It’s an annually occurring juxtaposition. Every December I wrap up my reading plan chewing on the death of Jesus at a time of year when so much around me draws my attention to His birth.
Solomon said that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” and that one of those things is “a time to be born, and a time to die” (Eccl. 3:1-2). True for every man and woman. True too for the One who divested Himself of His heavenly glory and power, and determined to fully enter into the human experience. There was a time for Jesus to be born. And, by the Father’s will, a time for Jesus to die.
Though it was the same Jesus, and though the two events were only 33 years apart, in so many ways so many things had changed so dramatically. The anticipation of that silent night giving way to the condemnation of an angry crowd early one morning. The loud song of an angelic host before lowly shepherds, giving glory to God and declaring the birth of a Savior in the city of David, silenced by shouts of “Crucify Him, crucify Him” by stiff-necked chief priests and officers before the most powerful man in Jerusalem.
The Son of God lying in a manager receiving gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh from worshiping wise men, a faint memory as the Lamb of God hung on a cross and was offered but sour wine by indifferent soldiers who just wanted to get the job over with.
But one thing hadn’t changed. One thing is strikingly similar between the idyllic scene around the manger and the chaotic circus around the cross. The mother of Jesus was nearby.
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His garments and divided them into four parts, . . . This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
(John 19:23-26 ESV)
Oh the contrast between the image evoked by the multiple nativity scenes set up in my home and the picture formed in my mind’s eye as I read in John this morning. The first of a peace filled virgin. Cradling her son as she meditates on angel declared prophecies and shepherd delivered messages. Treasuring up all these things, “pondering them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19). The other of a distraught mother, looking with horror on her derided, naked, and beaten son. Trying to make sense of everything He had told them as she watched Him die.
“Woman, behold, Your Son!”
See Him as the Light of the world come to deliver men from darkness. But know that, though He came to His own, His own received Him not. Marvel that the King of kings should come into the world in such lowly manner, and then try and make sense of the darkness that compelled His people to declare they would have no king but Caesar.
Wonder at the Savior born that night, lying in a manger, the hope of the world. Try and comprehend Him suffering as He hung on a cross, the Lamb of God, slain as the final sin offering, the once for all Atonement for the world.
Woman, behold, Your Son!
She was there that holy night. She was there that horrific morning.
And Jesus saw her. And He knew her.
Born by her, He would die for her.
The grace of God incarnate. The glory of God manifest.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!