Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Mother's Day Communion Meditation

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said,

“They divided my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.”

So this is what the soldiers did.

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 his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that point on, this disciple took her into his home (John 19:23-27).

Mary proudly holds her newborn baby boy as she and her husband Joseph enter the temple court in Jerusalem. Only forty days ago she gave birth to Jesus. Today they have made the short trip from Bethlehem to dedicate her firstborn son to the Lord. As they make their way through the crowd, an elderly man spots them. His name is Simeon. God has revealed to him that he will not die until he sees the Messiah. That day has come.

To Mary’s surprise, Simeon takes her baby in his arms and praises God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

The old man’s words amaze Mary and Joseph. But Simeon is not finished. He looks at the boy’s mother and says, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed” (vv. 34-35a).

Then Simeon says something Mary will never forget. “And a sword will pierce your very heart” (v. 35b).

Fast forward 33 years.

Now Mary understands Simeon’s prophecy. The little baby that she had once held in her arms is now hanging on a Roman cross. And her heart is pierced.

The sign above His head reads, “This is Jesus of Nazareth.” But Mary weeps as she thinks, “This is my Son.”

She remembers kissing her boy’s brow as she put Him to bed. Now that brow is marred by a crown of thorns. She remembers guiding his tiny hands and feet as He learned to walk. Now those hands and feet are nailed to a cross. She remembers rubbing His back to console her crying Son. Now that back is bloodied and beaten.

As Mary surveys the heartbreaking scene, her mind goes back to a happier visit to Jerusalem. It was 22 years ago. Jesus was twelve. It was his first time Mary and Joseph had taken Jesus on their pilgrimage from Nazareth to observe the Passover. She recalls how excited her Son was to see the temple. But most of all, she remembers the journey home. Jesus was missing. In a panic, she and Joseph rushed back to Jerusalem. They finally found Him in the temple. “Son,” Mary scolded Him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”

Jesus replied, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Mary didn’t understand what He meant. But as the years passed by, she began to realize that His life would be shaped by His Father’s will, not His mother’s dreams. (See Luke 2:41-50.)

Now as Mary stands beside her Son’s cross, she wonders if Jesus is now finishing the final piece of His Father’s business. But still, her heart is pierced.

She had experienced the sorrow of losing Him for just three days. Now she is losing Him to death.

In John 19, there may be a connection between the seamless garment and Jesus' words to Mary from the cross. It's possible that this garment had been made by Mary, sewn with a mother’s love. And now as the Roman soldiers gamble for this garment, Jesus’ eyes turn to Mary.

Even as Jesus was dying, He didn’t stop thinking of others--especially His mother.

At the time of Jesus’ death, Mary was probably between 45 and 50 years old. And since we never read of Joseph after the visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve, it seems that Mary was a widow.

As the oldest son, Jesus made sure His mother would be cared for after His death. He looked down from the cross and saw Mary and John (“the disciple whom he loved”). He spoke first to Mary. “Mother, I’m leaving you now and I’m not going to be able to take care of you after I’m gone. Mother, John will now be your son. He will take my place.” Then Jesus addressed John. “John, My mother will now be your mother. Take care of her. Provide for her as I would if I were still alive.”

In Jesus’ words to Mary and John we learn an important lesson: a person should never stop honoring his mother.

As Christians, we must also remember that we form a spiritual family. Jesus points to each of His followers here today and says to us, “Here is your son. Here is your mother. Here is your father. Here is your brother. Here is your sister. Here is your child.” We are to love one another as Christ has loved us.