The Fourth Station – Jesus meets his mother

The streets were crowded. People were going about their business, doing their shopping, meeting their friends, getting on with their life. It would have been hard to make out faces in the crowd and for Jesus even more difficult as he goes with head down, straining under the weight of the cross beam that had laid upon him. He was heading from the Fortress where his trial and flogging had taken place to one of the gates in the city wall that led out onto the area where the rubbish was dumped and the gallows were set up.

He had hardly got the strength to lift one foot in front of another, let alone to lift his head and look at those who were looking at him. And yet, he did, at one point he did and there she was. It was his mother, it was Mary, there amongst the faces, looking, watching. And it was enough to break his heart for she looked as though her heart was breaking.

It is incredible how elastic time is, or how compressed it can be. I can hardly believe that March is almost over and that that means that a quarter of this year has already passed, it seems to have flown past. And people reassure me, ‘As you get older time passes more quickly’. Yet though days flash past at other moments time drags. I was flying back from a trip overseas and arrived at the airport to discover that the plane was delayed. I had a book to read, of course, and it was only a 90 minute delay but, goodness, did it drag. I kept looking at my watch, only 5 minutes since I last looked.

And then at other moments time almost seems to stop and we are caught up in a moment, captured, just as an artist can capture a single moment. ‘The kiss’ by Rodin is just such a caught moment, an event captured, that long lingering kiss that makes us move into another realm of time.

The Kiss by Auguste Rodin

The Kiss by Auguste Rodin

I’m reminded of a song that hit the charts back in the ‘50’s and has been subsequently recorded by so many people. It’s called ‘Love is a many spledoured thing’. The second verse goes like this.

Once on a high and windy hill
In the morning mist
Two lovers kissed
And the world stood still
Then your fingers touched
My silent heart and taught it how to sing
Yes, true love’s
A many splendored thing.

What look passed between mother and son, between son and mother? What did Jesus think when he saw Mary standing there? What did Mary think as she saw her son walking past, like a common criminal?

Was Mary taken back to that day in the Temple when he was just forty days old. She and Joseph had taken him there to fulfil the requirements of the law. In thanksgiving for the birth of their son they were to offer a sacrifice to God but the unspoken element of this was that they were ‘buying’ back their son who should have been offered to God – a life for a life – two young pigeons and they could keep their son. But they had been met by an old man and an old woman who had been watching for their arrival, though they did not know them and Mary and Joseph did not know this strange pair of elderly people.

But the man took the child from her arms and sang of him and said to her as he handed her baby back

‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ (Luke 2.34-35)

And those words stayed with her and it felt now as though she was beginning to understand what he had said, begun to understand why she remembered then, why she remembered now.

Or did she remember what happened a few months ago when she went with other members of her family to bring Jesus back and bring him to his senses. She was worried, he was away from home and family and neighbours and she heard all kinds of rumours about him and not all comforting or complimentary. So she asked where he and his bunch of friends had last been seen and headed off there. Like a mother trying to persuade her child back from anything she was there, embarrassed and embarrassing him, but she didn’t care, she had to do it. And he brushed her off.

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ (Matthew 12.46-50)

It was no way to treat his mother, but this was how he treated her, she who had cared for him and loved him and could have abandoned him, treated like this and it hurt. And she wants to say ‘I told you so, why did you not listen to me, why did you not come home?’

Jesus meets his mother

Jesus meets his mother

And what did Jesus think as he saw her. He perhaps, in that instance, remembered when he was twelve. His mother and Joseph had taken him to Jerusalem for his Bar Mitzvah. It was eye openingly wonderful. It felt like coming home. The carpenters shop and the village well and their little house all seemed a world away and he breathed the air and he listened to the talk and he grew into the person he was meant to be. And he deliberately forgot about the leaving time, he was so caught up in what was going on, he forgot, or conveniently forgot and stayed listening to the teachers and finding his voice and arguing back and they loved it, listening to this young man.

And the agony when he saw Mary and Joseph reappear. They’d been looking for him, searching for him amongst their friends and were frantic and he could see it in their eyes and their manner as they found him. They didn’t know whether to hug him or hit him. And he says to them

‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ (Luke 2.49)

And they looked so hurt, as if they simply did not understand. He had to leave then. They didn’t understand and Mary didn’t understand now that ‘I must be about my Father’s business’.

And when they had looked for him again, many years later, when he was again about the business that he knew he was called to and said

‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’

another sword pierced her soul.

It hurt him to say it, but it was true. But she never left him. She was still looking for him and now she had found him and that look…. but it wasn’t anger, it wasn’t hate, or hurt, it was love. She had searched and followed all these years because she simply loved him and he simply loved her. They saw each other and

And the world stood still
Then your fingers touched
My silent heart and taught it how to sing

The moment passes and he is moved on. It had been a second of an encounter but their lives flashed by them in that instance and they realised just what bound them together, that song of supreme love that they had been living all this time.

Lord,
thank you for those who care for me,
are concerned for me.
Protect those I am concerned for,
those I care for.
Watch over those with no one to care for them,
with no one to care for.
Amen.

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