Jesus had to carry his own cross to a place called the “Skull”, which was outside of the city. “Skull” means Golgotha in Aramaic. There they crucified him, and with him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary from Magdala.. (Gospel of John 19, 17, 18 + 25)
what a sight Mary had to endure! She can no longer help her dying son. He is executed like a murderer. He hangs between two criminals. What unbearable pain this woman must suffer! The song of praise (Lk. 1, 46) is silenced. The joy of the birth of the Messiah gives way to agony of soul. It now becomes true what the old prophet Simeon had explained to her at that time: Jesus will be a sign of God against which many will rebel. Thus their innermost thoughts shall come to light. But you, Mary, will have to suffer many pains for this child; like a sharp sword they will cut into your heart (Lk. 1, 23 + 35). Now she suffers this unspeakable pain, as only mothers can be able to bear. The beloved child who she gave birth to, dies before her eyes. And she must watch it helplessly!
Matthias Grunewald captured this mental anguish in a famous painting. On the “Isenheim Altar” he shows Mary´s breakdown under the cross. The disciple John is with her and holds her in his arms. He is the only disciple who remains with Jesus and his mother at this hour of death. The other disciples could not stand it. I must admit: I too would probably not have been there. I too would not have been able to watch this cruel death. I too would probably have left Mary and the other women alone with their pain.
Why does God put all this on Jesus' mother, on these women, and on his disciples? Why does he put all this on his Son? It sounds paradoxical: out of love for you and for me. Out of love for all people, God puts this on his Son. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3: 16). Jesus, the Messiah, voluntarily dies to redeem us from the might of sin and death. He takes all the guilt of this world upon himself. The prophet Isaiah had this predicted quite some time earlier: "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed “(Is. 53:5).
The cross of Golgotha is an imposition. Even today, many people cannot see this cross with the dying Jesus. But Jesus sheds his blood to make us children of God. He creates this new covenant that the prophet Jeremiah had proclaimed: "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer. 31, 33).
Wherever this law of love is not written in the heart, injustice and bloodshed will continue to happen. Still today. We hear and see it every day. Jesus on the cross is a wake-up call to all: Stop all bloodshed! Protect the life that is so precious. Every human life is unique and infinitely precious. We have life to preserve! We Christians stand on the side of Jesus, who is the life and the truth (John 14:6). We are to protect life, preserve life and especially the life of children. It is an inconceivable shame when children are traumatized by violence, by war or by sexual abuse.
But there is also hope: under the cross of Golgotha there is not only a desperate mother, weeping women, and a suffering disciple. There is also an unknown soldier standing there, a Roman centurion. God has touched his heart. He understands: "Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mk. 15, 39). To me he is a sign of hope! A soldier, of all people! He understands that God himself is hanging there on the cross. Jesus, the love of God in person, is crucified.
God has changed the total view of this Roman soldier. And so, the view of Jesus is also changing us. The risen and eternally living Christ transfers our hearts and makes them capable of love towards God and our fellow human beings. He even wants to make us willing to love our enemies. What an imposition! Do we allow it?
I invite you to a prayer:
Lord Jesus, your love is an imposition for us. Because it wants to change us from the bottom up. So often we resist it and refuse to accept your love.
You are the life, and you want us to protect life and not to destroy it.
We pray for the children who suffer from violence. Please help them.
We pray for the children who are terminally ill. Please help them and their families. Please hear their prayers.
We pray for all mothers, all fathers, all families who suffer from the death of a child. Please comfort them and give them new hope!
We pray for peace where hatred and violence reign. We pray that people will hear your wake-up call and open themselves to your love. Amen.
Thank you for listening and praying with us. May God bless you!