Perhaps because I am a mother myself, on Good Friday I am often preoccupied with thinking about Mary, Jesus’ mother.
How must she have felt as they nailed her son’s hands and feet to the cross and she watched him slowly die? How would a mother feel watching that happen to her child?
Former Toronto Star columnist Michelle Landsberg writes in her book Women and Children First, “It is at the very moment we give birth, that we first begin to truly understand and fear death. ” Mary must certainly have experienced such fear for her child right from the beginning of her motherhood journey.
She was just a young girl when she delivered her first baby after enduring the comments of those who thought it was scandalous she got pregnant before she was married. She takes her son to the temple when he is eight days old. There a man named Simeon tells her the tribulations of her child will be “ like a sword that will pierce your soul.” Later when Jesus is a toddler, Mary becomes a refugee because powerful people want to kill her son. To save him she flees to a place where the culture, language, and religion are completely foreign to her.
Jesus is twelve when he is separated from his parents in the large city of Jerusalem. Any mother who has ever lost a child in a crowd can empathize with the heart-stopping fear Mary surely experienced at that point.
Once Jesus began his ministry Mary must have lived in constant anxiety. Her thirty-year-old son does not marry or have steady employment. He wanders around with a member of a violent guerilla warfare organization. His other followers are men who have abandoned their careers and families. He travels with a tax collector and with Mary Magdalene, whose virtue is questionable. He is often seen with Joanna, a woman who has left her politically important husband, and a rich young lady named Susanna who is rumored to be squandering her fortune on Jesus.
Mary watches her son spend time with lepers, prostitutes, adulterers, dishonest government officials and those who are thought to be demon-possessed. People gossip about Jesus. Mary overhears her neighbors whisper “he has gone out of his mind.” She knows the church leaders hate her son.
Once when she goes to see him Jesus says, “Who is my mother?” as she approaches. Mary must have been hurt. Another time he is visiting at home and makes some radical and inflammatory statements in the synagogue in Nazareth . The congregation gets so mad they drive him out of the city. He narrowly escapes being pushed off a cliff. How Mary must have worried!
Yet Mary supports her son whole-heartedly. At the Cana wedding, Jesus is hesitant to perform a miracle. “Mom why should we worry about this,” he says in John 2:4. “Do whatever my son tells you”, Mary confidently assures the servants ignoring her son’s misgivings. Jesus lives up to his mother’s absolute faith in him. He turns the water into wine. Many people’s hearts are changed as a result.
And Mary demonstrates her unconditional love for her son at the end of Jesus’ life. People are making a circus of his death. They are spitting on him, jeering and gambling with his belongings. He is hanging between two common criminals. Most of his followers have fled, denying they know him, but not his mom. She is standing right at his cross. Jesus is so moved by his mother’s loyalty that one of the last things he does before he dies is ask his best friend to look after her.
The Bible makes it clear Mary never gave up on her son. Time and time again she extended her support and care. No doubt her faith in God sustained her through the most difficult trials of motherhood.
So give a thought to Mary on this Good Friday, because sadly there are still mothers everywhere in our world who are grieving for their children’s hurt and pain. Remember too that there are also mothers everywhere who are continuing to live in hope, who like Mary, never stop loving their children unconditionally.