Those who followed Jesus were steadily diminishing in number.
It seemed the closer Jesus came to the moment for which He had abandoned heaven, the more abandoned He became. John takes the roll for us of those still following as Jesus, suspended between two thieves, suffered for all of us: His mother and her sister, another Mary whose son was a man named Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus had called twelve men to follow Him and lost one of them in the process; now only John remained to the end. If other followers of Christ were present, they were mixed safely into the Golgotha crowd undetectable by John or the leaders or the other disciples.
The Mother of Our Lord
Jesus had brothers and sisters at home back in Nazareth. It is likely the inclusion of such a brother as Jesus must have been too much for them. We know only that two of His half-brothers came to follow Him after the resurrection and the Day of Pentecost. James and Jude became pastors and contributors to the New Testament writings. But they were absent that day, abandoning, not only their brother, but the mother they shared.
From the cross Jesus saw His mother with none of her other children to help her and He saw His friend, John, beside her. He assigned the care of His mother to His friend.
“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by,
He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple,
“Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”
To the end, Jesus cared for His own. From other sources we know He also prayed to the Father, for that bond of companionship was also breaking.
There were no legions of angels on a mission of rescue. There was no softening of the pain by chemical means. This was raw, human agony in both the physical and spiritual realms. If heaven was weeping, Jesus heard it. If hell was celebrating, Jesus heard that, as well. It is certain He heard the triumphant crowd gathered there in collective abuse at the Place of the Skull. In a brief, final moment of incarnation, He cried out:
Soldiers were ready for this common request from the crucified. One last cruel punishment, a jar of old, ruined wine, was among their provisions. Instead of fresh water, they filled a sponge with the sour wine, stabbed it with a spear, and lifted it to Jesus’ mouth. When this final insult was taken, Jesus painfully raised Himself against the biting nails to cry,
“It is finished!”
And He died.
What, exactly was finished? An Old Covenant of promised was finished, replaced by a New Covenant of Power written in the blood Jesus shed that day. “A new and living way” way was finished that day providing access for a sin-laden humanity to reach a righteous God.
He was alone as no one has ever been alone. He was abandoned as no one has ever been abandoned. He died as no one has ever died. Heaven wept. Hell rejoiced. Earth was oblivious except for a hostile mob, a few remaining followers, and a mother whose heart was finally pierced by the sword of old Simeon’s prophecy.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Hebrews 10:19-24 NKJV
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Lord Jesus, You said that if You were to be lifted up, all would be drawn to You. This was said indicating the death You would die on the cross. Indeed, You were lifted up and over the centuries people from every nation and every tribe and every tongue where Your story has been told have been drawn to You. Satan’s plot to end Your influence has instead spread Your story around this world. Thank You that someone told Your story to someone who then told it to another and on and on through these 2000 years until someone told my Mother who told it to me. Now my life must be spent in lifting You up so that all people may know of You through my life. Make it so, Lord. Make it so. Amen.
O, Sacred Head Now Wounded
Words: Bernard of Clairvaux; Music: Hans Leo Hassler
1. O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.
2. What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
3. What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever! And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for Thee.
4. Be near when I am dying, O show Thy cross to me!
And, for my succor flying, come, Lord, to set me free.
These eyes, new faith receiving, from Thee shall never move;
For he who dies believing dies safely in Thy love.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved