Editor’s Note: Ever forgotten Valentine’s Day? Or your friend’s birthday? Yeah, it doesn’t feel good. Hasty preparations say, “Hey. I know I *say* you’re important to me, but really, you’re not.” Easter has a way of just sneaking up on us. We don’t want it to just “sneak up” on us. So to prepare, we’re doing 40 days of devotionals. Each devotional is written by a Stage3 leader about Jesus – and what His life, his death on the Cross, and His resurrection mean for you and I. May these devotionals help you anticipate Easter 2012.
An image of the Apostle John comforting Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Jesus from the film “The Passion of the Christ” (2004)
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
It was a vision John could never forget, watching the blood leak out of Jesus, making the wood of the cross dark as it pooled on the gray-red earth below.
A large part of him didn’t want to be there. All the others had fled. But when Mary surged past the crowds to get closer to her son, John felt a sharp pang of guilt for his cowardly impulses. He could not leave her alone. And more, he could not leave Jesus to stare out at a sea of strangers. And so he went to the cross – the only one of the 12.
John had been to funerals before – he had seen people mourn before. But never like this. He had never seen a woman cry like Jesus’s mother did.
Years before, at the temple dedication, an old man named Simeon had held the infant Jesus in his arms. His joy at the Messiah beamed on his face, but as Mary put the child in his arms, a dark vision had clouded his eyes, of what this child would go through. He handed the child back to his mother. His eyes were different now. “This child,” he said sadly, “Will pierce your soul like a sword.”
It pierced John’s soul, too.
Even in agony, Jesus had a strength about him that John could not comprehend. It reminded him of a woman he had seen once in his village, who was giving birth to her 6th child. The pain would come in waves, but there was no fear in her eyes. She was just enduring it, as though she knew it would all be over soon. Temporary.
This is almost how Jesus looked. What struck John was how entirely different his face was than the other criminals. Their eyes were wild with terror. They would shriek in delirium until the guards couldn’t take it any more and thrust up a sponge with the wine and myrrh. This wasn’t done out of pity, but more out of a desire to shut them up. But Jesus didn’t take the sedative.
And when he died, it was almost as though he unclenched his fist and let his soul fly. It was difficult to articulate, but John saw it often in his dreams.
The other 10 had fled, terrified that the followers of Jesus might be killed next. For some reason, John had never been really afraid of that. The Jews and the Romans had what they wanted, he figured. He was wrong, of course. All his friends would later die by the sword – some in Jerusalem, some in Judea and some in far off lands. Even Thomas. John had seen the crotchety old pragmatist throw his things in a satchel and walk toward the sea to catch a boat to tell some people about the risen Christ. No plan. No strategy. No complaining about the lack of necessary resources. Just a small leather satchel in his hand, and a different look – one that almost looked like a smile – on his face.
If Jesus could change Thomas in that way, then – well, then maybe mountains could be thrown into the sea. Later, John would see Christ again in a vision while on a small island. This time, it wasn’t the Jesus who John had walked with along dusty roads, but the ruler of the Universe, with golden flames and swords. But somehow, of all the times and places he’d seen his Savior, it was that cross that most captured his heart.
He was known as the disciple that Jesus loved. And for John, that was the best title a person could ever have.