Jesus, Mary of Nazareth, the cross, the crucifixion

At the Foot of the Cross

No doubt, there were days when Mary questioned it all. Days when she felt unqualified to raise the Son of God, days when she didn’t understand Jesus’ actions or the way His ministry was unfolding before her eyes. Oh, she held on to Gabriel’s words for all they were worth. And she often found her thoughts taking her back to that ethereal moment in time when she knelt before that heavenly being, trembling with fear and questioning his salutation. But I’m sure that Mary never felt such doubt and confusion and pain as she experienced standing at the foot of the cross.

I can’t imagine the fear that gripped her heart as she watched her baby boy endure crucifixion. She must have been very brave or incredibly faithful. Perhaps she held on to hope that God would intervene and empower Jesus to powerfully jump down from that instrument of death. Perhaps she envisioned Jesus leading an army of angels to take the Roman government by force ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven. But then perhaps she had lost all hope of such victory, and it was just her mother’s heart that wouldn’t allow her to be absent that day.

I can imagine watching her, standing there almost unable to breathe. If I were her my mind would’ve been reliving the history of my life with my son. Perhaps she stood questioning all that Gabriel had said; if so, she might have thought the same thoughts we have when situations don’t make sense. Perhaps she could hear running through her mind the words she’d learned as a small Jewish daughter. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). I can hear her crying out, Oh God, I don’t understand! Let me take His place! Why is this happening?

I’m sure her mind was flooded with memories of the past. May I indulge my imagination with what Mary could’ve been thinking? As she watched Jesus, the Savior of the Jews die, she realized with each memory that nothing of Jesus’ life was what she had expected.

His birth should’ve been her first clue that His life would not be as she dreamed—that cold, painful, lowly birth. She probably had never expected to give birth to any of her children away from family, out in the open, under the sky… much less the Son of God. She had to lay the Christ-child in a watering trough filled with hay. She knew at that moment she and Joseph had nothing to give Jesus—nothing but their love. And so as she stood beneath her dying son, she again found herself helpless and unable to give Him anything but her presence.

With the memory of His birth her heart was flooded with the images of the angels and the shepherds gathering around their small family and giving praise to God. Would they come this time? Would they come to proclaim her son the King and remove Him from this splintered cross? Maybe just as hope would begin to appear in her soul, Jesus would cry out in pain and her hopes would be crushed. Would He ever fulfill the prophecies of Gabriel? He was dying. Hope seemed lost forever. Oh Adonai, my heart hurts so! It is like a knife is cutting it!

As Mary endured the pain of her broken heart she would remember the words from Simeon, a man who held the baby Jesus in his arms on the day of His circumcision at the Temple. Do you remember Simeon’s prophecy to Mary? “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Mary’s heart was pierced.

The Scriptures give no indication of anger in Mary’s spirit as she watched her son die, but I confess that if it would have been me grieving beneath that blood stained cross, I would’ve had a real heart to heart, foot stomping, angry prayer time with God. My guttural petitions might have been, “What are you doing? He is your Son! How can you let this happen? You are the sovereign God! You provided for Abraham. Where is the ram?

When Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” I would have been gritting my teeth, screaming within my soul, begging and demanding for God not to forsake my son. But then again, there’s a chance I would’ve been too numb to move, to think, to pray.

I have a feeling that Mary might have had those very same thoughts. The angel Gabriel had said, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32). Can you hear Mary’s heart beating and the questions running frantically through her head? She probably found herself questioning again just as she had questioned Gabriel the night he gave her the assignment: How can this be?

On the day of Jesus’ death there were no angels in sight. There were no signs given by heavenly beings of the fulfillment of Gabriel’s words; there was only the nauseating, faith-snatching scene of the Son of God nailed upon a cross. It was a day like no other, and Mary probably thought that it would never end.  (excerpt from A Mary Like Me)

As Good Friday approaches,

If you are standing beneath an ominous, faith threatening situation, may the resurrection bring hope to you. God isn’t bound by time.

Much love,

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