Contemplating the Day After the Crucifixion
with the Mother of James & John
Mary has finally fallen asleep so I’ll step outside for a minute. Just sitting here in the sun feels healing. I don’t know how Mary got through yesterday, but I’m glad Magdalene and I were there for her. I have seen crucifixions from a distance because the Romans always like to be public about them and want us to watch – and they want us to be afraid. In the past I have always hurried past them, covering my ears from the screams of pain in the air. Yet yesterday it was Jesus, our Jesus, in that agonizing death.
Even with all of her strength, Mary almost fainted a few times; first, while Jesus was scourged and again when he fell dragging the cross. My son, John, was with us all day and helped to support Mary. I’m not sure how much more she could have borne. I was glad Jesus’ death was quicker than most so he was out of his pain. John lowered the body from the cross as gently as he could but it was heavy and I could see that Mary was worried it would drop. When he was down, she cradled Jesus in her arms, she put her head on the wounds on his chest and just stayed there for a while. There were no tears left. Magdalene and I pulled the thorns out from his matted hair while John spoke to a man who had a tomb for Jesus. I tried to wipe his face off, but I didn't have water. Then he was taken to the tomb, not even anointed, and we brought Mary back here. Magdalene tried to get her to eat. I know she hasn’t slept in a couple of days.
And through all of this, where was my son, James? James and John were like brothers to Jesus and how I wish James had the courage to stay with him yesterday. A mother loves her children but a mother knows her children and courage has never been strong in James. When they first met Jesus, John told me that Jesus had laughed and called them “Sons of Thunder.” I thought he was mocking my younger son because James has always been so afraid. Then I met Jesus and knew he would not do anything to hurt either of them. It is almost as if he was inspiring each of them to be something beyond what they believed they could do - beyond their fears.
In the last three years, Jesus spent a lot of time at our house with my boys, stopping by for a rest or meal as they traveled around. I could see the great love Jesus had for James and John, and they for him. He was older than my sons, warm and funny, and would regale us with stories at the table. At times he was serious, compelling as he talked about speaking with God as his father, as someone who loved us all. He talked to us about the poor and how people needed to get out from under the heavy hand of the religious authorities and care for each other. As I listened, I could see the impact this was having on my sons. They agreed, they seemed to understand his message. John is quiet and humble but has always been fearless and he spoke up quite easily. But I was surprised that my timid James seemed bolder as they talked.
Once, after Jesus had been at our table talking about the Kingdom, I just did what any mother would do - I asked him to save special places in his Kingdom for my sons. The others in the group got upset when they heard what I had asked Jesus, but my sons don't push themselves forward enough. I want them to be taken care of and I thought Jesus could do it.
I started getting worried for them all as rumors began to fly about Jesus and the authorities. I didn’t want any of them to get into trouble. When James came running into the house so late on Thursday, I knew there was trouble. Jesus had been arrested. John had gone to get Mary. I pulled on my cloak immediately to go to Mary, and could only look sadly at James as he ran the other direction, unable to look at me.
Now on this long Saturday, a few of us quietly take care of Mary and try to think of what to do next. Sitting out here in the sun, I think of my sons. My John hasn't spoken much and has been gone most of the morning. What will become of these "Sons of Thunder"? Have these past three years with Jesus made any difference or meant anything? What happens to them now that he is dead? They are good sons, but simple men. I know they will not be remembered when they are gone. They will not make a difference in this world. Neither one of them seems to want to be someone in life. They don't seem to have anything to give their lives to, nothing that inspires them.
Jesus is never far from my mind. What a crushing blow his death is to all of us. What now? I put my face to the sun and feel its warmth. I remember what Jesus used to say about praying to God as if he were my father.
Please, Father. I know my sons are good men, but they need some guidance. James, especially, is so timid and fearful. Help them to find the way to you. Give them some hope now that Jesus is gone, some ‘spirit’ or courage to become what you created them to be.
Help me to be with Mary in the days ahead. Help me to forget what I saw yesterday. I want life to go back to the way it was.
I get up slowly and go back to the house. So, so much sadness, disappointment and emptiness in this day.
Now I have to go to the market and buy the spices for his body. Magdalene and I will go up early in the morning and do the anointing. What a sad duty that will be. Where is the hope in our lives?
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