As Jesus suffered on the cross He wasn’t alone. Many of the disciples were scattered and most of those present at His crucifixion were enemies and strangers. But there among them was some comfort. His mother Mary was the willing servant of the Lord, who accepted the ministry of loving the Babe of Bethlehem into the Man of Galilee. She had a front row seat for all of the action and drama, pondering the events that led up to His arrival in Bethlehem, His teaching and miracles, letting the message of His life touch and transform her own. Though we only get glimpses of their relationship we know that she was there, in the background perhaps, but she was there, at the cross.
It must have been unimaginable, the pain and grief. Not unlike the images we see today of children who suffer at the hands of a sinister illness, their parents standing by grief–stricken as the hopes for their child are altered by cells and systems that fight against them, guilt stricken because it is their own genetic code that has dealt this child a terrible hand. Perhaps Mary struggled in a similar way. Her grief for her Son overwhelming her as the systems of religion and politics worked against Him. I wonder if she also felt the guilt of her “genetic” code in the sins He bore for her and the rest of the human race. God had announced that she would bear a son—and here was Mary, bearing with Him to the end. Loving and serving Him to the end.
But this wasn’t the end. Jesus knew that. It wasn’t the end for Him, and He wanted His mother to know it wasn’t the end for her. It wasn’t the end of her calling to love and serve Him, though the way she would demonstrate that love would certainly change. I like to imagine Jesus’ gaze falling on His mother, and they speak to each other with only a look. Her eyes are full of love and devotion. His are full of hope. With His gaze He leads her on a trail to the disciple He loves. There is the disciple who has stood with the women in fearless love and support of Jesus. There is the disciple who also determined to love and serve Jesus to the end. That is where Jesus leads Mary.
“Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.”
This wasn’t simply a “take care of each other” deathbed plea. This was Jesus, letting them know that they had loved Him well. This was His love reaching out to them in return. This was a reminder of His words at their last dinner together, “Love each other.” And it was Jesus planting seeds of hope indicating this isn’t the end.
Those of us who have come to what looks like the end of a relationship, whether it be through death, divorce, disease or distance, can certainly identify with those who stand with Jesus at the cross. We have loved and served and now it appears our purpose has ended, faded or diminished. It is over. His words to Mary are also for us. It isn’t over. Look around! Who is it that stands nearby in need of a mother, a son, a daughter or father? In our grief and our loss we are reminded that this isn’t the end. Let Him direct your gaze to those who stand by to be loved by Him through you. Let Him plant the seeds of hope in your heart that they might produce joy in those around you through the love you share in Christ Jesus.
By Major Donna Leedom