Luke 23:24-32Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
24 Pilate decided to grant their demand; 25 he released the man who had been thrown in prison for insurrection and murder, the one they had asked for; and Yeshua he surrendered to their will.
26 As the Roman soldiers led Yeshua away, they grabbed hold of a man from Cyrene named Shim‘on, who was on his way in from the country. They put the execution-stake on his back and made him carry it behind Yeshua. 27 Large numbers of people followed, including women crying and wailing over him. 28 Yeshua turned to them and said, “Daughters of Yerushalayim, don’t cry for me; cry for yourselves and your children! 29 For the time is coming when people will say, ‘The childless women are the lucky ones — those whose wombs have never borne a child, whose breasts have never nursed a baby! 30 Then
They will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’
and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’
31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what is going to happen when it’s dry?”
32 Two other men, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him.
Luke leaves out the mockery of Jesus by the soldiers found in Mark, his source, because he has just told of Jesus being mocked at Herod’s court. But he then adds the incident with the weeping women, which is not found in any other account. Whatever the source of this information, Luke as it were pulls the camera back from its sole focus on Jesus, to include the watching crowd, and to catch their reaction, which allows him to include a prophecy of Jesus about the disaster that will come in Jerusalem. The Gospel makes a clear connection between the city’s rejection of Jesus and its destruction. Matthew makes the same connection much more crudely by having the crowd say, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Luke’s Jesus is more sorrowful than judgemental, and the prophetic words allow the camera to peer into the sorrowful future of the city before returning to focus on Jesus.
Luke emphasises that at the instigation of the religious leaders and the crowd, Pilate released a jihadi killer and condemned a peaceful man. Although he depicts Pilate as unimpressed by the evidence against Jesus, he shows clearly that he hands over an innocent man for the sake of peace. The malignity of the crowd and the weakness of the Governor are interpreted by Luke as links in an iron chain of events forged by the powers of evil, yet extended by God to issue in the victory of Jesus. For the Christian reader the irony is always apparent that what Jesus’ opponents do to destroy him is simultaneously what leads to his unconquered death, his resurrection and the foundation of the Assembly of believers.
The incident of Shimon being pressed to carry the excecution stake is found first in Mark, who adds mysteriously that Shimon is the father of “Alexander and Rufus”, as if these men were well-known to his readers. Luke omits that detail, but includes Shimon as the image of a man forced to do what disciples of Jesus should do willingly; carry the stake behind Jesus.
The picture of the weeping women is well painted by Luke. They show that not all the city-dwellers were part of the vicious crowd that demanded Jesus’ death. But their femininity is mourned by Jesus the prophet who sees the time of coming when they will have to mourn for their children. The exchange reminds us that the plot to murder Jesus has been devised and carried out by men, and that even Jesus’ male disciples have let him down. Luke wants the reader to see this difference between men and women, of which he gently insists again in his detail of the women present at the execution of Jesus.
Jesus uses a quotation from Hosea which is an image of human terror at extreme violence, after which he asks his question, “if they do this when the wood is green, what is going to happen when it is dry?” I think we should interpret “they” as meaning the Romans, who are responsible for this execution and will be for the destruction of Jerusalem. He warns that his death is only the beginning (the green wood) of a process which will culminate (the dry wood) in the Jewish rebellion of 70 CE and its terrible outcome.
By means of this incident Luke is teaching his readers how to understand the execution of Jesus: it will be turned by God into a way of liberation for human beings, but it is also a crime which will bring sorrow to a whole people.