Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Cross Words 3 - Comfort (John 19: 25-27)

As we’ve been adapting to the new normal of the current social distancing and self-isolation restrictions, perhaps one of the most difficult aspects has been in relation to death and bereavement. To deal with a relative’s death at any time is difficult, but even more so in these days. So at present, if a relative is nearing the end of their life in hospital, then visiting is either strictly limited or else prohibited. Wakes aren’t possible at present, nor funeral services in church, with just a very small, socially-distant graveside service.

As the Lord Jesus hung on the cross, most of his closest followers had self-isolated. One of the twelve had betrayed him, and was no more. Another had denied knowing him. And the rest had abandoned him. All except one - the disciple whom Jesus loved - John.

And in his gospel, John tells us who else was standing near the cross. Most of the men had gone, but it was the women who were still present, watching as Jesus suffered and died. Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene.

The women who were last at the crucifixion and burial would be the first to witness the resurrection on the morning of the third day. But focus in on one of the women, the first mentioned, the mother of Jesus.

Can you imagine the grief Mary is experiencing? In the gospels, the last we hear of Joseph is in Luke 2, on the visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old. By the time of Jesus’ public ministry, we imagine Joseph had already died. And now, Mary stands at the foot of the cross, watching as her firstborn dies.

To lose a child at any time is traumatic. To see him suffer in such a way, her precious, innocent son, in so great an injustice must have been devastating. As Mary stands near the cross, those words spoken to her by Simeon so many years before were now coming to pass:

‘This child (Jesus) is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ (Lk 2:34-35)

As Mary approaches the death of her son; as she plunges into the depths of grief and sorrow; as her soul is pierced it is Jesus who speaks this word of comfort from the cross. He says to her. ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to John, ‘Here is your mother.’

Even in his final moments, Jesus is fulfilling God’s law, as he honours his mother and provides for her in so many ways. John takes her into his home, to provide for her material needs, the food that she needs to survive in the absence of any other means of income. But more than that, she is provided with fellowship, as she and John go through this time of darkness together.

Jesus, who wept at the grave of Lazarus his friend (even though he was about to raise him to life) knows what we’re going through. He is able to sympathise with our experience of grief, and gives us his grace in our time of need. That grace comes through other believers, through practical helps, and through his own presence with us.

How might the Lord be directing you to help others who are in need today? Could you be present in their grief through a phonecall, or a text, or by leaving something at the door in an appropriate and safe way? Could you be the means of providing the Lord’s comfort to those who mourn?

Or perhaps today you are grieving. Look for the ways in which Christ is showing his kindness to you through his disciples. And remember, in the words of that most loved of the Psalms, ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ (Ps 23:4)

The third cross word is a word of comfort.

Jesus says: Dear woman, here is your son. Here is your mother.

Let us pray. Heavenly Father, you are the Father of compassion, and the God of all comfort; May we know your comfort in these days, and may we be the means of comforting others, as your word takes root in our hearts and bears fruit in our lives. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment