It has been well remarked that the pen is mightier than the sword. Of this we have been made aware in the historical record of the simple words, “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother.” These words have made a deep impression on mankind, multitudes have been moved by them.
When Abraham Lincoln dedicated the battlefield at Gettysburgh a burial ground for soldiers of the civil war, a professional orator was hired to make a speech; some felt Mr. Lincoln’s message would be inadequate for the occasion. However, less than one century has passed and very few Americans even know the name of the orator, but thousands of school children can recite Lincoln’s simple words. Thousands stand in reverence and read His Gettysburg address permanently inscribed upon his memorial in Washington, D.C. Few remain unmoved by its eloquence.
When, in our own time, during World War II, the fortunes of the free world, and especially Great Britain, had reached their lowest ebb, the simple words of Winston Churchill, promising only toil, sweat, blood, and tears stirred the hearts of all allied peoples, and humanly speaking turned the tide of history.
We will, however, search in vain throughout the whole range of literary works to find words more simple and precious, yet more moving than the ten words of our Scripture reference, “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother.” Let us briefly consider them and note the beauty of the various facets which appear as we turn each one to the light.
First, we note that there stood by the cross … This was a position of respect, in contrast to that which Matthews records of those who crucified our Lord. To their everlasting shame, he writes, “Sitting down they watched Him there” (Matt. 27:36). Matthew sets forth Jesus as King, and no one sits in the presence of royalty unless bidden so to do. John’s words then are so refreshing with regard to those who loved our Lord, they stood.
In second place, we notice that they stood by … Within their power there was nothing they could do. Man’s heart was manifesting its wickedness by crucifying Jesus. Satan’s most powerful assault was being hurled against the Godhead; above all this, the eternal counsels of God were being accomplished. The only thing they could do was to “stand by.” To their eternal credit, it is written in the Word of God that they did just that. Often we can only comfort and help one another by just standing by. How much this can mean when words or actions seems meaningless.
We now see that those who stood by, stood by the cross. The offence of the cross is still very real. Let us not be ashamed of the cross, but let us be found like those of old taking our place beside it. Paul could say, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rona. 1:16). The Gospel in essence is the story of the cross and how by its mighty accomplishment man is reconciled to God.
The Cross Of Jesus
Was it indeed the cross of Jesus? Could it not have been designated the cross of Barabbas? Surely he would have hung upon it if Christ had not taken his place. It is questionable as to whether Barabbas ever thought of it in this light, but he should have given thanks every day of his life thereafter that another took his place on Calvary.
Let us today make this a very personal matter. Was it not our cross? Had not the Lord died as our substitute, we would not have had a Saviour. Do we thank Him every day for Calvary? How wonderful is God’s mercy! The cross now is referred to as His cross: “And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, … now hath He reconciled” (Col. 1:20-21).
What pathos is found in this statement: “There stood by the cross of Jesus His mother.” There is no reference to the mothers of the malefactors. Perhaps they stayed away because of shame. Where else would we expect to find the mother of our Lord at such a time but beside His cross? Strange thoughts indeed must have passed through her mind as she gazed at Him through her tears. She would be reminded, of course, of the words of Simeon in Luke 2:35, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.” Other thoughts in like manner must have occupied her mind and heart. Thoughts that would assuage her sorrow, lovely, wonderful thoughts and memories of her son. She would remember the circumstances surrounding His wonderful birth; she would remember the tender infant days when she cradled Him in her arms, and the days that followed when she saw Him develop, grow, and learn to walk and talk. She would recall the completely human side of His nature.
She would remember that she had the privilege of bringing into the world and caring for One who had never caused her a moment of grief. Not an impertinent word had ever escaped His lips, not a rebellious look had He ever cast at her, not an unkind or unthoughtful act had she witnessed. She would recall His solicitude and consideration to her and to all others with whom He made contact. She would bring to mind such scenes as when they found Him in the temple “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions.” She would reflect that on such occasions, she, as “His mother, kept all these sayings in her heart” (Luke 2:51).
Here were two who loved and knew Christ so well that they could minister comfort to one another. Mary could tell John, in the days that followed, of the private years of the life of Jesus, the years before John knew Him. John could tell her of His public years, the years that Mary, because of household duties, could not witness. What a precious privilege and what a ministry we may exercise today in this cold indifferent world! A ministry of making up to one another that which is lacking, and of comforting one another with the thoughts of Christ as we have come to know Him. May these meditations move our affections toward the Lord, and toward our fellow-believers as we continue to muse upon those simple, yet majestic words, “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His Mother” (John 19:25).