Above the altar in the Chapel of the Crucifixion in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre — traditionally recognized as the spot where Jesus was nailed to the cross — is a mosaic. A life-sized Jesus lies spread out on the ground where the soldier has just finished hammering nails into his hands. A woman weeps at his feet, but the scene is dominated by his mother.
Mary stands, erect, beside him, shrouded in black, her hands clasped as though in prayer or grief or both.
It’s a long way from the Annunciation to Golgotha.
Mary gave God the gift of human flesh. How must she have felt to see him carry that gift to the cross and there lay it down? Were the words of the angel going through her mind (Luke 1:32-33)?
- That he would “be great.”
- That God would give him the “throne of his father David.”
- That he would “reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there would be no end”
What had happened to that promise? Did remembering it make her doubt – or did it give her faith?
Maybe Mary had heard Jesus say, as he told the disciples, that he “must go to Jerusalem and suffer … and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21). Had she pondered that, too?
Maybe she didn’t fully understand. But from that first encounter with the angel, she gave God her “yes.” She knew what he asked was impossible and she knew it would cause her grief. But she also knew that God would do what she could not. She assented to his plan whatever it might cost, every step of the way.
After a lifetime of pondering God’s word and gazing into the face of his Son, I have to believe that in some way, Mary was able to trust God’s word that Jesus is the son of God; that he will reign forever; and that this “sword” that pierces her soul too is part of the plan of Almighty God.
As my Grandma liked to say: Without a death, there cannot be a resurrection.
Mary entered the darkness of Good Friday with her son. Certainly, she grieved — yet there she stood. She did not collapse, she did not run from the darkness, she did not blame God. She surrendered and stood by her Lord. How? She loved. As John (who also stood there) would later write — perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
In the final minutes of Jesus’s life, he looked down from the cross to his mother. “Woman,” he said – “behold your son.” And to the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother.” “Behold.” In other words, “Look.” Take your eyes off of me. Look to one another. You are family now. Tend to each other.
Today, Jesus is in heaven. But his Body is still on this earth. Jesus still suffers. He still thirsts. He is still broken and forsaken, here. Jesus asks us to see him in our brothers and sisters, in the poor and in the needy, and tend to them. His mission to love and heal and forgive continues through us.
To do this, we will have to draw close and enter the darkness with other people. That can be hard. But always remember: we stand on the other side of the cross of Jesus Christ. We know without a doubt, the life that comes from the cross. We can bring with us — into any darkness — HOPE that is based on the Resurrection of our Lord.
His tomb became a womb. God can bring light out of darkness, he can bring life out of death. It’s what he does.
Today, Good Friday, spend time at the Cross. Offer up your grief and suffering, unite it with his. You can’t give what you don’t have. Get to know the glory God ushered in through the cross so you can share it with others.
Do not be afraid of the darkness. Do not be afraid of the deaths that come your way. Without a death – there can be no resurrection!
And God is all about Resurrection.
© 2018 Sarah Christmyer