Jesus is on the verge of ascending the executioner’s hill, but throughout his journey he has drawn a crowd. Among them is a group of women, mothers mourning and weeping because they know what’s coming, at least in part; they know that Jesus is going to die, they know that crucifixion is a brutal spectacle designed to put an end to the story, nails hammered into bloodied full stops.
Jesus knows that the story is bigger, an epic rather than a Roman propaganda statement. He knows what’s coming beyond the nails. That’s why he turns to that group of women, that group of mothers, and tells them not to weep for him but for the future, because something else is emerging over the horizon, something terrible, something brutal, Jerusalem’s armageddon. In a few years’ time everyone will be weeping for their children, because Jerusalem is going to strike against Rome and Rome’s going to strike back and the consequences will be horrific beyond imagining. The City of God is going to fall, people are going to die, and the children of those women, albeit grown adults at that point, will be the ones to suffer.
These are the civilians who always suffer in times of war; the traumatised children watching parents die, the women raped and brutalised, the parents wondering if they’ll ever hear from their families again, those who die when a city burns, those who flee to a life as refugees and all that entails. And Jesus looks at them in pain and sorrow because even as he stumbles towards Calvary, he’s having this moment of prophecy, a prophecy of Jerusalem’s fall forty years later, maybe even a prophecy of all the other wars to come.
We mourned the bombing of Coptic churches in Egypt this weekend, and that’s another example of the innocent suffering in the face of violence. But in the mourning, as we look into the abyss of grief, we must remember not to be corrupted in response; Jesus is still moving towards the cross, and we can weep and mourn as we walk with him, but let’s never become the ones who hammer the nails in the name of security; we follow the Prince of Peace, even on the hardest of journeys, even on the longest of walks.
The other posts in this series can be found here.