Monday, February 16, 2015

Part 3- What are the Seven cries of the cross?

1.Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do
2.6th hour- Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
3.Woman, behold thy son! , Behold thy mother!
4.9th hour- My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
5.I thirst
6.It is finished
7.Into thy hands I commit my Spirit

Woman, behold thy son! , Behold thy mother!

In one of the most touching cries of all seven cries from the cross, Jesus, without explanation, gives his mother’s care over to his best friend. John, perhaps the only witness of the scene of the cross, did not write his gospel until last of all, and it is not strange that no other gospel remembers this cry. Matthew may have been made on the strength of what was already written in Mark, and in any case, Luke, as the meticulous physician, does the best job of a non-witness to the cries on the cross, equaling the number of cries given to that of John. But it is not until John, writing his gospel in his old age, recalls so vividly this cry of his best friend. Indeed John seems to recall this cry with great vividness, but that is not so strange to me. An aside to his mother and best friend might well be expected. But the unasked question is strange. Why were the brothers of Jesus not given charge of their mother?

I think it may suggest a temporary split in the family over the very person of Jesus. There is not enough evidence to do more than just suggest that this might be a possibility, and on this side of heaven, we are not to know. But I will try to submit what we do know, and discuss its relevancy. We know that there is a time when the brothers of Jesus and his mother are seeking to find him, but Jesus not only seems to avoid them, but to almost insult them. Matthew (13:47 NIV) tells us that “Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” In verse 48, Jesus replies with a question asking who is my mother and who are my brothers, hardly a respectful question, and the scripture is blank about them ever meeting with Jesus. Did they meet? Or was there a reason, unstated in the gospels, for Jesus to be avoiding them at the time?

What was going on in the life of Jesus at the time? We know from the gospels that early on in the ministry of Jesus he gathered opposition to his teaching. There were men who were the religious leaders who correctly saw him as a challenge to their leadership. The seven woes of the Pharisees are a famous indictment of this leadership, but I think they probably did not have to wait for Jesus to utter the seven woes to know an enemy. I am reaching beyond the text here, but what if those leaders, or someone influential who knew them, went to the family of Jesus and explained the problem?
I can quite imagine the conversation going something like this:

Leader: Well, you know this Jesus of yours is creating a great disturbance.
Family: Yes, we can see that he is attracting great crowds wherever he goes.
Leader: He is not very respectful of our venerated religious leaders either.
Family: No, there are times when he seems to insult them.
Leader: You know we are subject to Rome, but our own leaders are quite upset, and possibly may be forced to harm Jesus, especially if all these crowds keep up. The Romans, who knows what they will do? And it is not doing our nation any good right now.
Family: We understand that.
Leader: It may come to a place where the leaders will be forced to action. And then Rome may get involved. It is better for all of us if this problem would just go away.
Family: We understand. We will try to get Jesus to pull back for a while, and perhaps we will find a place to keep him quiet.
Leader: If you are going to do anything, I suggest sooner is better than later.

Again, I do not know that such a conversation, similar or varied, ever took place, but if it did, would that not explain the behavior of his brothers and his mother? His mother, of course, had divine intervention that this child was of God, and she knew that, but I would point out that mothers who have their children’s well-being threatened might do almost anything. His brothers had only whatever family tradition had given them, and apparently it was not enough. What if his family (Joseph, being absent is probably deceased) had decided to come and put him away? I can well imagine his skeptical brothers wanting to do the right thing for their mother’s peace, for the community, and because of political pressure. They may have thought that Jesus had lost it, and that it was their duty to save him by putting him away. By the time of the cross, his mother is there weeping at the foot of the cross, and perhaps wishing that she and his brothers had managed to put him away someplace safe. She was not to have understanding of what was happening until Sunday morning, when the tomb was found vacant. Perhaps she was the first to have faith in her family in the resurrected Lord.

But what of her brothers? I am not sure about Jude, for we are not told, but with his short epistle we have evidence that somewhere sometime he came to belief. But again, perhaps not at first. We are told something about James that stands out, and in Acts 15:7 and 8, Paul tells us that, “After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” Why is James singled out here? Could it be that our Lord makes a special appearance that his own brother might believe? That James does believe is beyond dispute, and he becomes a renowned leader of the early church, but I do wonder about all the things that might have gone into the making of his belief. By the time of the beginning of Acts, both the mother of Jesus and his brothers are mentioned, and evidently by Pentecost they had all come to faith.

But enough speculation, for that is all that it is, and we need to deal with the scriptures we do have, not the ones that I may imagine. We know that Jesus gave his treasured mother to his treasured friend, both of whom watched him die, not understanding at all what was happening. Interestingly, this cry includes the last recorded words of Jesus to his mother. It is not known whether the risen Jesus ever spoke to his mother. I would assume that John faithfully told her all she needed to know, but the scripture is mostly silent on the mother of Jesus after this point.

I cannot help think that with the sovereignty of God that he may have been planning the best for his mother. John, scripture accords us, was the first to realize what the empty tomb meant, and first believed in the risen Lord. Luke does not tell us this part, but Luke does record Peter’s running to see the empty tomb. He leaves out the fact that John is also running to the tomb, and outran Peter to the tomb, stopping and looking at the grave clothes that were there. Peter charged ahead of him to the tomb itself and looked in first. John follows afterward, and records of himself (John 20:8) that he saw the tomb and believed.

I do further wonder at the Mariolatry that has been so prevalent throughout our church age, and perhaps that is why God saw fit to give no more information on the mother of God. Many sects have caused much grief to themselves through worship of Mary. As the mother of God, Mary should have the highest accord and honor, but all worship should be saved only for God himself. But is it not a marvel, that in this last of seven cries, Jesus takes care of his mother? And does anyone doubt that both Mary and John are presently before our Lord? Our God is good!

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