On the cross, Jesus shows us the kind of person he really is and the kind of person he wants us to be.
Much of who I am today I owe to the influence of my parents – especially my dad. Although he never served as an elder or deacon, his influence led 3 out of 5 sons to serve in ministry at one point or another.
- Picked up my love of bluegrass music from my dad.
- He modeled unconditional love for my mother.
- He instilled within me a love for the local church. This is one of the main reasons my wife and I are committing $5,000 to Mountainview’s EnVision campaign.
A good example of my dad’s influence and impact came at one of the most difficult times in my life. When it came time to discuss whether or not to leave my mother on life support, I’ll never forgot how my dad carried himself as he gathered all five of his sons into the kitchen.
After getting over the dry heaves, I remember thinking: I want to be like that – strong, steady, compassionate.
They say going through tough times builds character. Sure it does – but more than that, it reveals the character you had going into challenge.
In your own experience, who do you know who handled adversity with dignity and grace?
Truth is, adversity comes in all shapes and sizes. While adversity might build your character after it is over, it will first shine a light on your present character.
Nowhere is this more true than when Jesus is on the cross.
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. — John 19:25
That’s a lot of Mary’s! Two of the women we don’t know much about – Mary’s sister (Jesus’ aunt) and Mary the wife of Clopas.
Over 25 years of ministry, I have been in the ER or ICU countless times. Our Director of Congregational Care, Dan Hettinger, also works with the Denver Hospice and as a chaplain at SkyRidge Hospital.
Both of us would tell you that one of the most emotionally-trying situations is when a child is involved. There is no harder thing to watch than to watch a parent grieve over a child.
The first time we meet Mary the mother of Jesus in John’s Gospel she is attending a wedding with Jesus. Now she is preparing for his burial.
From the first conversation with an angel, Mary had known how special Jesus would be. When it came time to present the baby Jesus in the temple, she would have this encounter with a man named Simeon …
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. — Luke 2:28-33
But that wasn’t all Simeon had to say …
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” — Luke 2:34-35
Standing there at the foot of the cross had to feel like a sword piercing her soul.
Mary Magdalene is also there. Despite what Dan Brown wrote in Da Vinci Code, Mary Magdalene was not Jesus’ wife – not even his girlfriend.
What do we know about Mary Magdalene? Jesus had set her free from demon possession and she had become a very generous supporter of his ministry.
We know that she so believed in Jesus that she was willing to be with him to the very end.
These four women so cared for Jesus that they were willing to risk shame and personal injury to be at the cross with Jesus.
Now they are watching him be crucified.
One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is this: experiencing pain has a way of shrinking a person’s world. In other words, it’s very easy to become inwardly-focused – after all, you’re in pain!
That’s what makes this next exchange so incredible …
26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. — John 19:26-27
This exchange seems to indicate that Joseph – Jesus’ earthly father – must have died while Jesus was between 12 and 33 years old. Otherwise, Joseph would have continued to care for Mary.
The remarkable thing is this: Even while Jesus was hanging on the cross, he remained concerned about his mother. Even when redemption was on his shoulders.
Without a husband, Mary would have been dependent on her sons to take care of her. As the oldest son, that responsibility would have fallen to Jesus.
Without a male in her life, Mary would have been vulnerable to poverty and isolation.
But why does Jesus wait until now to have conversation? Why didn’t he do it the night before? Or wait until after his resurrection? If you believe God is intentional and does things on purpose, this is an important question to wrestle with.
If you’re like me, you might have a short-sighted view of how much God actually loves you. When we think of the cross, our mind goes immediately to Jesus dying for our sins – that he loved us enough to die for our sins. And it’s true.
But perhaps Jesus had this conversation to show you that he isn’t just interested in your sin – he’s interested in you – every part of you and your life.
- He loves you as a Father loves his sons and daughters.
- He cares about the stress you have at work or home.
- He longs to help you with the burdens you’ve been bearing alone.
Could Jesus also be saying something to the church?
The death and resurrection of Jesus ushered in a new family – one that transcends flesh and blood – not defined by race or gender or language. In our baptisms, God welcomes us into the divine family – a faith whose common bond is Jesus.
As a Christian, we have new brothers and sisters. We have access to mothers and fathers in the faith.
We are not alone.
If we take this conversation from the cross seriously, then we must realize that how we care for one another is a reflection of what we believe about the gospel.
This conversation shows us the kind of person Jesus really is and the kind of person he wants us to be.