What is the good life? A life filled with peace and prosperity? A life filled with the “blessings” that others envy? A life marked by certainty? A life without suffering?
Her life was one of interruption. If she had dreams of the good life they were shattered in early adulthood. Perhaps she imagined a quiet life, a stable home with a certain future. Her life was anything but quiet; her home anything but stable; her future anything but certain.
She was a young teenage girl when the interruptions began. “Greetings O Favored One. The Lord is with you.” said the angel Gabriel. “But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” The angel went on to explain that she would become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit and that she would have a child named Jesus who would be called the Son of the Most High. God’s Son, the Savior of the world, the King who will reign for all eternity would grow hands and feet in her womb. Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God would turn and kick in her belly. It was unbelievable. It was magnificent. And so she responded as recorded in Luke 1 saying:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Even from the beginning there were hints that the story would unfold in a way she would never choose for herself or for her little baby boy. For when the prophet Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed nfor the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign othat is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Now she stood on the hill called Golgotha, the place of the skull, the place of death. The tears streamed down her dusty face as she took in the gruesome site before her. Her firstborn son, the promised one, the King of Glory looked barely human, his face swollen and bloodied the crown of thorns ripping into his forehead, the blood, thick and red pooling on his cheeks, the cheeks she had caressed. She could only look for a moment before the horror overwhelmed her intense desire to look into his eyes, to whisper her love.
When she gathered herself enough to look again she saw the hands that once took their form in the security of her womb, now impaled with iron spikes, fingers twisted in agony. The arms which once embraced her, now torn to ribbons, muscle and bone exposed, stretched out in the pose of death. Beneath his feet his enemies mocked him, spat on him, haggled for his clothes.
In the throes of excruciating pain his eyes locked with hers. Those eyes that first opened in her arms; those eyes that had seen into heaven. And for a moment the noise faded, her terror subsided as she looked into the face of perfect love. It wasn’t as she imagined it would be but then again nothing in her life ever was.
Simeon’s words came flooding into her conscious thought, “A sword will pierce through your own soul also.” Her heart broken, her soul crushed she stood there at the foot of her baby and her Lord. For Mary, the cross was a deeply personal paradox – a mother’s most unimaginable nightmare and a servant of God’s most profound hope.