Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now finished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, he said, “I’m thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it up to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then bowing his head, he gave up his spirit. Since it was the preparation day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special day). They requested that Pilate have the men’s legs broken and that their bodies be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other one who had been crucified with him. When they came to Jesus, they did not break his legs since they saw that he was already dead. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth. For these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: Not one of his bones will be broken. Also, another Scripture says: They will look at the one they pierced. After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews—asked Pilate that he might remove Jesus’s body. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and took his body away. Nicodemus (who had previously come to him at night) also came, bringing a mixture of about seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes. They took Jesus’s body and wrapped it in linen cloths with the fragrant spices, according to the burial custom of the Jews. There was a garden in the place where he was crucified. A new tomb was in the garden; no one had yet been placed in it. They placed Jesus there because of the Jewish day of preparation and since the tomb was nearby.
Dear God, there are some things in this story I never noticed before. The first thing is that Mary’s sister was there. Jesus’s aunt. I’ll get back to that in a second.
As I’ve been focused on Mary for the previous 15 prayer journals to you I’ve come to see this whole experience through her eyes as a parent a little more vividly. So the first thing that came to my mind as I read this story yesterday and today is, “Well, this isn’t how this was supposed to work out at all.” What a devastating day! It’s one thing to lose your son, but it’s another to lose him so violently. And even more to have lost the man who was supposed to be the Messiah! She saw this coming. She saw the track he was on from at least the time she and his brothers tried to get him and take him home. This just wasn’t going how she and Joseph foresaw it after they visited with the angels, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna, and the wise men. I’m sure she and Elizabeth talked a lot about who their boys would be when they grew up, and now they were both dead–killed brutally.
I’ll bet she wished Joseph was there to hold her. I wonder what kinds of conversations she and her sister had had over the previous 34 years. I’m sure the early years were filled with home and wonder. Perhaps big dreams and Israel’s liberation and conquering power. Then, in recent years, concern that this was all unraveling. Perhaps this was too much for her son. Maybe he had lost his mind. Now they stood there together, Mary possibly feeling loved by her sister, but also maybe a little judged. How embarrassing to have this happen to your own son.
And if you’re Jesus, looking down, you see your mom, your aunt, and then John–apparently the only disciple that had the nerve to show up. It doesn’t mention that Jesus’s brothers were there. Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that Jesus didn’t trust them because he made John responsible for his mother’s care. I’m sure their relationships were pretty strained and frayed by that point. Perhaps they were angry with Mary for supporting Jesus. I don’t know. It’s all conjecture, but the picture is pretty clear. She is standing there with her sister, Mary Magdalene, still another Mary who was married to someone names Clopas, and John. Her son’s life is over. And it sure looks like it was all a waste of time–Bethlehem, the stable, the rumors and innuendo, the flight to Egypt, the children slaughtered in Bethlehem, raising him… Now it was all over and all she had left was to live out the rest of her life.
Of course, we now have the advantage of knowing that that isn’t the end of the story, but let’s just sit with Mary in the seeming failure for another day or two. Sometimes as parents we just don’t know what is going on with our children. I talked with someone today whose son ended up failing out of their first year of college. It just didn’t work. His mother homeschooled him, and so she, at least in part, feels like it’s an indictment against her and how she prepared him for college. He feels like a failure. His father feels it too. But maybe this is a door that you needed to close for him to find the path you have for him. Maybe, like Mary, they simply can’t see what you’re doing. I know I’ve certainly had to embrace that level of faith sometimes with my own children.
Father, help me to be at peace with the fact that sometimes things just don’t go according to my plans because my plans can be vain, shortsighted, and foolish. In fact, help me to let go of my plans and simply look to you in this moment of this day, thank you for what you done that I can see and that I can’t see, and then be at peace in your presence. Let me give my utmost for your highest, regardless of what it costs me.
In Jesus’s name I pray,