“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”You think back to that day, a day of joy and wonder, angels, a star, shepherds, a birth – it’s a boy! And there is Mary a new mother holding her child pondering what this miracle in her arms would one day do. But now, now, it’s about 33 years later. It’s not a day of joy and wonder. There is no star, in fact, there were three hours of darkness. There are no angels, no shepherds, just soldiers and mockers. And there stands Mary – pondering – looking at the miracle she once held so close who now seems so far away. Hanging. Bleeding. Dying on a cross. She remembers the words Simeon spoke to her long ago “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” He was right. Her soul was pierced this day as she, with tear-filled eyes, watched her son be put to death.
John tells us what her son, what Jesus, said as his mother stood there near his cross. “Dear woman, here is your son” We aren’t told how Mary initially responded to these words. I can only imagine her thinking, “But I want you. Jesus you are my son, come down, please don’t leave me.” But Jesus didn’t come down and we aren’t told Mary ever asked him too. Instead, we hear Jesus’ next words “and to his disciple, “Here is your mother.”
It’s touching, this moment. Jesus’ concern for his mom even as he was being put to death, yet there Jesus stayed. His concern went far beyond his mother’s physical needs. His love was deeper than that. As we ponder over this moment, do we see it? Do you see that love…that concern? You see Jesus saw in his mother and in all the world our deepest need. And often, when we think of needs in this world, we think of what? Being healthy, having wealth or lots of friends and living a comfortable care-free life. But none of that is our greatest need. Our great need – that need that we cannot find a way to gain on our own – is peace with God.
By nature, we don’t have that peace. That is what God’s Word tells me, that is what it reveals – my sin. And the wages of my sin is death. We see that awful death of Jesus and see in it our own. I am nothing but a worthless sinner fit to be utterly condemned, a criminal to be sentenced, to be gotten rid of, with nails and a cross.
And in moments of brutal clarity as we sit here and ponder Jesus’ death, we can’t help but pass that same sentence on ourselves. But then we look again, what held him to that cross? Don’t miss it. It’s love, undeserved, unrestrained, unending, deep. There we see that deep love God had for a world full of sinners, for a world hostile to him – his love for me. It’s right there in a miracle, one we maybe don’t always notice, the miracle of restraint. When God sat on his hands and allowed that son whom he loved to be put to death, because he also loved us.
And, maybe, maybe we don’t believe it at first, but then we look again – he is still there! – our substitute, more than that, our Savior. Ponder what that Savior, your Savior said as his parched throat was wetted after his battle with sin was near an end. “Knowing that all was now completed…Jesus said, It is finished.”
You think about that short phrase from Jesus. “It is finished” and you wonder, what is finished? What is done, what is complete? Jesus’ work, what he came to do, the reason for his birth on this earth, the plan of salvation, was complete. Your debt of sin – the one we could never repay – is paid!
A sigh of relief. A reality for all of us through Christ. There is nothing else we need to do. Jesus didn’t just partially pay for our sins. He paid in full. Jesus didn’t just set us on the right track to salvation. He is the way of salvation. All is now complete. “It is finished.” Jesus said, “Through me all of your sin, every one – yes, that one, and yes, even that one – is forgiven.”
In a sudden, unexpected, undeserved way God smiled at this world as he gave up his one and only son. And look at what that son gave up for you. He died. God died. In this last moment of our Savior, Jesus “gave up his spirit.” His life was not taken from him; he willingly offered it. There on the cross death was submissive to Christ. He commanded it to receive him. Still Jesus died. Our greatest need, peace with God, needed a sacrifice, and, here, here he was.
Jesus’ mother, Mary, surely wept as she saw her son breathe his last; we weep too. How can we not? But as you go home tonight, ponder what Jesus finished for you, ponder what he gave for you. See him there then one last time, nailed to a tree, crying, bleeding, and suffering, not arching his back and pushing on the nails but showing love “Dear woman hear is your son.” and shouting his triumph, “It is finished.” And “With that, that shout of victory he conquered death and he gave us life, as he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Amen.