Summary: Third in a seven part series that looks at the last words of Jesus on the cross.
Most of us, if we’re really honest, would have to admit that when we face difficulties in life, our tendency is to focus on ourselves. We ask questions like “Why me?” or we get angry with God because we’re focused on ourselves. I think that’s especially true when we come face to face with death.
American comedian Will Shriner once said:
“I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather... Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.”
Although we get a couple of chuckles out of that, it’s also a pretty good example of how when we face death, we tend to focus on ourselves and not necessarily care so much how it impacts others.
But when Jesus went through the most painful and difficult part of His life, when he came face to face with death while hanging there on the cross, He did just the opposite of what most of us would do. He focused on others. As we experience together this journey to the heart of Jesus as we look at His Cries from the Cross, it’s really interesting to me the progression of Jesus’ thoughts. First, He prays, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” This cry for pardon was focused on other people, not on His own needs. And then last week, we saw how he turned to the thief on the cross and said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Again, through His cry of assurance, Jesus demonstrated that He was more concerned about others that he was about Himself.
Today, we’ll take a look at His third cry from the cross – a cry of compassion. Let’s read from John’s account of the crucifixion:
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. "Let’s not tear it," they said to one another. "Let’s decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 19:23-27 (NIV)
That day there were two groups of people near the cross. The four Roman soldiers were there out of duty. But the four women and John were there out of devotion. The other gospel accounts tell us that the rest of Jesus’ followers watched what was going on from a distance. I was thinking about that this week and wondering just how near the cross we would have been that day. Here nearly 2,000 years removed from that day, as we sit here in the comfort of this auditorium, it’s easy for us to sing the words from Fanny Crosby’s hymn:
Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.
In the cross, in the cross
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
But that day, would we have had the courage of John and these four women to be near enough to the cross to see the bloody, beaten body of Jesus hanging on the cross, struggling for every breath? Would we have been close enough to hear the crowds hurl their insults at Him? Would we have been near enough to hear the words we’ll look at this morning? I think that if most of us are really honest, we’d have to admit that we probably would have been like the rest of Jesus’ followers, watching from a distance so that we wouldn’t put our own lives in jeopardy.
But this morning, I want to invite you to come near to the cross, so that you might be able to experience the compassion of Jesus Christ in your life. Obviously, we can’t do that in a physical sense. We can’t go outside the walls of Jerusalem and stand near a cross. But we can do it in a spiritual sense through our relationship with Jesus Christ right here and now.
That day, there were four women near the cross along with the Apostle John. There was Mary, the mother of Jesus; her Sister Salome, who was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John; Mary the wife of Clopas; and Mary Magdalene. This is the only time that Mary, the wife of Clopas, is mentioned any place in the Bible, so we don’t know anything more about her. But, as we’ll see in just a moment, the presence of the other three women is significant.