What is the worst fear a mum has in regard to a child? It is losing him/her. With my own children, I am constantly looking out for them because I am afraid of them dying.
Imagine you were told your child was condemned; that he had a terminal disease; that he would die young. What would your reaction be? There is a true story about a mum who wrestled with all this. She lost a child at a young age and her name was Mary.
Turn to Luke 2:21-35. “…” She was told a sword would pierce her! What picture comes to your mind? Mary didn’t know how this would happen exactly, did she? We know it had to do with Jesus; but nothing says she was told about the cross! She only knew she would suffer greatly! That probably it would have something to do with Jesus!
I wonder if she thought of that when she ran away from Herod. When he killed the children in the land, did she think that prophecy would apply there – that she would lose Jesus? (Matt. 2:13-16) Imagine her relief. And then imagine her fear, again, when Jesus started to minister and the Jews wanted to kill Him (even at home). (Luke 4:18-29) Was she there when they were trying to throw Him off the cliff – when they were carrying Him to the drop-off? Was she trying to stop them? Would you?
And now, finally, Jesus is arrested. John tells us in chapter 19, verses 1-5, that He suffers excruciating tortures at the hands of the Jews and Romans. They flog Him. They put a crown of thorns on Him and then, finally, they present Him to the crowds again and say, “Who shall we release?” Has Mary had time to rush to Jerusalem yet? Is she lost in the crowds, yelling at the top of her lungs, “Yes! Yes! Release Him! He is innocent! My baby! My poor baby! If she is there, I imagine her voice and her screams are covered by the crowds yelling, “Crucify Him! Crucify this Jesus! We want Barabbas!”
And now Jesus is led to the cross. And I am sure that Mary is putting two and two together. The sword, she was told about, is now piercing her heart. She is realizing that this is the sword! That fear that has haunted her ever since Jesus’ birth is becoming too real! Now think what realizations are coming to her? He will never grow up to be an elder. He will never marry or give her grandchildren to carry in her arms.
I am sure memories are flooding her mind. Wouldn’t it for you? Tell me, what are some of the moments you would remember? Would you remember the birth experience? Would you remember how you shivered as you held Him for the first time? Would you remember how tiny and helpless He was when you breast fed him? Would you remember the lullabies you sang to Him when he was sick at night? What about how you kissed His forehead and caressed His hair before He went to sleep? Wouldn’t all of that be mixed up with questions of denial? What did my baby ever do to deserve this? Then imagine memories floating by again. Imagine remembering the first words, the first steps and how that little boy helped you bake. Remember how eagerly He ate those cookies! Remember how His little eyes sparkled! Remember how the little teeth flashed white when He smiled! Remember when he left the house, you thought, “He is not my little boy anymore!” But then there is the question of denial again. “What did my child ever do to deserve that?!”
He is there, of course, because of a Savior’s love. She is there because of a mother’s love. Think of what love is like in that instance. Think of Jesus’ love. It is manifested by a pool of blood on the dirt beneath the cross. It is shown by spikes in the feet! It is shown by open wounds, bothered by flies. It is shown by ribs protruding against the skin. It is shown by hands raised to God on splintered wood.
For Mary, love is shown by stinging tears. It is shown by a will to remain present through the suffering of a son. It hurts. It is so bad that she has a hard time bearing it. It hurts so bad that she has a hard time standing! Love should never look like this! Or should it?
Now notice v. 29 and the first sentence of v. 30. Jesus is thirsty. He is so thirsty that He takes vinegar. Now you can smell vinegar. I would argue with you if you said He couldn’t tell! I believe the reason He took it in was because he was so thirsty that it was hurting. His lips were parched and dried from the heat, most likely. Remember, He has no more clothes on Him – no protection from the sun. He has a hard time breathing. The cross brings death by asphyxia. Lungs hurt too. All of that makes it very, very hard for Him to speak; and yet, in v. 26 and 27, you read, “…..”
Jesus cares so very much for his mum. There are so many thoughts in His head. I am sure there is so much He would like to say. Things like, “Thank you for everything. I owe you so much! I love you mum, believe in Me!” But all He has the strength to say is, “Mum, John will take care of you for Me! Be for each other what you were to Me!” Incredible! He is not thinking of Himself. He isn’t saying, “I hurt! I am thirsty! I’m so miserable!” No, He is thinking of others. Up to the last moment, He is still His Father’s image!
And now, He closes His eyes with these words, v. 30, “All is done!” Mary has just ushered a son through to another realm – into the arms of another parent. So many lessons in this passage.
Here is what I see.
The cross is the place we need to always go for the greatest lesson. There is where we learn the true meaning of love. Love is sacrificial, not self-seeking – remaining until the end. I will close with a poem in the form of a prayer.
Suddenly, Mary realizes, He is about his Father’s business.
She prays to that Father, prays that death would come quickly to her son. No, their Son. For both would lose a child today. Both would bear the blade in their breast.
Yet in spite of her grief, in spite of the cold steel sheathed in her heart, she is standing near that cross. She can’t bear to watch. But she can’t bear to turn away either. She is there. Standing by her Son. As any mother would.
She was there when He came into this world. She would be there when He left it. She was there when He was pushed through a dark and constricting birth canal and into her arms. She would be there now as He is being pushed through another painful passage, returning Him to the arms of His Father.
Dear Man of Sorrows,
Who, with the weight of your body pulling against those nails and the weight of the world’s sin pulling against your soul, thought more of the sorrows of others than your own.
Who was such a compelling commentary on the only commandment with a promise, all the while knowing that for you that promise would be withheld.
Who was stripped of everything, yet still found so much to give: to your executioners, forgiveness; to a thief, paradise; to your mother, a son.
Grant me the grace, O Lord, that I would never forget how You rose above your forsakenness to make sure your mother would not be forsaken. What an example of selfless love. What an example of everything a son should be.
Keep me from ever wandering far from the foot of that cross. For that is the fountain where love is most pure. That is where I am cleansed, not only from my sin but from my pettiness. That is where I am closest to You. That is where I am closest to those who love You. Bring me there daily, Lord. That is where love is. And that is where I need to be……