“For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:31).
The context of the verse mentioned is in Luke chapter 23 where Jesus is facing His soon crucifixion. Jesus just had His trial with Pilate, the Roman ruler. Pilate repeatedly stated to the Jewish leaders and assembly that he found no fault in Jesus, that Jesus is not worthy of death and that Jesus is not guilty of what He is being accused of ( verses 2-4, 14-15, 22).
Although Jesus was obviously innocent, Pilate eventually gave in to the angry crowd and sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion (vs 23-24).
The verse in question is stated while Jesus is on His way to Calvary and is followed by women weeping for Him. Let us look at the verse in context:
” But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.
For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.
Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.
For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:28-31).
Jesus is clearly stating a warning out of love to these women. He calls them “daughters of Jerusalem” in verse 28, which is a phrase only used in the book Song of Solomon to God’s people (1:5, 2:7, 3:5, 3:10, 5:8, 5:16, 8:4). This is a term of endearment. He tells them to not cry for Him but for themselves and their children. In verse 29, He tells of a time to come when they will wish they weren’t able to have children or to nurse them, which parallels what Jesus had prophesied in Matthew 24:19-21 about a time of great tribulation to come. Then in verse 30, Jesus quotes Hosea 10:8, “they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.” This is speaking of a time when Israel will be punished for their sins (Hosea 10: 9-10).
As a final emphasis to His warning Jesus states verse 31. The green and dry trees mentioned are referring to a person or nation represented (Psalm 1:3, Daniel 4:20, 22, Hosea 9:10). The “green tree” appears to be Jesus who is one who bears good fruit, while the nation of Israel is a dry tree which does not. This appears to go along with Jesus’ parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:6-9 as well as the prophecies of the destruction of Israel in Hosea 9: 10, 12, 14, 17 and Joel 1:12, 15.
To bring it all together, if the Roman government was willing to crucify a good and innocent Man, how much more would the Roman government do to a nation who was dry and without good fruits? This again is eluding to the time of trouble mentioned in Matthew 24:2 which foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 AD. A much greater time of trouble is coming before the end of the world ( Matthew 24:3, 21).
This passage is pertinent to our lives today as we look to a time of judgement to come. May we be found in Christ ready to meet Him (Isaiah 25:9) and not as those who rejected Him (Revelation 6:15-17).
In His service,