No mother should have to watch her son die. Crucifixion was the most brutal of executions, as the agony and horror of death on a cross was unbearable.
It is for certain that Mary was well acquainted with the emotions of her Son. She knew when He was happy and she could tell even from a distance when He was suffering. Jesus’ mother had been with Him on many occasions when He had fallen and scraped is knees. She had mended His cuts and held Him in her arms when He was in pain. When Jesus was giving His life for all of us, Mary stood at the foot of His cross, and it is certain that she suffered personal torment at watching her son die such a horrible death.
Many years ago, when I was getting older, my dear mother informed me that although I was 47 years old, I was still her little boy and she always worried about me. A mother has a special place reserved in her heart for her children which allows her to feel the emotions and suffering that they feel, as if she were being hurt herself.
When David wrote, My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, And my relatives stand afar off, in Psalm 38:11, he was predicting the abandonment which the Messiah would feel when all those who had claimed to love Him were nowhere to be found during the time He was suffering and dying. This verse was not written for Mary. She was standing at the foot of Jesus’ cross, and she never left His presence while He suffered.
John 19:25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother…
The affliction of Mary’s soul while she agonized, as her Son endure hours of torment, was certainly greater than any of the others who watched Him die.
There were those who stood closely by Jesus’ cross, not to watch the spectacle of His death but to be there with Him as a source of comfort. There were other acquaintances who watched from a distance, caring, but not enough to be identified with His suffering. There were those who watched, only to see Him suffer and die, with a sense of satisfaction that this one who had called them a sinner was finally going to be silenced by death.
Here, we see that although there were a few family members and close friends who stood by Jesus’ cross, they remained conspicuously uninvolved.
Let us remember who it is that David is writing about
Psalms 38:11 “My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, And my relatives stand afar off.
Stand afar off from who, from what? The object of this prophetic Psalm was the crucifixion of the Messiah. The fact that this prediction states that the family and friends of the condemned would be watching His death aloof and far off gives us a hint. Some, such as Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary the sister in-law of Jesus’ Mother, as well as John, were close by the cross.
Mary as our co-redeemer
Theologians in the Catholic Church have stated that because Mary also suffered during Jesus’ crucifixion, she became a “co-redeemer” with the Lord. The Catholic church has specified that because Mary suffered along with Jesus, she also participated in His efforts to bring salvation to all people; therefore, she is called a “co-redemtrix” with Jesus.1
Pope Leo the 8th said this regarding Mary:
“Mary is the intermediary through whom is distributed unto us this immense treasure of mercies gathered by God, for mercy and truth were created by Jesus Christ. Thus as no man goeth to the Father but by the Son, so no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother.”2
The Bible nowhere describes Mary as participating in the work of salvation, but calls her Blessed or happy that she was given the great honor of serving God by being His maidservant.
For detailed information on this important subject, please see: Prophecy 99
Of course, this is a very tragic position to take in the redemption that Jesus paid such a high cost to purchase for us. Although Mary truly suffered herself for her Son’s death, she took no part in the redemption of all mankind. That work and the supreme sacrifice which was made, can only be credited to Jesus. No human being, including Mary, can ever claim that they had anything to do with the salvation that Jesus died to make possible for us.
Hebrews 1:3 …when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…
Although His mother, John, and two other Mary’s were present at Jesus crucifixion, they were not participants in the suffering that He endured which purchased our salvation. The rest of Jesus’ friends and followers were afar off, watching Jesus die, in apparent embarrassment for His condemnation and death by the Romans.
What is shocking about this description from the 38th and 88th Psalms as well as Isaiah 53:3 is that we are not told in the Gospels how far away from the cross those who watched Jesus suffer and die, truly were from Him in their hearts. They may have been in close proximity to Jesus; but, in their fear and the unbelief which flooded their hearts while Jesus was dying, they were quite far from Him.
Before we condemn these unfaithful friends and family members for their lack of commitment to the Lord, we should understand that we are no more committed to Jesus ourselves. We might think that we would never deny the Lord or betray Him. The truth is that at some point in all of our lives, we will show by our actions and words just how unfaithful we can be. The last time that you went through a terrible trial or suffered a great loss, did you ever doubt the goodness of the Lord? Of course you did; all of us do in moments of stress and anxiety. Afterwards, when He has brought us through the trial, we always feel a sense of shame that we had not been more faithful to the Lord when we were in the midst of our trial.
Notice that Jesus never condemned or scolded these friends who abandoned Him in His hour of greatest need. The Lord knew ahead of time that when He was suffering and dying, there would be few companions to be found.
Today, there are three groups of people who observe Jesus’ suffering, much like those who were present when He suffered at the cross two thousand years ago.
Those who love the Lord and stand near Him to be identified with His suffering. Those who stand at a distance, who admire Jesus, but not enough to be identified publicly with Him. Those who hate Jesus and want Him to go away, and leave them alone. We may think that we would be amongst those who would have stood close by Jesus as He suffered, but would we really? When our life is in danger and we fear that people might put us to death, even our best intentions and greatest declarations of commitment will quickly fade. It has been said that true character is seen when we are all alone and in our greatest moments of stress and anxiety. Those who abandoned Jesus represent all of us, in our own hour or testing. We should be careful in our public promises of faithfulness to Jesus. Instead, we should pray that when our faith is tested, the Lord might grant us the strength and courage to abide in Him, no matter what might happen to us.
1 1. Mark Miravalle, 1993 “With Jesus”: the story of Mary Co-redemptrix ISBN 1-57918-241-0 page 11
2. Schmaus, Mariologie, München, 1955, 328