“And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home”John 19: 25-27.
Friends, Jesus died at the hands of betrayal, and at his feet were his beloved – his mother, his aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John –the disciple he loved — was also there. They were all there at the foot of the cross – sending love up to him even as he was laid bare and seemed helpless.
As they stood there holding on to each other for support, they were beholding Jesus and beholding to Jesus who had brought them together to this moment. He was a loving son, a nephew, a teacher, and a friend. Yet, here he was bloodied and beaten, stretched out on a wooden cross – a crown of thorns on his head and nails driven into his hand and feet.
Seeing his loved ones bearing witness to this terrible situation at the foot of the cross, Jesus sought to address his mother, offering her grace, hope, and something to live for, and perhaps an opportunity to be looked after – “Woman, behold your son” – “here is your son”:
But what does this place at the foot of the cross represent? It is where his beloved ones positioned themselves at his crucifixion. It is their vantage point. From that place, they were able to see what was happening – they could clearly witness the scene — Jesus, nailed to the cross; his betrayers; the crucified men on either side of him; and the gathering crowds. They could see each other, bereft and in grief.
There are many ways to see the cross, depending on where we stand, what positions we take, what and who we allow ourselves to see, and who we are in moments like this. For some, the cross is a source of comfort and hope; for others it is a death-dealing tool of oppression and betrayed trust; for others, it is also an aesthetic symbol to be worn, and still for others it is a tool of superstition. It is of a dual complexity – representing beauty and brutality; death and transition from death to everlasting life; despair and hope.
For the people who loved Jesus – his family and his friends, the cross must have been a source of immense pain – a pain accompanied by bewilderment. As they stood there, helpless and wanting to hold and comfort him, all they could do was what he asked of his mother – behold him.
So, for what seemed like hours, they just stood there beholding Jesus with their eyes, hearts, minds, and their whole beings, leaning into each other for comfort and sending comfort to him.
When a moment later Jesus turned to John and said “Behold, your mother.” “Here is your mother”. he was indicating both his family and friends were now part of a familial relationship and community that would look out for each other.
Jesus’ last wish was for us all, whatever the cross means to each of us — to behold one another; to love each other as broken as we all are, as traumatised and bewildered as we might be by the beauty, brutality and complexity of life and the cross. We can help each other through.
His last wish was for us to behold him. For here he is, even in his brokenness, pain and anguish, he beholds us and calls us into relationship with him, whosoever we are, because of and in spite of the cross ~ Amen.