You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end! [Luke 1:31-33 (NLT)]
Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” [Luke 2:34-35 (NLT)]
Several years ago, my mother-in-law was despondent when my brother-in-law’s deteriorating health necessitated hospice care. Parkinson’s disease had taken a terrible toll on him and a mother’s heart breaks when she sees her child’s life disintegrating before him. Yet, that’s what happened to Mary.
My sister was distraught when her son was diagnosed with inoperable cancer; his promising future was cut short and she grieved as she saw him in pain. In the prime of his life, he wasn’t much older than was Jesus when He walked to Calvary. Any mother’s heart breaks when she sees her child suffer. Yet, that’s what happened to Mary.
At a funeral many years ago, I remember the mourning mother speak to me of her child’s death. “It’s not right!” she protested, “I’m the one who is supposed to go first. A mother isn’t supposed to bury her child.” No, a mother isn’t supposed to watch her child suffer and die nor should she witness him laid in his grave. Yet, that’s what happened to Mary.
Like any mother, Mary had high hopes for her special child. The angel’s words more than thirty years before led her to think He’d reign over Israel. That horrible Friday, as her beloved son hung on the cross, did she remember Simeon’s prophetic words and feel that sword pierce her soul?
Did Mary know that Isaiah’s prophecies were about her boy Jesus—that it was her son who would be beaten and whipped, unjustly condemned, “led like a lamb to the slaughter,” and have his life “cut short in midstream?” [Isaiah 53:5-8] Could she possibly have understood how this miraculously conceived son—the infant she nursed at her breast whose birth was heralded by angels, the babe given costly gifts and worshipped by magi from the East, the child Simeon said would be the glory of Israel, the boy smart enough to converse with rabbis, the young man who turned water into wine—would end up dying a criminal’s death?
Standing at the foot of the cross, her hopes for her boy were dashed as He was spat upon and mocked. As He struggled to take His last few breaths, Mary heard his anguished cries and she watched her baby boy die a tortuous death. Her mama’s heart broke as He was placed in a borrowed tomb. Mary didn’t know what Sunday would bring.
When the grief-stricken women went to the tomb that Sunday morning, they didn’t bring clean clothes for a resurrected man; they brought spices for the anointing of a dead body. They weren’t expecting an empty tomb. Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, they didn’t know.