In Matthew 27:55 it tells us that there were women at the crucifixion of Christ “looking on from afar” it also says that they had “followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him.” Those named in the different Gospels include Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons–Salome. In John 19:25 it says that the two of them were with Mary, the mother of Jesus who stood by the cross. Perhaps they were not allowed to come closer at first? Or perhaps they were afraid? But as time went on they came close enough to Jesus that He could speak to them.
Where were the apostles? Remember Peter? He denied Christ three times just as Jesus said he would. Most of the apostles fled and hid.
But these women had more courage than the disciples themselves…these women stood close and watched.
The mouth knows not how to express what sorrow they must have felt as they saw their Lord betrayed. How their hearts must have broken as they watched Him suffer. How can we conceive the hopelessness they felt as the world grew darker?
I know not what was in Mary’s head as she stood at the cross, but perhaps it went something like this:
She wasn’t sure how long it had been since she slept. Her eyes were swollen from all the tears and she was weary. The procession to the cross was full of emotion she did not understand. There was dread and excitement. The people began to cry out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” She saw the soldiers and someone carrying the cross, and then…her son. “What was that on his head? There was blood…was it thorns?” She gasped as she saw the open wounds on his back. “My Lord, I do not know how to pray.” She continued to watch as they climbed up the hill and listened as the crowd grew to a maddening mob. “Crucify Him!”
The soldiers took Jesus and laid Him on the cross. She turned away as she realized they were going to hammer nails into his hands and feet to hold Him to the cross. When the pounding stopped she looked again and watched as the soldiers raised the cross and set it in place. Tradition held that He would need to hang there until His death.
“How long have I been standing here? It seems forever and yet time also seems to stand still. I can stand. I will not fall. I will be strong for Him…although He does not need me. I need Him. My Son. My Messiah.
Thirty-three years. It went so fast. Lord, I could never forget the angel that told me I would bare this son! I still don’t understand why I was chosen! I should have been afraid, but somehow You comforted me as the angel blessed me with the news of Jesus. Joseph. How amazing that he understood and became such a wonderful earthly father. The trip to Bethlehem. Did it really happen thirty-three years ago? The star. The stable. The shepherds. “
Mary forgets where she is for a moment and smiles at the thought of Jesus at twelve. “We had gone to Jerusalem to pay our taxes and had started home. We traveled a whole day before we realized he was gone. We had to go all the way back to Jerusalem to find him. Finally after three days we found Him in the temple sitting among the teachers. I didn’t understand at that time what He meant when he answered us, ‘Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?'”
She looks up at her son hanging on the cross and her smile fades. Mothers always want to save their children from pain and protect them. She shakes her head. “Oh, Father, Your son has never done harm to anyone! And now he hangs…nailed to a cross! What was the crime? Jesus who taught scriptures, healed the sick and even….think of it…raised the dead. What was the crime? He said He was the son of God.”
Mary reaches over and grasps the hand of her best friend, Salome, who is lost in her own thoughts. She catches the eye of John who stayed by her side. Then she looked up at her son again just in time to hear Him say,
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” She also heard him say to John, “John, behold your Mother.” and then to her, “Mother, behold your son!” Tears filled her eyes again. How could He be thinking of her while in such pain??
“My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?”
“Soon, God, please do not let Him suffer longer.” Mary watched as Mary Magdalene stepped forward, watching in disbelief. Salome reached for Mary Magdalene and the three of them held each other close sharing their raw emotions and comforting each other in a way only those who share pain can.
“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. It is finished.“
Mary thought, “Finished? No more beatings or death or pain or suffering. Finished.” And in the next horrific moment a soldier plunged his spear into Jesus’ side and water and blood flowed down his side.
She watched as Jesus’ body was lowered from the cross. “Where will they take Him?” She listened as Joseph of Arimathea offered a tomb. She watched as he and Nicodemus gently lay Jesus in the tomb.
“Too soon, O Lord! I cannot make sense of it all! The angel told me He would be King of Kings! Savior to our people! But, He’s gone. Hope is gone.”
As the sun sets it begins Sabbath so they all need to return home. Home that will never be the same again.
It was difficult for Mary and others to understand what Jesus had tried to teach them– for the exciting thing about His death is that He did not stay dead, but arose from the dead on the third day. For this reason, hopelessness is turned into hope and despair is turned into joy. It is not the end, in fact, it is the beginning!
They only needed to wait a few days to discover the rest of the story.
What about you? Do you know that Jesus is alive today interceding to the Father for us?
What about you? Are you able to stand firm and keep your eyes of Jesus even when you do not understand?
What about you? Are you able to find hope in “the Father’s business”?
What about you? Do you follow Jesus at a distance? Or do you have the courage to draw close and make others aware of your faith?
What about you? Will you run to tell others the joyful news, “He is risen! Let us worship Him.”
One interesting fact to note. The women didn’t cave to fear. They didn’t run away. They were first at the tomb on Sunday. Nothing could keep them away, not fear of death or punishment from soldiers.
May we all be more like these women.
May you have a Blessed Easter.