CSI – Mary

How do you deal with the heartaches in life?

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We started this series by looking at the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. We said that Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.Last week we looked at Barabbas, the man who missed his cross. We saw that Jesus took the cross for all of us, and that Because he died, I can choose to live in freedom. He became the Passover lamb so that he may release us from the limiting power of sin and disease. We wrote those imprisoning things and symbolically nailed them to the cross.

Today we look at a feminine character. The women were well represented around the cross. They had a stake in it. Have you ever experienced a heartbreak? What did it feel like?

I have. I once conducted a funeral for a two year old who drowned in a bucket. The house help left her next to a bucket full of water to go attend to the door. She delayed for a bit. She walked back into a shocking situation…the baby had attempted to climb onto the bucked, fell in and could not turn herself. She drowned.

It was a tearful service. The questions in the minds of the people were: why? Why her? How could God allow that to happen? It was heartbreaking.

Suffering is real and painful. In fact, it is unfair. I have lost some friends to cancer. I have friends who in spite of their faithfulness to God have lived years of childlessness. I have been asked hard questions about suffering. A friend betrayed me once and for months I lived with intense heartache.

Bad things happen to good people. Some of you have asked God hard questions. You may even have become bitter with God. You have felt deserted, neglected, hurt and ashamed by one who should have come for your rescue.

Humanity is born to pain. Stuff happens. Unexpected. In quick succession. Unfair. The question of pain and suffering has been a crucial subject of debate by theologians and philosophers.

Someone you had given your heart to walks away. Or sticks a knife of betrayal or pain deep down your heart and walks. An accident happens and leaves you with enough to deal with. The cruel hand of death steals a friend or relative. You are released from a job because someone does not just like you.That is suffering at a personal level.

But there is suffering at the macro level. The holocaust. The Rwandan genocide. The 147 who were recently slaughtered in Garissa; a good number in their morning prayers. Ebola’s indiscriminate claim of life in Western Africa.

Where was God when all this was happening? Why did he not intervene? Does he even care? Why does he sit back passively and watch innocent people suffer? Is Satan more powerful than God? Difficult questions, no easy answers.

What do you do when pain and suffering comes knocking? How do you live with the unanswered questions? How do you walk on with life?

Today we look at a character around the cross who took this Jesus death thing personally. We can learn a few lessons from her on how to deal with pain or suffering.

Mary was a teenage girl espoused to Joseph. Like any girl in Jerusalem, she wanted a quiet marriage. And she was getting ready for it. Then one evening, an angel appeared. A pregnancy was announced and things changed forever. It was not like she minded – it was every girl’s dream to be the chosen one. She was all too happy to be the servant who brings forth the Messiah. It was not an easy decision to make.

She was pure (virgin), godly, obedient, submissive and courageous. She was due, but she needed to travel for a national census. After walking for hours, she ended up in labor next to some animals. Not a pretty environment, but she was determined to do her God-given part. She knew from the beginning he was destined for something. But he grew up a normal boy.

When he was 12, Jesus was left in Jerusalem. After 3 days, they realized that he was not in the family crowd. They went back looking for him, only to find him with the teachers of the law, talking about the Scriptures. He was about his father’s business, as he put it.

Mary got other children after Jesus. But they did not believe Jesus, so not much is said about them. At around 30, Jesus started his public ministry. He was rarely home. The fame of her son must have caught Mary by surprise. Some praised the rabbi, some hated him with a passion. She heard of the opposition, the ridicule and the talk from the religious circles. She knew that things may not end up very well.

Furthermore she had been foretold by Simeon: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul.” (Luke 2:34, 35)

But nothing can prepare a mother for the cruel death of her son. She heard of many supernatural things he did, and she witnessed some. In fact, she was there when he turned water into good wine. It was in a relative’s wedding. She stuck with Jesus all through. That is what good mothers do.

The Incident

From our sermon text today John 19:20-27 Mary was a faithful follower who had to endure the pain of the cross in a very personal way. She suffered at home and in public for her relationship with the Savior. Now she was standing there, watching her son die the most painful death ever.

This will seek to speak to those who have undergone pain or suffering, carrying a cross as followers of Christ. Those who invited it and those who walked into it

A lot can happen in a day. Yesterday she hugged her son bye as he left for Passover celebrations in Jerusalem. Within a few hours, he had been sentenced to death and now the execution was on going. For 6 hours he hang there. He did not curse even though he was constantly provoked. He was quiet, graceful even. In fact, he extended forgiveness to one of the bad guys besides him. Mary, the mother, is taking all this in.

What is going through her mind? What questions is she asking; Why do I have to go through this, and yet I have faithfully followed God? Why can’t God do something? What is the meaning of all this? Why me?

Then there is a moment. Tender and unforgettable. A moment of tears. He hung naked on the cross. The Roman soldiers stripped him and kept his clothes. It was both a right they claimed and a sport they loved. They were four soldiers and the garments were 5. A headpiece went to soldier 1, sandals to soldier 2, an outer robe to soldier 3 and a girdle (a sash or belt) to soldier 4. The undergarment was a tunic made of soft cloth. It was called a Chiton. Jesus’ chiton had been woven into one piece, a seamless garment. Scholars argue that only a high priest was permitted to wear such. (See Heb. 4:14-16)

Usually, one’s mother made the chiton. In an attempt not to tear it into 4 pieces, the soldiers cast lots to see who would walk away with the garment. Mary is watching all of this. Jesus had to look her way; he knew the pain she was going through as she watched this. Mean colonialist soldiers are casting lots for a mother’s intimate gift to her son.

He masters some energy by pulling himself up, takes a deep breath and utters the tender words to her mother: “Woman, behold your son.” Then he turns the heavy, wounded head towards the youngest of the disciples, the one he loved, and said: “Behold your mother.”

The main point is this: Because he endured the cross, he understands and cares when you endure your cross.

Mary was standing there! What a strong, courageous woman. She had enough strength to watch this on her feet. She watched her adult son brutalized, tortured, abused, teased and mocked. She endured it all. A large sword was piercing her heart.

Mary lived in the background for a good while of Jesus life. But in this moment of need, agony, pain and deep loss, she stands at the foot of the cross. What a mother-heart in display.

Because he endured the cross, he understands and cares when you endure your cross.

Two questions that beg for answers:

Where are Jesus siblings? Answer – They never believed. (See Matt. 13:53-57; John 7:5)  So they must be away somewhere, minding their own business.

Where was Joseph? Answer – Last time Joseph is mentioned is when Jesus was 12. He had probably died at some point. Otherwise he would be here with his wife and son.

Mary must have asked: I have been faithful to God, I risked my relationship for this, I have stood with Jesus all through, is this how it ends? With the deepest of pains? Do you ever feel like God has not been fair to you?

Because he endured the cross, he understands and cares when you endure your cross.

Our lessons from this takeout.

  1. Comfort in the midst of pain – Jesus, the one who endured the worst of human pain does feel you through pain. He looked and talked to Mary.
  2. Community heals – Never walk alone, especially when in pain. Pains calls for family and friends. He pointed Mary to family.
  3. Cause – There is a grace that God extends to us during pain to see and understand the greater cause. Suffering molds character; creates wounded-healers and glorifies God. Mary must have remembered this was meant to happen for a higher cause.

Because he endured the cross, he understands and cares when you endure your cross.

Are you caring the pain of a broken relationship: marriage, dating relationship, family, friendship or work relationship? It could be betrayal, desertion, hurt, violence or abuse?

Are you carrying the pain of a disease or disability? Are struggling with the pain of seeming denial – no spouse, no child, no job, no cash, no friends? Are you carrying the pain of loss of a loved one? Are you wondering where God is?

Pain should draw us to the cross, not away from the cross. We have comfort from the Jesus who knows pain real well. He is the God of all comfort. God has provided us friends, life group members and family who stand and walk with us at times of pain. Community. Stick with your friends. And there is a cause. God never wastes his children’s pain. He makes lemonade out of lemon by using your pain story to bless others.

Because he endured the cross, he understands and cares when you endure your cross.

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