And there followed Him a great company of people and of women who also bewailed and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning unto them, said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. — (Luke 23:27,28.)
THOSE who beheld the Savior were mainly women. Women had ministered to Him of their substance, and now, when they could not show their bounty, they showed their sympathy. It is remarkable that in the whole history of our Savior no woman behaved badly to Him. He might be deserted, or betrayed, or slandered, or put to death, but this was left for men. It was contrary to the Jewish law for any person to show sympathy with a condemned individual. We have every reason to believe that that was the law of the time, It became the traditional law. We are told it was the law then. But the women braved the law, defied it, and showed their sympathy with this man who was being taken forth, like a malefactor, to be put to death. His disciples, who were men, fled like women, and the women were as bold as men. They played the man who might have been expected to be feeble, and those who ought to have been strong became weakness itself.
Our Savior did not think lightly of the compassion of these women. It is recorded in Holy Writ that He bestowed upon them His last acknowledgment. I know He spake afterwards before He died, but, they were rather cries than words — they were grief’s ejaculations, but His last speech on earth, I may say, was made in acknowledgment of the tender sympathy of these bold but sorrowing women, who clustered around Him ˘n His way to His death.
I wonder who they were. Would it be wrong to suppose that they had heard His speech, that they had been charmed by the gracious things that dropped from His lips? Had it been more than that; had some of them been healed? Were those there who had felt His mighty touch, and had gone their way restored after years of suffering and infirmity? Probably there were some. Or were there those there who had had their children healed, their friends and relatives restored, and who felt gratitude to Jesus for making those who had been the objects of their anxiety to become once again the objects of their delight? I know not what may have been the miracles that bound these women to the Savior, but certain I am that it was not mere pity for a person about to be put to death, for they do not appear to have wept for the other two who were taken out to execution. The Savior did not say, “Weep not for us,” but He recognized that the weeping was about Him, and Himself personally, and He said, “Weep not for Me, but for yourselves, and for your children.”
It was not because they saw a man about to die that their tender hearts flowed over in their eyes, but because they recognized in Him something more than an ordinary man. They did not look upon Him as a criminal about to be executed; there was some tie of love and gratitude between their hearts and Him.. It seems to me that it would be better to die amid the tears of sympathizing women — better to die amidst the multitude who wept and bewailed your death than it must be to live as some men will have to live for years to come, amidst the lamentations of many and the accusations before the throne of God of others against them as men that made war against the human race and caused thousands to be slain: Better to die with Jesus, than to live with emperors and kings who make war.
Curses thick and heavy fall upon all who shed human blood, but, let the curse fall upon the Savior, as it did, it comes amidst the bewailings and lamentations of those who have sympathy with Him in His grief.
I shall now invite your attention to our Savior’s speech to these women when He said, “Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.”
Notice, first of all, our Lord’s disinterestedness. He was in a condition when one would have thought He would have was in a condition when one would have thought He would have courted compassion. He had a heart of tenderness like ours, and He needed human sympathy, but yet He put it away. He bade them not weep for Him, not because He despised the sympathy, for, as I have shown you, He loved it; but He was so little selfish that He would not have them spent their sorrows upon Himself. And this was no unusual circumstance in the life of Christ, for Him to be altogether oblivious of Himself, and only thoughtful for other people. This, indeed, is the whole secret of His ever being in this world at all. Had He thought of Himself, He had never left yonder shining throne and the courts where seraphim sing. It was because He thought not of Himself but of us that He came down to earth to be born of a woman, to live in suffering, and to die in shame. All through His life we constantly see Him putting off everything that would give Him comfort — that would give Him honor — that would give Him ease — that He might do good to the sons of men.
To go through the whole of that it would require rather a series of discourses than the little conversation we are able to hold in the few minutes we have at our disposal this evening. I would just take you to the table where He sat with His disciples at the last supper. It was the last meal that He would eat with them before His death; but He does not ask for pity. There is no cry like that of Job, “Have pity upon me; have pity upon me.” He pities them, and comforts them, and His speech is somewhat on this wise: “Let not your hearts be troubled “-not asking for sympathy from them, but even putting that aside and giving all His thoughtful consideration for their weakness and future trials. Instead of asking them to comfort Him, His thought is all for them and nothing for Himself. It was just so when He came to the garden, and when the passion there began.
When the bloody sweat was falling upon the ground He did look to them for sympathy, but when He found them asleep, how readily He made excuse for them. “The spirit,” said He, “is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Sleep on, now, and take your rest.” He had looked to have some tenderness from them, but when their sorrow overcame them, and He received none, He had no bitter reproving words; and when they came at last to seize Him, while the traitor’s kiss was still upon His cheek, and they who bare the lanterns and torches laid hold upon Him, He did not for a moment think of Himself, but He said, “If ye seek Me, let these go their way.” The shepherd thinking only of the sheep, ready to lay down His life for them, making no terms or conditions for Himself. He touches the ear of Malchus, he who has been wounded by Peter. He could heal others, but He makes no reservation of good things for Himself. It was a true word though spoken in bitterest irony and sarcasm. “He could save others” (and He did everywhere)” but Himself He could not save.” His love would not let Him; He was too disinterested to make any provision for Himself.
We see just the same thing on the cross. There where His throes were at their worst and His agony was at the highest He has a thought, but the thought is for His murderers: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He has another thought, and it is for his mother, and He says to the favored disciple: “Son, behold thy mother,” and to His mother, “Woman, behold thy son “ — all disinterestedness from beginning to end.
And so it was in the case of the text which lies embedded like a precious gem. “Weep not for Me,” saith He, when most He would have prized their tears, “Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.”
Now, in this great disinterestedness of our Savior, there is surely something for us who are His disciples to learn. Our highest condition will be, when we are like our Master, and our best rule in life is in all things to copy Him. When we are in much grief, we are often very covetous of human sympathy. It is natural that we should desire it and be affected and cheered by it. But sometimes the natural may be allowed till it reaches a point beyond the right and the noble, Let me remind you that there is a higher thing than the reception of what is pleasant for us. It is sometimes a higher thing to put it away, and, thinking of other’s griefs, to ask sympathy to show itself elsewhere, rather than upon us. You will find it often, I think, as Christians, to be a right thing and a strengthening thing for yourselves, to bid the sympathy which awaits you go and reveal itself to others. “It is true,” you may say, “I feel sorely sick, but there are others that have greater sickness than I and less of comfort to alleviate their sorrow. It is true I am poor and you may pity me, but there are some poorer than I am. If you have help to give and pity, help them first.”
It was a noble act of the dying soldier — the dying captain — when they lifted up to him some water. He was dying very fast, but he noticed a poor soldier nearer death than himself turn round with longing eyes, as if he wished he could have a drink, and the captain let the cup pass from himself and let the soldier drink. And it is often the grandest thing we can do when wanting much we are content to want because there are some that want still more — when we can say, “I am thankful to you for your compassion that weeps for me, but there are worse griefs than mine.” “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me.” Why, in the act the mind grows stronger.
That act of self-denial will do more to console you than the consolation itself. You have gotten more than you received; you have girded up your loins with a strength which otherwise you would not have gained. What nobility it confers upon us, when our self-denial can be carried out even in bitter times and in seasons of dire distress ! Do you tell me it is more than can be expected of man? I grant you it is, and therein is the glory of divine grace, that it can produce what nature cannot: it can make Christians do what, as mortal men, they could not think of doing — it can make them look unto Him, who, being man, is set before us as our great example, and whose infinite perfections it is our joy to seek. I cannot say more, I feel I speak unworthily of such a theme, but I commend it to your thoughtfullness- the disinterestedness of Christians carried out to the last hour.
II. But now, in the second place, I must direct your attention to our Lord’s clearness of judgment. The clearness of Jesus, I think, is seen in this. There was cause to weep on His account and His being put to death, but with impartiality He judged that there was greater cause to weep for something else. Putting Himself, therefore, quite out of the question, by His disinterestedness, He impartially judges that there was a deeper and bitterer cause of grief for these women than the fact that He Himself was about to be put to death. The sin of which their nation was guilty, the overwhelming judgment which was soon to come upon them, and which their children would soon have to suffer — these, He conceived to be in His supreme judgment, a direr cause for grief than His own death. Is it not one of the most sorrowful things on earth that there should be anything that should be graver cause for sorrow than the crucifixion? I think I may stand here and say that grief for the dying Savior ought to be matchless. Alas! and did my Savior bleed ?
And did my Sovereign die ?
Did He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I ?
Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut his glories in, When God th’ Almighty Maker died, For my, the creature’s, sin.
Well might I hide my blushing face, While His dear cross appears; Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, And melt my eyes to tears. is not this the first cause of all grief, the greatest source of all sorrow? “No,” we have to reply, “it is not,” There is a greater reason for grief than this. We have the Savior’s authority for it. If He saw us to-night weeping before His cross, with sorrow for His suffering, He would say to us, as He said to these women, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” It is a pleasant sight in some respects to see a congregation moved with the story of the Redeemer’s suffering. When one has been describing the cross of Christ, and all the griefs He suffered there — it has seemed right, and we have thought it also a holy thing that hearts should be affected, and that tears should flow, but there is something that ought to be wept for more than this. There is a grief that lies deeper than this, though this seems to reach even to the abyss — it is sin. It is sin for which the daughters of Jerusalem were to weep, sin that would destroy them. And Christ to-night seems to tell us that sin is more to be wept for than even His death.
Now let me show you how this is. In the first place, if we weep for what He suffered, but mourn not for sin, we mourn the effect, but forget the cause, for it was sin that lay at the bottom of all that He suffered. In the garden where the bloody sweat fell, what made the cup so bitter, so overflowing with the death draught? It was your sin and mine. There were the transgressions of His people made to meet on Him. At Pilate’s hall and at the bar of Herod, it was not so much the spitting in the face, nor the mockery when they made Him King with a thorny crown; it was the real shame of sin that was laid upon the Savior. He had never sinned, but He stood in our place, the place of shame, the place of dishonor. It would have been very little for Him to have been made little of and to be despised and rejected; He could have borne that well enough, but His face was darkened because God “made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” And when He went to the tree you must not think that the cruel nails that pierced His hands and feet or the agonies of thirst were the intensity of His sufferings. Each of your sins became a nail that pierced His soul, and unbelief a spear that went through His inmost heart. His suffering there arose from the hiding of His Father’s face from Him, and that hiding was the result of our sin. It pleased the Father to bruise Him. He hath put Him to grief and made His soul an offering for sin. The Lord hath made to meet upon Him the iniquity of us all. “Why hast Thou forsaken Me ?” That awful question which the Son asked of the Divine Father has all misery condensed into it, but the bottom of it is sin, sin, sin! It is not, then, the effect that can ever be so much to be wept over, as the cause, and therefore wipe your eyes as you behold the bleeding Savior, as you see Him scourged, or mark Him crucified — drop not the tears of sorrow there — but look further, and see your sins that caused it, and bow your heads in bitterness, too. And yet, sweetest grief, I can say, — My sins, my sins, my Savior, How sad on Thee they fall!
Seeing Thy heart’s dire anguish, I ten-fold feel them all. “Weep not for Me,” but for your own sins weep.
Think again, and here is another reason for weeping — that sin has reigned in this world and still reigns in it, that this very Savior, whose precious death is the source of our salvation, is still rejected. I have sat in my chamber and thought over the griefs of my Lord till I have felt my soul melted within me, but if I have gone forth and met with a penitent heart, and pointed that soul to the cross, and faith has been given, and that soul has looked to Christ, I feel that Christ has seen of the travail of His soul, and I have felt what I know He feels when He remembers no more the travail for joy that a soul is saved — a brand plucked from the burning.
But, go out of your quiet room after you have mused upon the subject, go down one of our streets and listen to the oaths and blasphemies, stop opposite that corner where the lights flare so brightly and the cups flow so freely; see those who go in and out with bloated faces; mark the signs of vice from yonder theater, the harlots in their hordes at eventide; think of all this, and ten thousand times more than this which my lips cannot utter, and which your ears must not hear — and all this going on in a city where Christ is preached! and done by people who know about the Savior — many of them! That drunkard was in a Sunday School; that fallen woman had a godly mother; those that curse and swear at least know the name of Christ. Hear how they use it! How they trample it in the mire! Oh, this it is that you may weep over.
Women of London, weep not for Calvary; but weep for your own city and the iniquities which the moon sees and which the sun beholds. Here, that Christ should be preached, that the Sabbath should be set apart for the telling out of the matchless story of man’s redemption, that man should be prayed for at the mercy-seat, and yet sin should run down our streets and God should be blasphemed — oh, weep for that.
I think I know something worse, and that is this. This house is thronged almost as often as ever the Word is preached — thronged by hearers — these aisles, these seats all full, and Jesus Christ talked of, and I can say very simply, very plainly — you have no difficulty in understanding what I have to tell you — and I may say also very affectionately and earnestly that my heart goes — I am no deceiver in that respect — with every word I say. I would God I could preach Christ better, but I do preach in the best style I can, and I would be willing to go to school to begin to learn to preach if I could but hope that I could have more effect. But there are persons who come and listen and hear the way of salvation, but won’t follow it. They hear of pardon being freely presented to them, but they will not have it. They hear of hell, and they will go to it: they hear of heaven, but they will turn their backs upon it. Oh, say you, “They are people that come in by chance now and then — they only hear it once or twice, or three or four times, and go away and forget it.” Ah ! if it were so I would be grieved, but these are not the people I now allude to. They are those that are always here — if not always here on weekdays, always here on Sabbath days. And they are attentive hearers, too, and they have a great love for the minister, and they don’t forget his sermons, and they talk about what they hear; but they will not love the lovely Savior, nor will they come and lay their burdens down at His dear feet, but year after year and year after year, they hear it, but they hear it not. The charmer charms, but they are deaf adders to His charms.
III. And it is not the preacher only that has this disappointment. Some are in classes, where earnest Christian men and women speak to them. Some of them have had godly parents, mothers in heaven, and they themselves were on the road to heaven. They were brought up amidst influences of the most holy kind from their earliest childhood. What will ever affect them? What means can be devised to reach them, for they seem as though they were covered with iron and with steel, with armor of metal impenetrable. They hear, I say, but they hear not; they see, but they see not. Their hearts seem heavy till I fear they have so long neglected Christ that He in His justice has said, “Let them alone; I will give them up; they shall see their own delusion.” Oh, here is something to weep about. You that are inclined to think of the cross and of the Savior’s body taken down all gory from that cross, and wrapped in linen and laid in the grave, put away your tears and think of these that lay in the caves of sin till they become corrupt, and God puts them out of sight.
Once more and let me follow this course of sin a little further, and I think you will hear the blessed Master say more emphatically than any words of mine can say, “Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” Hearers of the Gospel, you will not be always the hearers of the Gospel. The hour of your departure out of this earth draweth nigh. There are some, I fear, at this moment, who used to hear the Gospel at this very place, who are now where they will never have another warning and another invitation. Dare your thoughts follow them? Dare you think of them as shut up for ever in outer darkness where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth? Dare you remember the words of judgment, “These shall go away to everlasting punishment “? Can you think of that dire expression, “Where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched “? Oh, it is not Calvary to be wept for, but hell, souls lost, lost, lost, souls that heard of salvation, souls that were invited to the Savior — lost, lost for ever! Angels might weep here. I say the very seraphs might bend from their golden thrones to weep over spirits cast away by that dire sentence, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire in hell, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not sentimental tears, but shed tears of real grief for souls that are passing away into this destruction, destroying themselves by rejecting the Savior’s love. I wish I could speak more on that, but I cannot, I can only put it before you in that rough way, and may God touch your hearts.
But the last thing is, I think I see in this text our Lord’s practicalness. You see, I have given you His ‘disinterestedness, His clearness, and His judgment, and now I will speak of His practicalness. He never would have had what was not of practical use. If they did weep, He could not help it — He must die. All the tears they shed were of a sympathy too feeble to be of any service to Him. But, “weep for yourselves,” said He, “and for your children,” as if there were something practical here.
Let me observe that weeping for sin is a much more practical thing than weeping for the Savior, for, first, tears for sin — would God I could see them in every eye — betoken some degree of spiritual life. Those that mourn their sin, that regret and lament that they have transgressed — surely there is something trembling in their souls that gives me hope. When it can be said of any man, “Behold, he lives without sin,” though he may not yet have found the Savior, yet is there much encouragement in his case.
When I speak of tears I do not mean those that flow from the eyes only, for some could not weep tears — I mean tears of the heart, the repentance of the soul. Where these are I say there are signs of some life, and it is through these in God’s hands when we get life that we reach to something higher. I believe that when a soul has love to Christ, and has found perfect pardon, the continuance of repentance is the grand means of attaining to a still higher condition. To continue still to mourn sin is to continue to grow in grace. Tear drops are blessed watering for the flowers of grace. Though our sins are forgiven, yet now we mourn them more than ever we did, and by mourning for sin we reach from the lowest state of spiritual life to a higher one.
Let me add that the way from the higher state to the very highest is very much a road that is watered by tears. I do not believe any man will ever come’ to be an advanced Christian except by sorrowing much for sin. If your spiritual life has nothing of the dew of repentance about it is a poor thing — I am afraid it is a fiction. Well, I must judge no man, but I would stand in doubt in my own case if mine were such. “Rejoice in Christ Jesus.”
But there comes the rest, “Rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Where there is no confidence in the flesh we have a good deal of sorrow and mourning over sin. Rowland Hill used to say it was the only thing about heaven that he regretted — that there would be no repentances. “Those eyes like the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters “ — those eyes of repentance let me never lose them. Let me weep for nought but sin, and none but Thee and then I would, oh, that I might! have none but Thee! There is something practical here.
And, did you notice, our Savior said, “Weep for yourselves “? But He also said “Weep for your children.” We are all anxious that our children should be saved, and God will grant us that blessing probably whenever our anxiety is deep, I do not believe in weeping parents that will have all their days godless children. Or if the weeping parent does not live to see his children saved, yet his prayers will be registered in heaven, and God will bless his children even after the parent has gone to heaven. At any rate, can any of you think of your sons living a godless life or of your daughter unsaved — an you think without feeling your bowels yearning over your own offspring? The Savior bids you exercise that natural emotion and give to it a spiritual tongue — exercise your love to your children by pleading for them before God for Christ’s sake, and then there will be something practical in your weeping which there would not be in merely weeping for Christ. If you weep for yourselves, weep for your children, and then grace will come of it and salvation will come of it, and God will be glorified and you will be blessed.
The Lord in His infinite mercy give us all to hide beneath the cross of Christ, and then may our dear children come there too for Jesus’ sake.