November 26, 2020

Stations of the Cross: The Fourth Station

A Series for Holy Week.
Thanks to Jeff Dunn for leading us in these meditations.

Jesus meets his Mother.


Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

Luke 1:38 NLT

A parent should never have to outlive a child. Those of us with children know how hard it is when one of them is sick. To watch one of our own children die must be the cruelest trick life could play on us. And what if it was a child God gave to us with a special promise, a promise that through the life of this child, things would be different. Lives would be changed. This kid would become a king whose kingdom would never end.

But here it is, ending with a criminal’s execution. Mary had to stand and watch as her son—one she had not tried for, mind you, but who was given her when she was yet a virgin by God himself—was nailed onto a cross and displayed on a garbage heap until he died. This son—the Son of God, Jesus—was a true son, not some mythical godlike creature. Jesus was Mary’s flesh-and-blood son. Mary was Jesus’ mother, the one who fed him, bathed him, clothed him, taught him as he grew.

What would have crossed the mind of Mary as she gazed into the eyes of her son as he hung on the cross? Hurt? Anger? Confusion? All of these are attributes of the deepest emotion of all: Love. Mary loved Jesus in a way no other human being ever has or ever will. He was her son, and now here he was dying. What were her thoughts? Perhaps, Why did he have to persist in his claims of deity? Why couldn’t he have just gone along with the religious leaders, toned down his messages a bit, played it safe? If he had just gone along, he wouldn’t be here now, dying. Mary watched each agonizing moment go by, each one taking her closer to seeing her firstborn breathe his last.

And what did Jesus think as he looked into the eyes of his mother? Jesus, the Son of Man,  had a flesh-and-blood birth and thus had a real mom, not some ethereal “mother earth” spirit. Mary was his mom, the one he learned to obey as a child, the one he picked flowers for, the one who baked him bread and showed him how to clean a fish. And now here she was, at the foot of the wood he was nailed to, watching in humiliation as his naked body oozed out its life. Could Jesus have been suffering all the more knowing his mother had to bear this cruelty? Did he hurt because of the hurts inflicted upon his mom? Did he long for one more embrace, one more kiss, one more “I love you, son” whispered in his ear?

Yes, Jesus died for all of humanity. But just now he is looking at his mother, and this death is not just the sacrifice for our sin. It is an unendurable hardship being laid upon a mother, something that never should happen.

Protestants say, perhaps correctly, that Catholics lay too much emphasis on Mary. I say we Protestants don’t give nearly enough attention to the mother of God Incarnate. Today, meditate on the life of Mary. A young teenager pregnant out of wedlock, having to explain to people that “God did this to me; I’m carrying his child.” A new mother forced to flee from her country to a hostile nation. A mom trying her best to raise and protect her son who finds it more important to sit at the feet of teachers in the Temple than to let his mother know where he is.

Mary had to endure the shame and humiliation heaped on Jesus the rebel rabbi. She heard the people in the streets talk about him in a way that told her they just didn’t get it. And she was forced to stand by as her son was tortured and executed. What would have been her thoughts toward God in all of this? What would yours be if you were Jesus’ parent? And is it hard for you to wrap your mind around the fact that Jesus—the very God of very God—had a flesh-and-blood mother? Why do you think that is?

Jesus, it is impossible for us to know just all you thought and felt and experienced in your death. But those who are parents can relate—at least a little—to how it must have felt for you to see your mother standing beneath your cross as your life fled away. Lord, help us as we meditate on the look you shared with your mother to understand that you are fully man as well as fully God. That your death not only cost you, but cost those you loved as well.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


  1. Jesus suffered in this way so that we do not have to suffer.

    I can’t help but disagree with this, especially when the very next sentence – He drank the cup of our shame, now we can feel free to let another carry our burden, carry our needs, carry us. – seems so spot on with its exegesis. I’ve always understood Jesus’ “failure” to carry the cross as one of the ultimate expressions of His fully sharing in our humanity; God understands what it is like to be overwhelmed. It does not negate or stop our suffering, but helps transform it, and helps, as you write, us to accept the grace and mercy of help.

    • Agreed, Michael. I should have spun this out a bit more. We still suffer, but not to the point of death as Jesus did that for us. We still suffer humility in our helplessness and hopelessness, but Jesus having suffered these to their fullest extent makes our sufferings his, and thus we can know peace in our suffering. Does this make any more sense? I want the meditations to be just that–short pieces to give us something to ponder, not long essays where I can unpack the ideas more. But I should have chosen my words better here. Good catch, good comment. Thanks.

      • We still suffer, but not to the point of death as Jesus did that for us. We still suffer humility in our helplessness and hopelessness, but Jesus having suffered these to their fullest extent makes our sufferings his, and thus we can know peace in our suffering.

        I’m feeling a bit dense, Jeff – genuinely so, as I’m not trying to be a pedant. Again, these two sentences produce wildly different reactions. The first is one of puzzlement – we don’t suffer to the point of death? You must be meaning something other than the most literal application, since humans obviously do suffer and die in suffering.

        The second sentence elicits a profound, humbled, “Yes, yes, yes.” I get you here, and am so grateful that God condescended to experience profound helplessness and weakness in order to bridge that gap between humanity and His perfection. There is much solace in knowing that God can truly say, “I understand” when we feel (or truly are) helpless.

        • Again, Michael, the shortfalls of short space. Chesterton is credited with writing a friend an eight-page letter, then closing with, “I’m sorry for these eight pages. I didn’t have time to write one.” It is almost always harder to write fewer words.

          Yes, we all suffer death–but usually not death by humiliation. Jesus took every trial to its furthest point: most all of us give in before we reach the very breaking point, then break. Jesus was broken by this helplessness and humiliation beyond what most any of us will ever experience.

          Ok. I think now I may be confusing myself. Thanks for the good comments. I think we both see where this goes, but perhaps you are the one who is expressing it better this time.

  2. Where’s the 4th station??

  3. It is one of the great paradoxes of our faith that letting someone serve you requires more humility than trying to serve another.

    Thank you for explaining this, Chaplain Mike; I grew up SBC, so I missed the great meditations like this one.

  4. “Jesus experienced the shame of helplessness, the total dependence on another to do what he should have been doing…There is no longer any guilt or shame in allowing someone else to do for us what, perhaps, we should be doing ourselves.” This is very poignant, thank you for sharing.