The Destruction of the Withered Wood

“And turning toward them, Jesus said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; nevertheless, weep for yourselves and for your children. Behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women and those wombs that never bore and also the breasts that did not nurse.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the high places, ‘Hide us!’ For if this is what they do when the tree is wet, what will happen when it is withered?’”

(Luke 23:28-31)

Once again, we are reminded that even now, when his body is bound by the Romans and under a sentence of death, that Jesus is the Lord and Sovereign over the universe and is still in control of those events that are taking place. And thus, he looks in the direction of the weeping women and not so much reproves them, but points them to what is to come. How sorrowful indeed is this event, yet, as sorrow filled as they are on this day, the days are coming, Jesus states, when their sorrows will be multiplied drastically.

As he did in his Olivet Discourse, Jesus speaks prophetically of the fall of Jerusalem — God’s punishment on the Jewish nation for the execution of his Son. They loved darkness rather than light, the Apostle John reminds us, and so they rejected the Son of God in favor of the ways of men. They will execute the Son this day as part of God’s divine plan of salvation, but they will pay the penalty for their crime. God will avenge his own, and in the day that happened, the weeping and gnashing of teeth rose up to heaven for in 70 AD, Jerusalem fell to the Romans with a horrible crash.

The final metaphor that Jesus uses is one that speaks even to us today. Jesus is essentially saying that if the people are willing to do this kind of wickedness while the city of Jerusalem is still alive and vibrant, what greater sins will they commit after the city is destroyed? And, indeed, not only do we see the Jews persecuting Jesus, they will continue their persecution of the Apostles in the years that follows and once Jerusalem is destroyed, they become hardened (like old, dry wood) and unbending to the Gospel. The reality is that wickedness begets wickedness and evil gives birth only to greater evil in the lives of men. God indeed restrains sin, but sometimes, just as the Apostle Paul warns us, when we pursue sin he gives us over to it wholesale, for we will destroy the wicked and burn them up in the fires of their own making before they are ultimately thrown into the fiery pit of Hell forever.

Thus, shall we not bring our own thoughts and actions into check at this warning? Shall we not repent of our sinful ways? Shall we not, while our wood is still green with life, flee to Christ lest we not be cast as dry wood into the fire? Indeed, one is truly born into this world as dead wood, lest one be born from above, one may never see the Kingdom of God. So, know that your response in fleeing to Christ is not a work that you have done, no, you have done so because God has first called you and given life to your being to flee to Christ. May we never envy the hardness of the dry wood, but be pliant in the hands of God to be shaped as vessels for his use.

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