The Rev. Jeremiah Williamson
Very few noticed. But she was there. In front of her, they chose Barabbas. In front of her, they struck her son repeatedly. In front of her, they mocked him. In front of her, they yelled, “Crucify him!” All in front of her.
What unique brand of pain must it be to witness one's child receive the death penalty? I can't imagine. Jesus, her son, was condemned for treason. But he was killed because of the transgressive love he showed. She was a parent; her son grew up to be the man she hoped he would be – loving and good. For what more could a parent hope? It is what I pray for my sons – that they are loving and good.
But it was that same love, that he displayed so freely, that brought her to the cross – the mother of the condemned. It is not an enviable position. If you think people judge you when your child acts up in public, imagine being the mother of someone who gets the death penalty. And yet there she stood. At the foot of his cross – the cross of her dying son. In front of her, he was crucified.
She was not only one love brought to the cross. There was also, John tells us, the disciple whom Jesus loved. He was there too. In this story, not a person but a people. The character through whom we, the Church, those who have come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, enter into the story of Jesus.
They met at the cross; they came together in the gaze of Jesus. And this is what Jesus does from the cross: Jesus loves. Of course he does. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son.' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother.”
And a new family is formed. A family formed at the foot of the cross. Created by the love of the Christ who promises to never leave us alone. From the cross Jesus gave us each other.
His love earned him his cross, a cross that was meant to end the movement. But not even a cross, not even death, could overcome that love. What was meant to end a movement, marked the beginning of something even more amazing – a family. From his cross, Jesus makes a new community – a community held together by love and sacrifice, watered by the blood of martyrs, sustained by the blood of our Christ. We're a community that comes together in the shadow of our crucified Messiah.
It was for this family that Jesus was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross. And now together we stand, the family of the condemned. The ones who dare bear the name of the crucified one. The ones who stay at his cross. We are inheritors of the precious gift Jesus gave with his dying breath – a gift to those of us who still gather at the foot of his cross. Brothers and sisters, behold, your gift, behold, your family.