Matthew 24 said, "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!" (Matthew 24:19). These two statements more than indicate a connection between what Jesus was talking about in both passages. In the final judgment, what would make the difference whether or not a woman is expecting, or nursing a child? However, if in a time of great physical disaster that were to be the case, it would be so much more difficult for a woman to escape with a nursing baby, or if she was expectant, especially near her due date. Not only so, but Josephus reports that the Roman soldiers made sport by using their swords to cleave open expectant mothers so that their innocent children fell from their bodies. Such a thing would induce great horror in the life of an expectant mother, or a mother with a newborn.
However, the point we wish to exercise for a more accurate interpretation of the Scriptures is that our Lord, as one footfall after another led him to his death on Calvary, was warning the people of Jerusalem of their impending doom. If that is not the case, why did he address them as "Daughters of Jerusalem"? Why not daughters of Bethlehem, or of some other town or city in Judea? This is the only time Jesus addressed the women of Judea as the daughters of Jerusalem. Hence, Jesus gave his last prophecy of the fall of the ancient and once holy city of Jerusalem on his way to the cross.
When Jesus spoke the words concerning the green tree and the dry, he was using a common proverb of his time that vividly conveyed the awfulness of the suffering these people were going to endure. The green tree was a symbol of a time of abundant blessings from God and the dry tree a symbol of hard times to come on the wicked. The Jews by their demand that Jesus be crucified were in the very process of changing their tree from a great one to a dry one--from a living one to a dead one. If while they enjoyed the greatest blessing God had ever given to them, his very Son in their midst, they did such things as what they were doing, what would they do when the pain and horror of destruction came on them and there was no one to whom they could turn? In rejecting Christ's salvation, they rejected all salvation!