A Mother’s Heart: A Story of Mary at the Cross
“Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother…” John 19:25
Mary stood there watching her son, her firstborn, slowly dying on a cross. Jesus was barely recognizable after the torture He endured at the hands of the Romans. But a mother knows her child. She had been His mother for 33 years.
How quickly time passed from when she first held Him in her arms. She stared at her son hanging there, yet not really seeing. She could only think of what a gift God gave her. “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. -The Lord God will give Him the throne of His Father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His Kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33). She remembered her response. “I am the Lord’s servant…May your word to me be fulfilled”. Luke 1:38.
With family and her husband by her side, she awaited the birth of her child, her son. What a long journey it was to Bethlehem with Joseph. She remembered how tired she was and so thankful to have a place, any place, to rest her weary body. And then the time came. Alone with Joseph, in a stable, she gave birth to her son. She remembered that beautiful moment as if it were just yesterday.
As she stared at her son on the cross, tears streaming down her face, she remembered…shepherds came and told her what the angels told them about her son. “Do not be afraid. I bring you Good News that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11. A Savior! Mary’s son is the Messiah they had waited for. Then off they went to tell everyone they could tell. What a blessing that was to be treasured and remembered.
Mary thought about the days and weeks that followed her son’s birth. Holding Him gently in her arms and nursing Him at her breast. Oh, how helpless she was feeling now…so wanting to hold Him in her arms one more time.
Kings came to worship Him as a baby. Mary was holding Him as they bowed down before Him and gave Him gifts. How did her son go from being worshipped to crucified? He had told her that soon He would be giving the ultimate gift, the gift of salvation and everlasting life.
Evil intent against her child was evident early on as warned by the angel of the Lord to Joseph. In the middle of the night she had wrapped up her baby and fled in order to save Him from harm. She was helpless now. She could do nothing to save Him. She could only watch from afar as He hung there weak and dying.
As part of their customs, Mary recalled going with Joseph to Jerusalem to bring Jesus to be consecrated and to offer a sacrifice. Coming back every year they returned to Jerusalem for Passover. Mary smiles as she recalls how scared she was that time when Jesus was twelve and decided to not come home with them when they left. 3 days it took to find Him. He was in the temple of all places! He told us we should have known that’s where He would be…”in His Father’s house”. He was right. He may have been Mary’s child, but ultimately, she knew He is the Son of God.
Too fast her little boy grew up. In Nazareth, Mary raised her family, and as she sat there at the cross with some of her family, she is proud of who her boy was as He was growing up. “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:51-52
Not too much longer now. She sees His head slumped forward. A few hours before, she heard the hammering of the nails into His hands and feet. Every pounding of the nail pierced her heart. Her body flinching. This was the death for criminals and evil people. Why was her son being treated so cruelly? Hammer and nails were His tools when He was a carpenter. Now they were the tools for His death.
Three years earlier, she said goodbye to her son as He left home. Not to take a wife and start His own home, as His brothers and sisters would be doing. Mary had heard that He was preaching in the synagogues, with some controversy. “But he said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” Luke 4:43. Mary was relieved to know He was not alone. Those same men who were with Him all 3 years were known by her. Good men, well…all but one. John was near her now, along with others her son met along His journeys.
Mary looked around, ignoring those who were yelling obscenities and spitting on her son, to see so many followers. People who believed in what her son shared with them about eternal life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. People He had healed or cast out demons. People who He had shown love and respect. His teaching touched so many as He shared the truth about God. He had said “follow me” and they did. As she looked into their faces, there was so much love, yet sadness and fear. A few were angry, very angry that this could happen to Jesus.
They shared with Mary that her son told them that this would happen, but they didn’t really understand. “And He said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Luke 9:22. She didn’t want to understand. She just wanted her son back. Yet, she knew He came to do just as He said.
“Hasn’t He suffered enough,” she whispered a prayer. “God, please end His suffering soon.” She waited with others. She heard in the distance her son speaking…no He was praying…for God to forgive the two men being crucified next to Him. He was saying more to one of the two, and such peace came over the man’s face. Mary knew in her heart that man was now a believer.
Mary looked into the eyes of her son and He was looking at her. She was startled at first that He was actually looking at her. Oh the love in their eyes for each other was just what Mary needed. Then He spoke to her. ”Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” John 19:35. She looked at John and he nodded his head “yes”, as if to confirm she would be taken care of by him.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Mark 15:33. Mary tried to get another look at her son, but someone was trying to hold something up to His mouth for a drink. Then it was too late to say anything more to Him. He cried out, “It is finished” and breathed His last breath. “Noooooo” cried Mary. She just wanted a little more time. Never had she felt anything so painful as the crushing feeling in her chest, as she rocked back and forth trying to find comfort. Nothing could comfort a mother’s loss of a child. Nothing.
The rumbling began immediately and got bigger and bigger. Not only had it been dark for 3 hours, but now an earthquake. What was going on? Despite the ground shaking, fear and noise, Mary heard someone near her say, “Surely He was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54. Mary looked around for who said those words so she could tell him, “Yes! He was my son for a time, but He was the Son of God.”
Mary stared back at her son. He was gone was all she could think. He was gone. Not willing to leave yet she watched a soldier approach Her son. What more are they going to do to Him?! A cry of protest waiting to come out, but she knew that would only create problems for her and the others. She watched in horror as the spear was thrust into His side. Water and blood poured out. The soldier walked away satisfied Jesus was dead. Mary could have told the soldier that. Her heart was empty. She knew He was gone.
As the crowd began to disperse, Mary knew it was time to go too. She struggled to leave Him and so hard to stay and see His lifeless body. How long before the Romans would take Him down? She knew it could be days. So she walked away knowing this was the last time she would see Him.
Mary knew her son and she had faith in her God. Everything Jesus taught had come true just as He said. Mary grieved the loss of her son, but could it be true that He would rise again in 3 days? Oh, for that to be true. Would she really get to see Him again?
Mary was cared for, ate a little and found solace in sleep. Another day passed and then another. It was easier to just be quiet in her thoughts and in her memories. Maybe the pain will go away. Mary doubted it.
Sounds came from outside. She noticed some of the disciples she’d seen with her son and how excited they were. What could be exciting during this time of grief, Mary thought. Curiosity got her to her feet. Just as she was coming out of her room, someone ran to get her. “He’s alive, Mary. He’s alive.”
Mary couldn’t wrap her thoughts around what she was hearing. “Who’s alive? My son?”
“Yes, Mary. Jesus is alive. He came to see some disciples.” Mary had to sit down. She had prayed last night for the miracle like she’d heard of when her son brought Lazarus back to life. But she knew in her heart this was different. He had told them that He would rise from the dead and then go to sit at the right hand of God.
Mary smiled for the first time since her son was taken by the guards. He was alive. Everything came to pass just as He said. He is ALIVE!!
Not only did Jesus appear to the disciples, Mary heard of many people who her son came to. She so wished she was among those people, especially the two who had been walking with Him on the road. She heard that they had a meal with Him and talked to Him about all that had been happening. One more meal with her son would have been wonderful.
Mary had also heard about the lies being spread by the guards that the disciples had taken Him out of the tomb while they slept. And people were believing those lies and telling others. She had witnessed the Jews fearing Her son and His message for years. Fear kept them from believing that He really was the Messiah. Fear of losing their power. Now fear and anger kept them from admitting the truth that her son said He was the Son of God and would rise again in 3 days. That is what happened! Why were they so afraid to believe?
The disciples were the last to see Him she was told. He ascended in to heaven right in front of them…just as He said He would. What a wonderful sight that must have been. He had blessed them and left them with instructions. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” John 28:18-20.
He was really gone. Mary closed her eyes and said a prayer, “Thank you God for choosing me to be His mother.” Mary remembered her encounter with the angel. “For no word from God will ever fail.” Luke 1:37. She treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
By Alice Pongracz
Christian Author and Speaker
Author, In the Shadow of His Wings