Good Friday Tre Ore Service
Racine Lutheran High School
April 6, 2012
“How Could Jesus Find Time to Think About His Mother?”
The wages of sin is death. And death is a bitter paycheck. All the more bitter for those you know and love, especially your family. While we don't cheer at the death of an acquaintance or associate, we are struck deeply at the death of a loved one. Not only when it happens, but as we see it coming. At the diagnosis. Through the course of the disease. Even at the deathbed.
That's where Mary and John stand, now. At the deathbed, or the death-cross of their loved one. And a bitter death it is. No one could say, “well at least he died peacefully” or “thank God he didn't have to suffer much.” On that dark day it was hard to find any silver lining in this cloud of death. Creation, too, witnessed in agony at the impending death of its creator. Even the sun itself mourned and dressed in black. But his mother, Mary, would perhaps feel it most deeply. A sword would pierce her soul.
Sin and death are bitter, and ugly. The lenten hymn says it well, “ye who think of sin but lightly, nor suppose the error great, here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate”. That's your sin that made him suffer so. It's your guilt and shame he bears. And mine. And John's too. And Mary's. The whole world's. And it is ugly and bitter and wretched.
Well, how could Jesus find that time to think about his mother? Here at the cross, everything seems to matter more. Like most people, his last words are some of his most important. But a cross wasn't a place for long conversations. Each word was a struggle. Every breath a painful labor. So Jesus chooses his words carefully. There is intent and meaning in them all.
And this is more than just a bitter farewell of a loving son to his mother. It's more than just showing that Jesus cares about his family. To be sure, Mary, a widow, would be more vulnerable now without Jesus to care for her. So on one level, Jesus si simply providing for her needs. John, you take care of her now.
While it seems Jesus did have other brothers and sisters to care for Mary, it also appears none of them believed in him like his mother did. But Mary had faith in her son. In John's Gospel, she appears only twice. Here, at the foot of the cross, and earlier at a happier occasion, a wedding, in Cana. At Jesus' first miracle, it was Mary who placed faith in her son saying, “do whatever he tells you”. And they did. And Jesus saved the day, turning water in to wine and the wedding feast could go on.
Here at the cross, there is much more going on than meets the eye. Here Jesus is doing more than just suffering and dying. He is sacrificing himself, the lamb of God, for the sins of the wortld. He is laying down his life, of his own accord. He is the true Son of God, forsaken by his Father. He is making all things new. And... he is establishing his church.
There's a hint of it in the relationship of loving care that he establishes between beloved mother Mary and beloved disciple, John. Love one another as I have loved you, he might have said to them. This is how all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. And we love, of course, because he first loved us. And he loves us most perfectly in his death on this day.
But there's more. He is the true bridegroom, and we are his bride, the church. Remember how marriage is established according to Scripture? “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother.... and is united to his wife.” Yes, Jesus is leaving his mother even as he is united to his bride, the church.
Very soon Jesus would be dead. A sword would pierce Mary's heart. And a spear would pierce his side. Blood and water will flow forth. The Gospel of John is full of these sacramental notes, pointing us again to Baptism and Communion. From Jesus' side flow blood and water – from Jesus' sacrifice flow Holy Baptism and his Holy Supper. And these mysteries and promise, these holy things, these sacraments – establish his church. Just like Eve was taken from the side of Adam, so the bride of Christ is born from his side, at the cross. And just as Adam said of his bride, “this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”, so too are we, the church, the body of Christ – and he is our blessed head.
Mary knew from Jesus' infancy, even before, that this Son of hers was also the Son of the Most High. She knew from Simeon, that a sword would pierce her own soul – and now, a mother's worst nightmare, watching her son suffer and die.
But she also once sang at his conception,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Yes, Mary is blessed. John is blessed. The whole Christian Church, the bride of Christ, is blessed. You are blessed. For God our Savior has done great things for you. And the greatest was on this day when he died your death, paid your price, and made you his forever.
May his suffering and dying love be not bitter to you, but a blessing. And may you show that same love your your mother, father, sister, brother, friend and neighbor, even your enemy... and especially to your family in Christ. For in Christ we are untied with each other and with our Bridegroom forever. Amen.