Exegesis of Lk 23:27-31
This is a passage that is difficult to understand probably for the following reasons:
•It contains an idiomatic expression, "For if they do these things in the green wood..." whose referents and exact meaning have been lost; •Some contextual material has been omitted, perhaps because the story told orally would have been very familiar to the reader or because customs now lost would have supplied the context.
The OSB (First Edition) offers by way of explanation that "green wood" refers to the innocent and "dry wood" to the guilty. The latter evokes OT images from the Psalms and Prophets of the sinful being cut down and thrown into the fire.
Still, questions remain:
•Who are the women whom Jesus is addressing when He says, "Mourn not for me."
•Why is He telling them not to?
The key to understanding this passage may rest on two considerations:
For years in reading this passage I assumed that the women keeners were sincere. But, on reconsideration, they were not, rather they mocked him with false sorrow. If interpreted this way, His subsequent warning obtains logical consistency. I would propose that these women were among the wives and relatives of those who falsely accused Him and sought to further mock and torment Him.
•Christ responds to their taunts not to threaten them, but, to remind them of the grave consequences for bearing false witness against the innocent (Ahab, Jezebel and Naboth come to mind)--punishment that will come upon not just them, but, on their children as well.
•But, also this scene of the women crying out to Him evokes another of just a few days before--when another woman cried out from the crowd, "Blessed is the womb that bore you..." To which h He responds, "More than that, blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.". Oobviously, if these women were mocking Him with false sympathy, they were hardly keeping the Word of God.
Even Christians today engage in such behaviors and so His warning is for us as well. The gossip I hear is rampant and most of it bears little resemblance to the truth. And this we do even having been taught that Satan is a slanderer! I recall what my parents would say, If you don't have something good to say about someone don't say anything at all." It's a hedge against this kind of sin and its dire consequences.