The Lord’s Supper (or Communion) is when we take time each month to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf and remember his great love for and forgiveness to us. We are currently in the midst of a series of monthly posts during which we are exploring the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice by considering his seven last words on the cross. The following reflection was shared at our Good Friday Service on March 25, 2016, by one of our church staff members, Director of Worship Ministries, Melissa Bull.
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” —John 19:25-27
March 21 marked 6 years since my mother’s death. My mother was a special woman, a foster mom to over 50 children, and a wonderful mom and grandmother to my nieces. We were very close. The week of her death, I was honored to sit at her side, accompanying her as she made her transition from life to new life. The morning after she died, I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I aimlessly walked outside. Bulbs were blooming, birds were chirping, a crisp breeze was blowing – it was a gorgeous spring day. But I was numb, frozen in time, and hollow. I felt out of place and discordant with the beauty around me.
I believed my mom was with Jesus but all the same, her absence caused a giant hole in my heart. One day soon after, in deep grief, I turned to my husband, Roman, and said, you’re my mother now. Over the years, God has used him and many different people, including people in this church, to help fill in parts of that hole. No one can replace my mom, but it is special to me how people stand in for her in various ways.
I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child, to watch them die in front of you. I can’t imagine what Mary, the mother of Jesus, was feeling as she looked at him on the cross. I don’t know how the next few days were for her, as she tried to pair all that she knew and believed about her son Jesus with the seeming finality of his death.
If you’ve ever seriously hurt yourself, you know that in those moments of blinding pain, you are often really only thinking about one thing: yourself. Your pain. Surviving to the next moment. But in that moment when people know they are dying, they often think of the ones they love the most.
Jesus hung on the cross, thinking about surviving each second, steeling himself against the pain he was feeling, literally gasping for each breath, and bracing himself for the worst yet to come: separation from Father God. And yet… But God… He demonstrates his compassion over and over again. We have heard his compassion for others: Father forgive them. For the thief: Join me in paradise. And now, we see him look at his mother, his beloved mother, and he grieves for her. She has been with him his whole life, a part of his private earthly audience for his first 30 years, and witness to his public ministry for 3.* From birth to death. He knows what these coming days hold for her, and he knows exactly how she is feeling. As his mother, his pain is her pain. Watching him suffer may be even crueler than suffering herself.
He looks at John, his closest friend, perhaps the only disciple standing by him at his crucifixion, perhaps the disciple who knew him and loved him the best. He compassionately gives them to one another. John – this is my mother: take care of her like she was yours. Live with her. Let her make you food. Sit with her as she grieves. Mother – this is your son: I am leaving you, but he will be your companion. He will tell you his stories. You will watch him as he becomes the gentle soul who shepherds others in my example. The two people who perhaps loved Jesus most are now brought together to take care of one another for the rest of their lives.
Jesus is compassionate. From the perspective of the cross, he is looking at you. He feels the holes in his hands and feet and he thinks of the holes in your heart. He longs to fill them. As he was dying, he was thinking about the ones he loved the most. Me. And you.
*For more about this, please see Alicia Britt Chole’s book Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years…and Yours.