Saturday, April 23, 2016

Triplets of Mary’s Witness: Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ministry

Once we are saved by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), we know that our eternal destination is in Heaven (John 14:2-3). As we proceed in our Christian walk (Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 5:8), our direction is more important than our current location. God is less concerned with what we did yesterday, whether good or bad (Psalm 103:12), and more interested in whether we are moving closer to Him today, growing in faith, and becoming more conformed to His image (Romans 8:29).

Mary, mother of Jesus, is a wonderful example of someone who believed with childlike faith (Matthew 18:3-4), fought the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7), and finished strong in the victory only Christ can give (1 Corinthians 15:57). She suffered as she witnessed His crucifixion; she rejoiced in seeing the evidence of His resurrection; and she obeyed God through her ongoing ministry of witness.

As we have seen in previous posts, Mary submitted to God’s will for her life (Luke 1:38), followed His plan, and nurtured Jesus as His loving mother. God led her on this path through confirmations that she had understood His mission, encouraged her by bringing her joy in her Son’s miracles (John 2:1-11), and strengthened her faith by allowing her to endure trials.

All this had prepared her for the ultimate crisis, the worst nightmare any believer in Christ as the Messiah could face, yet especially cruel, terrifying and heart-wrenching for His mother. As Simeon had predicted when Jesus was still an infant, the same sword that would pierce Our Savior would pierce His mother’s soul also (Luke 2:34-35).

How could it be, that the King of Israel would be arrested, falsely accused, and unfairly condemned? How could the Anointed One be rejected by the people He came to save, sold into captivity by one of His own twelve apostles, and humiliated by all who passed by? How could God’s own Son be whipped, tortured, and allowed to suffer the excruciating punishment of the cross?

The twelve apostles had one another for moral support, yet they scattered like frightened sheep at the first sign of trouble. Judas had betrayed Him (Matthew 26:25; 27:3); Peter denied Him three times (Matthew 26:69-75); and only John remained at His side through His ordeal.

For all practical purposes, Mary had no male family support to sustain her through this trial. She had evidently been widowed, for the last that Scripture mentions Joseph is when Jesus was 12 years old (Luke 2:41-52). When Jesus preached in His own country, those who belittled Him did not mention Joseph by name, but mocked Jesus for being just a common carpenter; with Mary as His mother, and four brothers (Mark 6:3).

In a similar passage in Matthew, Jesus responds that a prophet is not without honor, except in his own country and his own house (Matthew 13: 53-58). We know that Joseph would have loved, honored and respected Jesus to the death, so the implication is that Joseph had already died and that the half-brothers of Jesus did not believe He was the Son of God.

So Mary faced the ordeal of Christ’s crucifixion without comfort from the other men in her family, yet she was not alone. God surrounded her with the women who had followed Jesus (John 19:25), with the apostle John whom Jesus had appointed to act as her son (John 19:26-27), and with His own guiding hand, for He will never leave nor forsake His children (Hebrews 13:5).

Mary’s three female companions sharing her grief as she stood by the cross were her sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25), all of whom loved, obeyed and worshipped Jesus. This was Mary’s darkest hour, yet what an amazing consolation it must have been to hear her Son’s tender expression of love.

In the midst of His own immeasurable agony, Jesus saw Mary’s need, answered it by offering John, the disciple whom He loved, to be her son, and ensured her future protection by commanding John to care for Mary as his own mother. John obeyed immediately and completely by taking Mary into his own home from that same hour (John 19:26-27).

At the cross, Mary was an eyewitness of our Savior’s suffering, His love, and His power. As He cried out with His dying breath, the temple curtain tore apart from top to bottom, signifying that man could now boldly approach the Holy of Holies in Heaven (Hebrews 4:16); the earth heaved in a great quake, and the rocks split apart (Matthew 27: 50-51).

Even more miraculous than this display of God’s command over nature was His power over death and salvation of the souls of sinful men. The graves opened, bodies of the faithful saints arose, and they appeared to many in Jerusalem (Matthew 27: 52-53).

All of this led the Roman centurion and his fellow soldiers, Gentiles who within the preceding hours had mocked Jesus, gambled for His coat, and pierced His side, to be saved, fearing God and confessing that truly Jesus was the Son of God! (Matthew 27: 54).

Three groups of women witnessed all these events: Mary herself, who had been at the foot of the cross when Jesus entrusted her to John; a group of women afar off who had followed Jesus from Galilee to minister to Him; and three specific women mentioned by name (Matthew 27: 55-56; Mark 15:40-41). Matthew singled out Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children (Matthew 27: 56), and Mark refers to these as Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome (Mark 15:40).

But the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus were only the beginning of Mary’s triplets of witness. Her sorrow at His death paved the way for her joy in His resurrection and her endurance to continue her ministry of witnessing to others, as we shall see next time! May we follow her example!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
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Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I believe that back in those days a women's testimony meant little, if anything to their male colleagues. But as the Law says, the testimony can only be verified by two or three witnesses. The three women who testified to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ should have been sufficient for adequate verification, I believe.
The reaction of the disciples to the women's testimony is an interesting point. Of the ten or so gathered at that house, only two ran out, Peter and John. John only had to take a peek inside and immediately believed. By contrast, Peter ran straight into the tomb, examined the evidence - and still left confused!
It took the appearance of the Lord himself to convince them all, even having to eat among them.
But these events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection goes to show that far more women than men tend to take God's record seriously, a phenomenon existing in churches to this day.
An excellent post. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
You make an excellent point, that the testimony of women was not highly valued in that society. I always wondered why the Law required verification by 2 or 3 witnesses, and perhaps that refers to 2 men or 3 women witnesses. Jesus clearly did not feel that a woman's testimony was less important, or He would not have chosen Mary Magdalene for His first resurrected appearance. I love the way the Bible gives such a realistic portrait of people like Peter and John, and doesn't sugar coat anything. That is just one way we can know His Word is true.
Thanks as always for your insight. God bless,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I have always loved the way that the scriptures encourage us to grow in the Lord, to walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. There is no way we could be changed without our trials, and resisting temptations to do according to what the carnal mind tells us to do.
I have had, and still have, many trials and know that when I hold fast to what the Lord is telling me the trials strengthen me and prove God's Word true, no matter how long they last.
I love the fact that our times are in God's hands and that His thoughts are for our welfare and not to harm us. It is all down to trust, and when I see a scripture that tells me that if I sin wilfully there remains no more sacrifice and another which says that I can crucify Christ afresh, how could I want to carry on sinning.

I love the way that my daily manna from the Lord gradually changes me as I resist the devil by acting on that word spoken to me. The enemy may be strong but our God is stronger.
God bless you Laurie.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Brenda,
Praying for you, for strengthening and peace in the trials, knowing that He works all things together for our good and His glory. Praise God for His Word that encourages and edifies us, and for His faithfulness and infinite love.
God bless you too!

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie.

Until we have experienced the trials, we don't fully appreciate the blessings. Because she understood the hurt, she could rejoice in the ressurrection in a way no one else could.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Donald! Without the valleys, the mountain top would have no meaning. Thanks as always for your encouraging comment.
God bless,