Faithlife Sermons

A New Family and the Foot of the Cross

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Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our Lenten King. Amen.

Intro: An Angel’s Eye View of a family at the foot of the Cross

Remember the Angel Gabriel. Have you ever wondered what he saw on Golgotha on that fateful Friday Afternoon? What do you think he saw? The White Temple Mount, that ususally shone with splendor in the sun, now dull and flat in the darkness of that afternoon. It was after all the middle of the day and the sun stopped shining. The bustle of the marketplace, oddly hushed in the heavy air of that day. The hills of Bethlehem, off in the distance, where Gabriel had announced the birth of the Savior of the world to shepherds. The knot of people gathered around a garbage dump, an executioner’s hill simply known as the Skull. And there, between two who had deserved death, the Savior Gabriel had proclaimed. Jesus, now nailed to a cross, with his mother, Mary, close at hand - I wonder, would Gabriel have recognized the young girl he called blessed and highly favored? I am sure he did, he was after all an angel of God. That now seems so long ago - he would have seen Jesus, and Mary, and John, the beloved disciple by her side.
If Gabriel were looking on that Good Friday afternoon he would have seen the horror. He would have seen the shame. He would have heard the jeering and the cries of pain. But that angelic messenger would have also recognized, with wonder, a small family, clinging to each other in grief and pain and fear; a new family formed at the foot of the cross.

John - remembering Cana and Passover Wine

Then there was John. John was there. John was at the foot of the Cross. John is painfully aware of Mary at his side, a woman he has learned to respect and even love as he traveled with Jesus. There was the smell of the vinegar they offer is bitter, but still hold a faint hint of wine. The crowd say they want Elijah to show up, but the wine has John thinking of a wedding party in a small town called Cana. Mary was there. John came with Jesus.
John was remembering the wine, the wedding. Mary the mother of Jesus was the first one introduced and then Jesus. John remembers that Mary told Jesus… “They have no wine.” And then Jesus tells his mother, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come?” Then John remembers what happened the night before. It’s wine again, but this time it’s like the Cana Wedding wine in the fact that the best is now here, but unlike it, since this wine, is totally different. Jesus had told the disciples, This wine is my blood of the covenant, my blood poured out for the sins of the whole world. Now John smells the stench…the stench of blood mixed with vinegry wine or wine vinegar. John looks up to Jesus and he sees, he sees the the blood of Jesus pouring out of him, and his mind recalls what happened the night before, the guilt and shame of his own sin, falling asleep in Gethsemane, running away to hide, not doing more at the High Priest’s house. But now, he is holding on to Mary as she sobs, feeling the weight of his sin, but watching as that weight crushed his Rabbi.
John heard Jesus pray, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He was amazed at this grace, the love that forgives even those who do it harm, but maybe he doesn’t feel personally forgiven there. Maybe John even thought, that it would be better to die with him than stand there watching his life slowly trickle away, knowing that he did nothing to stop it.
But when Jesus suddenly look up through sweat, spit, and blood and says, “Behold, your mother.” John knows how deeply Jesus loves him personally, how deeply Jesus forgives, him personally. When Jesus entrusts his own mother to John, one of those who slept through his agony in the Garden, one of those who ran with newly washed feet out into the darkness, when Jesus entrusts his own mother and her future into the hands of a weak and fickle sinner, John knows he will never be the same. He knows he is part of a new family, at the foot of the cross.

Mary, remembering Simeon, Anna, and Gabriel, “Let it be me according to your word.”

Mary is probably oblivious to John at her side on that horrible Friday. After all, she probably has tunnel vision as she only sees Jesus’ feet driven through by an iron spike into wood and then she remembers his first toddling steps taken on Egyptian sand, or perhaps even still in Bethlehem before they had to escape Herod. She sees the sharp javelin of the Roman Soldier as he lifts up the sponge of wine vinegar, and she suddenly recalls the prophet Simeon from over 30 years ago, and the words that she long had pondered in her hearts: “A sword will pierce your own soul...” the prophet had said, a haunting counterpoint to the hymn of praise he had just sung, as we know it as the Nunc Dimittis. This doesn’t feel like salvation that the Lord had prepared before the face of all people, no light for the Gentiles, or glory for Israel; only darkness, and death.
She has felt separation from Jesus before, of course, first when Jesus was 12 and he stayed behind in the temple, learning and teaching. She, like any parent, was worried when a child is missing. Then there’s the time when he left the carpenter’s shop to wander in the wilderness, and came back changed. She thought a sword had pierced her soul the day Jesus refused to come home with the rest of the family like a sensible son: He had even claimed that those who do the will of God were his mother and brothers and sisters. It felt like she had been abandoned that day, that her identity was gone, but it didn’t last, and it wasn’t like this!
“The one who does God’s will is my mother...” Jesus had said. Mary remembers. Mary remembers Joseph. She remembers the angel. She remembers her very own response, so long ago: “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Mary is just praying that prayer again when Jesus look up from the pain, and through a split lip that slightly slurs his speech, he talks directly to her for the first time in what feels like weeks: “Woman, behold! Here is your son!” She is confused for just a moment as she beholds Jesus on the cross in all his agony and horror and glory. “Behold your son!” he says, and she does. But then, with a slight turn of his head, he makes what eye contact he can with the man just to her right, “Behold, your mother.”
Only now does Mary realize she has been leaning on the strong arm of John in her grief. And although it feels like a final farewell, the fact that Jesus even imagine her need and her future in the fog of his pain is a gift to her mother’s heart. For a moment, Mary is caught between the past and the future; for a moment, she has both John and Jesus. And the roar of grief and the anger and the helpful pain recedes, if only by a degree. For Mary knows she is part of a new family, at the foot of the Cross.

Jesus…remembering Mary, John, us, a family at the foot of the cross.

Then there’s Jesus…he’s suffering. He’s dying. But there at the foot of the cross, he sees his mother, he sees John, the beloved disciple. It’s not just those two that he sees…he sees you.
He sees you a broken sinner one that is dying in sin, but then he sees you and says, “father, forgive him…father, forgive her.” He sees you as a member of his family…a new family at the foot of a cross. Yes, Jesus looks down from his cross with eyes of love, with eyes of mercy, eyes that yes are caked full of drying blood and hard to open, but yes, he sees you, even 2000 years or so before you were born. He sees you as one for whom he is dying for. He is seeing you as one who like John, runs and hides, but yet is forgiving even you. He is seeing you as even he saw Mary, one who may not always understand her son and Savior, and is yes a sinner as well, but may not always understand her son. He looks at his mother in love and provides her with the care that she needs. And He is seeing you, dear Trinity/St.Paul, at the foot of cross, as he is redeeming your body and soul so that you will one day live for eternity. But here at the foot of the cross Jesus is forming a new family, not just of Mary and John, but a new family that includes all the Saints of God, all those who believe and have faith in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God…who is both yes, the Son of God and the Son of Man.
In Jesus name. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and your minds and keep them focused in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.
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