It is the word of Jesus to the women who lamented him as he made his way to Crucifixion:
A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?”
In this text is a likely historical context rooted in the First Century. But Scripture, as I pray you know, was not written merely for First Century Christians. It also speaks to our times. In fact it may speak more ghoulishly to our times than to the First Century, as we shall see. Lets take a look at the First Century context, only briefly, and then turn attention to our owns times.
The First Century context of Jesus’ words is surely rooted in 70 AD and the terrible culmination of a 3 1/2 Year war of the Jewish people with the Romans, (66-70 AD – The War actually culminated with the fall of Masada in 73AD). Jesus had spoken of this terrible war extensively in i the the Mount Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:1 – 25:46; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36), and He even wept as he looked upon Jerusalem just before his Palm Sunday entrance:
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44)
And now, as these woman weep for him, we weeps for them and their children. For indeed, the says are coming, in forty short (biblical) years when they will see a destruction so overwhelming that, as Josephus records, 1.2 million Jews will die. And the terrible and suicidal phrase of asking the mountains to fall on them etc. are a Jewish way of lamenting that death is preferable to the calamity that is upon us!
And so we see the First Century fulfillment of the passage. Indeed, those women who lamented him had little idea about how awful it would get for them and their children, for sin and rebellion, hatred and revenge, would have their way, and boil over like a cauldron. 70 AD would bring a bloodbath like the world had never seen until that time.
But what of us? How, does this text speak to us? It a word or three: Horribly, poignantly and prophetically.
It does not take a genius to see that the Lord’s words are true for us in ugly and sickening ways. Our bloodbath is far worse that 70 AD. 55 million are dead from abortion in America alone since 1973. And add to that the 100 Million + who were killed in the last century alone for ideological purposes in two world wars, a cold war, and the pogroms and systematic starvation of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and their successors.
Though we like to think ourselves civilized in comparison to previous centuries, our blood bath is far deeper than any age before. True, we murder our millions in less publicly brutal ways. We do not experience hoards of warriors descending from day to day on unsuspecting cities. Our brutality takes place in more hidden ways, out of sight if you will, in concentration camps, abortion “clinics”, killing fields, and remote locations away from cameras.
Yes, our murder seems more abstract, but it is not. The death toll is almost unimaginable. And meanwhile we go on considering ourselves civilized.
And the Lord Jesus, looking beyond 70 AD must have seen our times and had them in mind when he said to those women of old that they would see an enemy (Satan): dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls.
Yes, Satan has deceived us with deceptions of power, distortions of freedom, and crushing lies of “choice.” 55 million dead in American alone since 1973, our children dashed to the ground.
The Lord goes on to say, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ Yes, and those days are here, days when people celebrate barrenness, have themselves surgically sterilized, and celebrate contraception. The days are here when the greatest danger seems to be the “terrible and fearsome proposition” of getting pregnant, of having “too many children.”
Yes, the days are here when most people cry out: blessed is barrenness, blessed are small families. Life it would seem, is a terrible burden to be contracepted and aborted away and some awful threat. It is an age that cries out “Blessed the career women who has not stymied her life and progress by the terrible and terrifying prospect of children.”
Yes, said the Lord to those ancient women, in effect, “You think this is bad? The days are actually coming when things will be so bad and so dark that people will celebrate NOT having children, will celebrate barrenness.”
But the Lord does not stop there. He goes on to describe quite well the culture of death so literally lived out in our times: people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’
One may argue that this is just a Jewish way of speaking that indicates despair. Perhaps. But we live it out quite literally in our times, for it is the refrain of the culture of death. And what is the culture of death? It is the mentality that increasingly sees the death or non-existence of human beings as the “solution” to problems. In our times there has arisen a group of radicals who see human beings as a hindrance to their ecological goals, and they seek population reductions and even dream of a pristine earth without humanity. They peddle History Channel programs such as “Life after People” as a kind of fantasy of their vision and advocate contraceptive and abortive policies that see mankind as the problem that must be eliminated. In effect they cry to the mountains “fall on us” and dream of a world that is “post-human.” They even peddle disaster movies as though they were longing for it all.
You may say, I exaggerate. Fine. But would you ever dream we would be were we are today in fifty short years of social engineering, and anti-life policies?
Jesus spoke to the women that day of their own time, but surely his words describe our own times in sickening detail, times where barrenness is exalted and the fertility of large families treated with shock and even contempt, times where extremists have infected the modern psyche with notions that human beings are worse than roaches on this planet and that things will be better without us, or with dramatically fewer of us.
Of times like 70AD and times like these Jesus says, “Weep.”
Yes, Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. (Matt 5:4). And who are those who mourn? They are those who see the awful state of God’s people, that God is not know to them, that they do not glorify God or even know why they were made, they are confused, deceived, and misled. And some, seeing this are mourning and weeping, they are led to prayer and action, to speaking out, and pointing once again to the light, from the dark places of times like these.
Mourn with Jesus, and pray for a miraculous conversion for times like these, times which seem eerily consistent with the dreadful things Jesus prophesied.