During Advent, our sermon series is focused on the book, Not a Silent Night by Adam Hamilton. We are invited to understand Christmas through Mary’s eyes as we see Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension and to ponder the meaning of Jesus’ birth. So we read the text in Acts that the disciples and Mary too were waiting to receive the Holy Spirit and to be sent out to the world to fulfill what Jesus had begun. We were told to prepare for Christmas by sharing the Light of Christ in us with those near to us as Mary did for the rest of her life remembering her son and understanding the mission that God has given to her. That was how Mary celebrated Christmas.
Last week we looked at Mary, around 60 years old and today we go back 15 years before Mary died, the day when she watched her son die. It was the day we now call Good Friday. The Gospels do not tell us where Mary was that night, but we know she was in Jerusalem. If Jesus were your son and you learned he had been arrested, where would you be? So, we can imagine that Mary followed and stood outside the home of the high priest as her son was on trial. She walked with the crowd when they led Jesus to the palace of Pontious Pilate. The Jewish leaders found Him guilty of claiming to be God. They wanted Him to be put to death, but only the Romans could do that. So they took Him to Pilate, the Roman prelate. She was in the crowd when Pilate came out and said he found Jesus innocent. Her heart must be excited! But then he asked what they wanted him to do with Jesus, and she heard the crowd yell “Crucify Him!” Then I’m sure she began to shake. Pilate then asked, “Why?” But the crowd kept shouting, “Crucify Him!” So, Pilate sent Jesus to be tortured, then they put a crown of thorns on His head, mocked Him as a king. Mary sees Him when He is brought out again. He looks like a mess. Pilate said that he had Jesus punished, so he was going to let Him go. Again, Mary’s heart must begin to be hopeful. But the crowd all around her screams again, “Crucify Him!” Pilate finally gives the order to crucify Him. Jesus is innocent, but Pilate wants to please the crowd. Mary’s heart breaks. There’s nothing she can do. All she can do is again follow the crowd as her son, Jesus struggles to carry the cross.
Then Mary watched them crucify Him. They offered Him some wine mixed with myrrh in an attempt to help numb the pain. And as they put nails through His hands and feet, she felt a piercing through her heart. For six hours He hung there. And Mary was probably close to Him.
John tells us that Mary stood “near the cross of Jesus” (John 19:25), watching and weeping. We often picture Jesus on a cross high above the crowds, but the Romans typically crucified their victims only 2-3 feet off the ground. This means Mary would have been able to reach Jesus. Their eyes could meet, and Jesus could speak to her.
In his final words he spoke on the cross to John to take care of Mary. Mary stood there for hours, watching helplessly.
Can we imagine the pain she was feeling, the sorrow and the overwhelming grief? And what was Mary thinking about during those hours?