The Women of Jerusalem

And there followed Him a great multitude of people and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For, behold, the day shall come wherein they will say: 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not borne, and the breasts that have not given suck.' Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: 'Fall upon us, and to the hills, Cover us.' For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?" - Luke 23:27-31

- - -

1. This little scene, told appropriately by Saint Luke, the Evangelist of sympathy and the friend of women, comes as a great relief in the long tale of agony. Hitherto one might have been led to suppose that all Jerusalem was against Our Lord. Now we discover in the crowd some at least who sympathize; and these are not a few, for Saint Luke describes them as "a great multitude of people and of women." The scene, therefore, as usually described and pictured is misleading. Not only women bewailed Him, but a great multitude besides; these were not met along the roadside by accident, but they "followed Him"; they did not merely weep at the sudden sight of so much suffering, but they "bewailed and lamented" Him continuously. It is a joy to us to know that these were there; we would give much to know the name of even one in that "multitude." There is something that tells us that compassion such as this must find its reward in Heaven.

2. To this multitude only, and directly only to the women in this multitude, does Our Lord appear to have spoken all the way from the Praetorium to Calvary. And His words are as mysterious as their setting; they recall the thunder-clouds that hang over the prophets of old, they almost repeat the warnings of His own last days in the Temple. They are not to weep over Him; but that we may justly suppose He did not literally mean. He "looked for one that would weep together with Him, and there was none"; in the words of another prophecy, He appealed: "All you that pass by the way, attend and see if there be sorrow like to My sorrow." All His life He had shown that He was hurt when He was cut; that He was full of gratitude to any one who showed Him the least interest or sympathy. And now the very fact that He spoke to this group shows that He felt their regard, even as later He felt the companionship of the penitent thief, and of Mary and John.

3. But like those whose power of sympathy is very great, for the moment the future sufferings of others overcame His own. His compassion was greater than His Passion; He suffered in others even more than He suffered in Himself. He recalled to them the prophecy of Osee: "Samaria hath made her King to pass as froth upon the face of the water. And the high places of the idol, the sin of Israel shall be destroyed: the bur and the thistle shall grow up over the altars: and they shall say to the mountains: Cover us; and to the hills: Fall upon us." The doom was on the city because it had not known the day of its visitation; this even now Our Lord cannot put away from His mind. "For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?" What do the words mean? Does Saint Peter paraphrase them when he says: "If the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"


1. "A great multitude of people and of women" sympathized with Our Lord.

2. Our Lord cherished that sympathy.

3. But His own power of sympathy made Him feel for them even more.

- from The Crown of Sorrow, by Archbishop Alban Goodier