Monday after Laetare
Scripture: St. Luke 23:26-56 (NKJV)
26 Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. 27 And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. 28 But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ 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 in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”
32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.
35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” 36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”
38 And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.'” Having said this, He breathed His last.
47 So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!” 48 And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. 49 But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
50 Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. 54 That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near. 55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.
Luther cautions against having a morbid Lent, one in which we—like the women of Jerusalem—weep over Jesus and what He suffers in such a way that we pity Him when, really, we are the ones in need of being pitied. Considering the burden that He, the green tree, bears, how will a tree that is dried out and brittle from sin going to fare when it is under such trial? Neither the inhabitants of Jerusalem in its coming fall four decades later, nor the disciples who will scatter in a matter of hours, nor we who live in relative peace are able to withstand by our own powers or merit the fiery darts of the devil, the cares and pleasures of the world, and the corrupt thoughts, words, and deeds that bubble up constantly from our own sinful flesh.
The key to not having an unholy fixation upon the wrong things in Lent is to see that the very thing Jesus says to these women—”Weep not for Me, but for yourselves and for your children”—is something that He has already done Himself. He has already wept over Jerusalem. He has already pitied Zion. His gut was wrenched over His nation, dying in their sins. He, therefore, redirects them to consider what the real tragedy would be: their staying attached to the shadows that prefigured Him (the Temple and its worship) instead of clinging to His Body that cast those shadows. (Col. 2:16-17)
In this way we understand the rest of this chapter. From the cross Jesus both dispenses and earns the forgiveness of sins, which means life with Him in Paradise. The veil in the Temple is torn in two, as the Crucified Christ is the Throne of Grace, by Whom we have access to the Father forever.