It’s Good Friday. My sons, husband and I are watching The Passion of the Christ. As I watch Mary follow her son on his way to Golgotha, I wonder what was in her mind. Surely she knew that her son was The Son of God, that He was fulfilling the purpose for which He had been born. (In the film, as Jesus is being beaten by Pilate’s men, Mary says, “My son, when, where, how will you deliver yourself from this?” I may have the words slightly wrong, but that is close.) Still, how horrible it must have been for her to watch that. It had to have broken her heart to not only see each lash He was given but to hear the hatred and disgust those in the crowd–the same people who had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem a few days before, were not hurling at Him. Did she ever question her part in God’s plan? As her son was tortured and her heart was breaking, did Mary ever regret having agreed to become the mother of Jesus?
This is not the first time I’ve wondered about that. A few years back, I wrote a little something from Mary’s perspective, examining just those questions. I’d like to share that with you tonight. Here is how I think Mary would have looked on her life after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I didn’t know what I was agreeing to. That’s how it often works with God. He asks you to do something and you choose to say yes or no. He always gives you that option—that’s the wonderful part. He’s not going to force you to do something you are really not comfortable with. Of course, if you say no, there’s no guarantee He will ask you to do something else. The bad part is that He doesn’t always explain exactly what is going to happen.
That’s how it happened with me. I had a general idea of how this was going to work. Scripture told us what to expect.
But I didn’t have a clue just what would be involved. All I knew is that God was asking me to do something special. He could have chosen someone prettier or smarter or older. But He chose me. I didn’t understand why at the time and I can’t say I fully understand why now. But He asked.
All my life, I had wanted to do something for God. I hoped that He would find some way to use me. I just never dreamed it would be in such a big way.
I still remember that day so clearly. Or should I say that night. I had prayed before bed as usual. My friends thought I was too old to keep praying like that. They reminded me that my father had found a good husband for me. So what if we still needed to wait a while before the wedding? My friends said I should “stop bothering God and just be happy as Joseph’s wife.”
I wasn’t unhappy at the thought of being his wife. Joseph was a good man, a godly man. And he was always such a hard worker. He was a carpenter, which meant we would probably never be rich. I didn’t mind. He would be a good husband and I would work hard to be a good wife. Together, we would be good parents. Truly, I could be content with that. But if God wanted me for something more, I wanted Him to know that I was willing.
I can’t tell you how many times my friends said I was wasting my time. “God never uses women,” they said. I reminded them of Deborah, of Ruth, and of Queen Esther. Maybe there were more stories about the men, but God could use a woman, too. If she was willing to be used.
It was an ordinary night. I kissed my father, helped my mother put the younger children down, and then headed to bed. But the light that woke me was anything but ordinary.
It was so bright. I had to shield my eyes. I was able to make out the outline of a tall man standing there. How had he gotten into my home? I was scared.
And then he spoke. “Greetings!” he said. “The Lord has blessed you and is with you.”
He said that I shouldn’t be scared, and for some reason I wasn’t anymore. Instead, I was excited. My prayers had been heard. God had a place for me in His plan.
And what a plan! For years we had looked forward to God’s promised Messiah. This man—this angel—was telling me that God wanted me to give birth to that Messiah.
For a moment, I did consider saying no. I wasn’t much more than a child myself. I wasn’t married and could only imagine what Joseph’s reaction to this would be.
Yet, I didn’t know how to say no. I’d prayed for years to be used by God. Now that He was showing me how He wanted to use me, it seemed unfair to tell Him no. If I did say no, would He ask me anything again? There was nothing more to say than, “May it be as you say.”
Joseph was very supportive—which in a lot of ways surprised me. He was so good about it. I wonder if he ever regretted it. Jesus was one of the best tempered children. Still, being his parent was not always easy. Joseph never complained but it must have been even harder on him than on me.
We did have to spend some time hiding while Jesus was very young. The only real trouble He gave us, though, was when He was 12. Though I can’t really fault Him for that. What kind of parents take a full day to notice their child is missing?
Missing isn’t exactly the right word for it. We didn’t know where Jesus was, but He was right where He needed to be. I remember Him telling me not to worry, that He was in His Father’s house. I didn’t know what He meant at the time. I only knew that I was relieved to see Him safe and sound.
Maybe it was foolish of me to be so concerned. I just had a small part to play in God’s plan. My son WAS the plan. He wasn’t going to be hurt, not until the time came for the Plan to fully go into action.
I was in Jerusalem the day he entered the city for the last time. I remember the crowds and oh how glad they were to see Him! For a moment, I thought the time for God’s plan was still years in the future. And to be honest, that is what I was hoping. I knew why my son was born—and to keep Him with me was selfish. But as His mother, I wanted to be selfish. I wanted my son to live—on Earth, where I could see Him and hug Him—for a few more years.
I knew the prophecies. Isaiah wrote that the Messiah would be wounded and bruised. Knowing that would happen to some random person and seeing it happen to my son were two completely different things. I wanted to protect Him. Each time they hit Him, I felt it. Every drop of blood He lost felt like it came from my own heart. I wanted to turn away, to run off and hide. And yet I couldn’t. He was the Messiah, the King of Kings. But He was still my son, my little baby boy.
When they led Him to that cross, I could see the little boy who used to follow Joseph around while he worked. As He hung on that cross, I saw Him as the sweet little baby I had rocked to sleep. I cried as He suffered. I wanted to stop His pain. Even though I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t turn away. I couldn’t miss a moment of His life.
At the same time, I couldn’t help feeling so proud. He was so strong. He cried out in pain, but he didn’t resist, didn’t fight back. And at the end, He had the strength to ask for forgiveness, not for himself but for those hurting Him. I’ll never forget the sound of His voice—the pain and anguish in it—as he gasped, “Father God, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
One of His last thoughts before He died was of me. He saw me there, weeping, and told His good friend John to look after me. As my son hung there, in pain and utterly humiliated, He was concerned about me being alone.
When He breathed His last breath, my heart stopped. There was an earthquake and the sky turned black. I’m told that there was no light at all. But all I remember was seeing His head drop to His chest and I knew my first born son was gone.
I was able to smile then, even through my tears. I know it sounds strange to some. Most mothers aren’t going to smile after watching her child die. Then again, most mothers didn’t raise the Son of God. At the moment He died, His pain was over. In that same moment, He was with the Father. With my eyes closed and face turned toward Heaven I could almost hear the angels welcoming Him back. There was no reason for me to be sad. His death was not the end. His death meant life for so many others. It meant that I would be able to spend eternity with Him.
No, I did not know what I was getting into. I did not know how much joy His life would bring and I did not know how much the end of His earthly life would hurt me. If I had known, if I had understood just what He would go through, would I have still said yes? Would I do it all over again? Knowing what I know now, if God were to send an angel to me in the night, would my answer still be the same?
“May it be as you say, Lord.”