Wednesday, April 20, 2011


It’s interesting to me that in most Protestant circles, Mary the mother of Jesus gets very little attention. She may get mentioned around Christmas time, but the rest of the year she fades into the background.

During Holy Week, I am always drawn to Mary. Perhaps it is because I, like her, am a mother. All four gospel writers mention that women were present at the crucifixion. Three of the four mention that Mary was one of those women. Matthew, Mark, and Luke indicate that the women were some distance away. But John indicates that Mary was right there at the foot of the cross and that some of Jesus’ final words expressed love for his mother.

I can hardly even imagine what it must have been like for Mary that final week of his life. Did she see his interrogation before Pilate? Did she hear the whip as it cut into his back? Did she try to run to him as he groaned in agony when they hoisted the cross and dropped it into the hole with a sickening thud? When he said he was thirsty, did she long to give him a drink? As the soldier pierced the side of this child that she had raised and nurtured, did she remember the words of the old prophet when Jesus was just eight days old – “a sword will pierce your own soul too”?

Most likely, Mary saw him stumble as he carried the cross. Perhaps she covered her ears or even got physically ill as the soldiers pounded the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet.  She certainly heard the jeers of the crowd at Calvary, a crowd that only a week before had hailed him as the one who would save Israel. Maybe she even wondered if Jesus would, in fact, work another miracle, and come down from that cross.

I can also imagine that as Jesus murmured that familiar Jewish bedtime prayer, “into your hands I commit my spirit,” a prayer Mary undoubtedly taught Jesus when he was just a little boy, she completely fell apart. Flooded with memories of the little boy who laughed and played and hugged her and kissed her good-night, she could probably hardly believe this horror was happening. Perhaps like many of us who have suffered loss, she woke up the next morning hoping it was a dream, only to crash back into the wall of reality. She would never have Sabbath with her son again.

I think we tend to forget that although we know the end of the story, Mary did not. Unlike some of the disciples, Mary did not run away. She did what any good mother would do. She stayed with her son, suffering her own hellish agony while he suffered the curse of hell for her – and all of us. 

From the young girl who selflessly submitted her will to that of God, risking her reputation and her betrothal, to the mother wondering about the sanity of her son, to the agony of losing her son in a torturous death, Mary is an example of faith and obedience to God’s will. Protestants would do well to remember and reflect on that often neglected reality, and to consider what the cost of Mary’s life-long obedience might have to say to us today. 

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