Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Crucified King Through a Mother's Eyes

John 19:25-27 Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household."

Mary's role in the Bible has been treated in one of two ways throughout church history. One group exalts her to the level of co-redemptrix with Christ, whereas another group says little to nothing. Such extremes do nothing to reflect the Bible's presentation of her. Mary's place in the Gospel records is both substantial and minimal. Such an observation must be kept in mind when we consider how God used her in His plan of bringing the Son into the world.

How Mary's life became intertwined with Jesus' journey to the cross
Mary had been prophetically warned by Simeon that a time would arrive when events connected with the infant Christ would pierce her soul. Luke 2:33-35 records Simeon's words: "And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” 

What was spoken in the infancy of our Lord's humanity was fulfilled at Calvary. Mary, the virgin bearer of our Lord (Luke 1:43), beheld her King on the cross. The large sword would pierce her soul, severing the relationship of mother from child and leaving in its wake a worshiper gazing upon her Lord's bruised and bloody face.

Mary would witness the Incarnate God, her King, crucified
When we think of the sayings uttered by Jesus from the cross (such as the one quoted at the beginning of this post), we can see how the scene leads us to the moment when Mary would gaze upon her crucified King. The first cry was the cry of redemption: "Father forgive them, for they know no what they do" (Luke 23:34). The second cry was a cry of affirmation: "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42-43). This third statement by Jesus to Mary and John, we could say, was the cry of separation: "Mother, behold your son, son, behold your mother" (John 19:25-26). None could bear the cross by He. Jesus bore it all alone.

It is then when we arrive at that middle cry: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" - the cry of isolation (Matthew 27:46). He had severed ties with the only woman who could comfort, and He felt the pain of separation as His view of the Father's face was obscured by the fierceness of wrath. 

It must be noted here that no separation ever occurred in the Divine nature - since the Son, the Father and Spirit are inseparably One God. The Son took into His Person through His experience as man the experience and pain of bearing the sins of the world. As truly Divine, the Son's view of His Father was that of the wrathful judge delivering the just demands for sin's penalty. 1

The value of seeing the cross through a mother's eyes
Mary's sword was thrust cleanly through her soul. She undoubtedly trembled when the sun's light was obscured, and the winds picked up. The darkness of humanity's frail plight settled in and only her King stood between the tsunami of just wrath that was poured out on Him. 

The remaining three sayings of Jesus would had been heard by Mary in that horrific scene. When Jesus cried "I thirst" in John 19:28; "It is finished" in John 19:30 and the final cry of "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46), he cried forth respectively cries of desperation, proclamation and resignation. Mary heard them all, witnessed them all and quite likely cried at them all. As those sayings brought into sharp relief the identity of the King of Kings, the cross went from horror to honor. The King of Kings crowned with thorns would be seen by faith as the King who would be crowned. 

To see this dramatic scene through a mother's eyes is to experience the sharp edges of that sword. The cross ought never be treated as a sterile, stoic event of history. It was real. Cosmic and earthly. For a woman with a mother's heart, the knees which bowed in anguish would become the knees of a worshiper. From this moment onward the son she lost that day turned out to had been the One who viewed her as an adopted daughter in the plan of redemption. 

Closing thoughts
We have taken the time to reflect on the crucified King through the experience of Mary. What she must had seen, heard and felt intensifies the reality of Christ's crucifixion. What can we gain from these reflections:

1. The cross is where we bring our pain
2. The cross is where we lay down our identity
3. The cross is where He takes up our pain
4. The cross is where our identity is transformed

1. The Lutheran Formula Concord makes this illuminating observation concerning the crucifixion of Jesus: "
any other 
damnation; which
do if 
personally united
 nature." The SBC Baptist Faith and Message 2000 nicely pulls together our particular point of Mary's witnessing of the crucifixion of her Divine Savior and King: "Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin." 

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