Perhaps only a parent can fully comprehend and appreciate what Mary would have been going through as she stood by the cross of her Son. However, anyone who has meaningful relationships with family and friends can relate in some way to the love that is seen in that passage. And the first evidence of her love is that Mary bears the shame.
Love bears the shame
To anyone reading this story in the Ancient near East, in that culture of honor and shame, the fact that Mary was standing by the cross at all would have been shocking. In a culture where your family’s reputation meant almost everything, any family member of a convicted criminal sentenced to crucifixion would have made sure he or she was miles away from the public eye. Yet, there is Mary standing in public by the cross. Why? Because love bears the shame. It bears the reproach of the ones that you love. Yet, this was more than a love for a son; this was also a believer’s love for her Savior. So, it begs the question, do Christians today have a love for Jesus that will bear his shame? Are the lives of believers being shaped by a love for Jesus or more by a fear of man? A real love for Jesus will lead you to stand by the Jesus of the cross. Love bears the shame.
Love bears the pain
Surely as Mary neared the cross, she must have remembered Simeon’s prophecy when she was a young mother carrying Jesus in her arms. In Luke 2:35, Mary was told that a sword would pierce her soul. Simply put, the salvation that her Son would bring the world would come at the expense of her pain as his mother. But love bears the pain. One writer put it this way: “The brow that Mary once kissed while she put him to bed was now marred by a crown of thorns. His tiny hands and feet that she guided to eat and learn to walk were now nailed to a cross. The back that she would rub to console him, was now torn, bruised and beaten.” She could have avoided the pain of being there, but Mary was there. She was present in the pain. True Christian love seeks to ease the pain of others even at the cost of your own pain. Love bears the pain. You also see love from the perspective of Jesus.
The perspective of Jesus
In his most dreadful hour of pain, when it would have been so easy for Jesus to have forgotten others and to focus on himself, he thought and cared for others. In the approximate six hours that Jesus was on the cross, only seven sayings of his were recorded. And those sayings are filled with deep concern and care for others.
Love cares for others
Looking up, Jesus cared for his enemies and prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Looking over, Jesus cared for his fellow sufferer by telling the believing thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And then looking out, Jesus cared for his family and friends, saying “Woman, behold your son.” Jesus cared that his mother’s relational and physical needs were met, so he pointed her to the Apostle John who would take care of her. Love moves you to care for others.
Love provides for others.
Jesus makes provision for his mother, but not just emotionally and physically, he was also providing for her spiritually. By asking his Mother to view the disciple John as her son, Jesus was inviting her to see him there on the cross for who he is truly is — not essentially her son but rather her Savior. There at the cross the relationship was forever changing. Their earthly relationship was forever folding into the more holy and heavenly relationship between a believer and her Savior. Author Colin Smith said it this way: “In this moment Jesus wanted her to see that although she was losing an irreplaceable son, what she was gaining was an incomparable Savior.” Her loss was turning into her gain, as Jesus was providing eternal life for all who believe in him. If pictures are worth a thousand words, then this picture of love speaks volumes. This picture teaches everyone what it truly means to love others in a way that costs us something, in a tangible way of tenderness, care and provision.
Jeremy McKeen is the Lead Pastor of Truth Point Church (PCA) in West Palm Beach. He graduated Florida Southern College with degrees in Philosophy and Communications, and from Knox Theological Seminary with his Masters of Divinity in Christianity and Culture.