Among the saints who suffered, let’s consider Mary, the mother of Jesus. God’s promises to her were unique. She spent more time with the Lord Jesus than anyone on earth. She loved Him as only a mother could, and the cross posed the greatest catastrophe to everything she held dear. Yet for all her suffering and ours, God can and will turn the worst pain to praise for His glory.
Recounting the Scene
Mary’s expectations ran high. Gabriel appeared to her and Joseph, proclaiming their son the Savior of the world. To her, God’s messenger declared Him Jesus, Savior, Son of God and the Highest, a ruler beyond what the world had ever seen. “Of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luk 1:33). Elizabeth, the shepherds, angels, Simeon and Anna all confirmed his words. At Bethlehem, Mary gently handled God’s great promise, smelled His soft head, wrapped Him warmly and pulled Him close in the night air.
With wisdom and maturity, the young mother of the Lord Jesus watched her son carefully. Scripture records that she kept things regarding Jesus in her heart, pondered them, and was quietly amazed with Him. Consider her raising, teaching and mothering the Son of God! He was obedient, dutifully learning the ways of her home and helping His father (Luk 2:51). We can be certain that Mary, as any mother, loved Him with all her heart, delighted in His success, and watched Him grow with deep joy.
Mary was certain of Jesus’ Messiahship and divine nature, too. Once, the family attended a wedding in Canaan. When the celebration snagged, it was Mary who directed the wedding attendants to “do whatever He tells you” (Joh 2:5). Turning water to wine was the first of Jesus’ sign miracles, and Mary’s unwavering confidence in her son sparked an act that revealed His glory and cemented the disciples’ faith in Him (Joh 2:11).
We expect that Mary followed her son as He taught, waiting for Him to take the throne of David and rule His people. We don’t know if she fully understood what He must endure to fulfill God’s promises, for the work of salvation was His alone. But we do know she was there at Calvary. She felt His shame. She saw Him bruised, bloodied and bearing His cross. Nails. Thorns. Spear. Cries. She witnessed it all, suffering as only a mother could.
The Reality of Suffering
With limited experience, we consider the reality of Mary’s suffering. She knew Jesus was the Messiah, knew He was the Son of God, knew He was her Savior. She held unwavering promises. But Calvary stood as a tall challenge to Gabriel’s words, to the things she witnessed, and the expectations she pondered since His birth. The promises must come to pass, but how?
Like Mary, our expectations, hopes and dreams for our own little ones are born before they are. God gives us promises, too. It’s why we try on names while waiting for a child to arrive. We guess who they look like, smile as they play, and, unlike Mary, wince with their mistakes. We do our best to pave the road. So, when sin crashes in, robbing them and us of those dreams and that hope, the pain is most personal.
Beyond the challenge to her expectations, dear Mary stood by the cross and witnessed the physical agony of her own son, crucified in the cruelest of sinful injustice. The scene is so intense that our own hearts cry. With care, some of us venture to understand; our own children have suffered in anguish before our eyes. Some are suffering now. Some have endured the awful wrong of burying their sons and daughters.
I have sat crushed at my daughter’s bedside, begging God to bear the misery of her cancer myself. Her suffering engulfed mine. Her pain flowed into my body, my feelings and my spirit like fire. For some, we ponder a greater agony – a child’s last breath tearing away their own. Dear believer, there are depths of suffering and pain we cannot know. Even more so for Mary and her son.
The Response of the Sufferer
Standing beneath the cross, we trace Mary’s eyes to the face of Jesus. How could she ever recover? He felt all her pain at Calvary, though the depths of His sorrow were far greater. “He himself bore our sins in his body” (1Pe 2:24). He knew she would need care and comfort. With great compassion, the Lord Jesus commended her to His loving disciple: “Here is your mother” (Joh 19:27 HCSB). Nothing could close the wounds of the cross, but by divine edict, John would care for her with all his heart. He understood what few others could.
Mary witnessed the horrific death and burial of her son, but in grace, any doubts formed there were quickly overwhelmed by the blessing of her risen Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 1:14 assures us Mary and her sons were joined to those same disciples who witnessed His ascension to heaven. He was alive and He had met all of her hopes! She knew He was “this same Jesus,” and with the others she waited for His return (Act 1:11).
The Result of the Strife
From what we read about Mary in Acts 1:14, she was there in Jerusalem during the earliest days of the church and at Pentecost. They gathered daily in the temple court, ate together, praised God openly and shared rich fellowship (Act 2:46-47). Weekly, prayers were offered in “remembrance of me” by those who knew the Lord firsthand. There was bread and wine. Consider the power of Peter and John there, recalling resurrection morning. Hear the experienced prayer of James. Did Thomas remember the nails in His hands? The worship would be breathtaking.
But Mary was there, too, reclining silently and meditating on her Savior son. I imagine tears. With closed eyes, she saw her promises fulfilled in Him on the cross. She relived His rejection and saw the mocking crown and cruel nails. She felt the pain and recalled His voice. Remember Him? How could she ever forget? These are the precious thoughts of someone close to the cross. How so like God it would be to gently use the depths of her great suffering to honor Christ there in Jerusalem, silently lifting the whole assembly in praise. Indeed, the more we know of Him and His suffering, the dearer and deeper our own remembrance becomes.