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A Vessel for God's UseA Vessel for God's Use
by Bill Henegar


“Who ran to help me when I fell,
And would some pretty story tell,
Or kiss the place to make it well?
      My mother.”
(Ann Taylor, Original Poems for Infant Minds)

    Mary is our ultimate example of Christian servant-hood. Others pushed the frontiers of the faith to the uttermost corners of the earth. Others preached the gospel of Christ and gave their lives for the cross of Christ. But only one person said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” — whereupon God, through his Spirit, entered her body and planted the seed of the Son of God. Deity literally grew inside her.

    Tradition tells us that there was a brief meeting between Jesus and his mother, Mary, on the way to the cross. Although the New Testament doesn’t recount such a meeting, it certainly wouldn’t have been unlikely or impossible for such a meeting to take place. In fact, I believe Mary was indeed there... there on the way to the Place of the Skull.

    Matthew tells us, “Many women were there [at the cross], watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.” (Matthew 27:55) Of course, we know from John’s record that Mary was there. “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:25-27)

    I believe that Jesus met his mother along the way, somewhere on the streets between the Fortress Antonia and Golgotha. Perhaps she and the other women were outside the gate of Pontius Pilate’s garrison at daybreak when the news spread that Jesus had been arrested during the night. Perhaps one of the disciples ran from the garden of Gethsemane, awakened the women and told them of the arrest. It seems inconceivable that such serious news wouldn’t be communicated to Mary immediately and that she wouldn’t be there to offer her love and support.

    No doubt the women stood far out on the edge of the blood-thirsty mob, shocked, dismayed that the people could hate this One whom they loved so much. And as the death squad opened the gate and moved their prisoner into the street, the women probably followed at the rear of the procession.

    It’s likely that Mary would have followed the grim proceedings as they developed, rather than simply going directly to the place of execution and waiting for the death squad to arrive — if she knew where that place was.

    Yes, I’m almost sure she was in the crowd, and I believe there was at least one fleeting moment when she moved through the jumble of curious spectators and approached her beloved son. I can almost see it...

A Mother and Her Son

    There is a slight pressure on our arms, and as we turn to identify the source, a woman slips between us, stepping directly into the street. We see her face for only a split second — yet it is etched in our memory. Her eyes are filled with pain, her cheeks are flushed and streaked by tears, her brow is knit in sadness... she is oblivious to us and to all but the center of her gaze.

    She’s ordinary looking enough to disappear in a crowd. Still, if you stop and really focus on her, as you might in a conversation, she is a striking woman indeed. She is small and somewhere near fifty, but could pass for a younger woman. However, that isn’t what makes her striking. It is her eyes. They are like deep pools of clear water, like crystal springs. You feel as though you can look into her eyes and see her soul. And the soul that’s visible there in the depths is a truly remarkable one.

Yes, I’m almost sure she was in the crowd... I can almost see it...
    She steps into the street and straight up to the first condemned man, who has paused for a moment to catch his heaving breath. Is it the slightness of her person that causes her to go unnoticed for a minute? Or is it the unexpected audacity?

    The prisoner’s head rests on his chest, but he sees a small, familiar shadow cross his path. With the back of his hand, he wipes the salty sweat and blood from his eyes, then looks up. For the first time, we see his eyes! They are the same deep, clear pools as the woman’s... they are her eyes!

    As the gazes of mother and son meet, in an instant, lengthy conversations seem to pass between them... without a word being spoken. Her small hand brushes the blood-stiffened hair from his eyes, as if he were a little boy again, returning home from playful summer fields. The touch of her fingertips on his forehead is like a cool, invigorating breeze. The faint hint of a smile flits across his cracked lips — then is gone.

    The moment is shattered as a large, battle-hardened soldier steps up and raises his spear shaft. The woman glances up with eyebrows pressed together in grief. The Roman lowers the spear slowly and simply pulls gently on her shoulder. A last time, her eyes bathe his face in an invisible ointment of love. Then she retreats a pace or two as the procession picks up the cadence of the death drum again and is on its solemn way.

    There is a look of horror and helplessness on Mary’s face as Jesus lifts and pushes his cross ahead. As only mothers an, she feels every ache and pain that her son experiences. Her heart is breaking, but she must be brave, she must have faith... just as he admonished her.

    There’s no stopping the new tears that well up, then spill over the pools of her eyes. The grim scene before her is blurred by the flood, and suddenly her mind is flying back over the years, to images from other, better times — the strapping young carpenter in whom she took such pride, the 12-year-old boy she found asking and answering profound questions with the temple scholars, the beautiful infant at her breast, rocked to sleep by the swaying of the donkey on the way to Egypt. It was only yesterday, wasn’t it?

A Bond of Truth

    On the way of the cross, their eyes meet in the midst of tremendous tragedy. For a moment, she is mother again of a beautiful, tiny infant in the corner of a stable, with the pungent smell of hay and animals all around.

    The eyes she sees now are narrow with pain, lined with agony, but somehow they are the same soft eyes of the baby she clutched long ago. They are still filled with eternity.

    Love surges between them like a river. The death squad moves on down the street, and she reaches out into the increasing space between them, as if to say, “0 my son, how I wish I could relieve your sorrows; how I wish I could take your pain myself.” And I honestly believe that Mary would have died in his place if she could. Just as most mothers would.

    He lifts a weak hand, as if to say, “Yes, Mother, I know. You bore me in pain those many years ago; you gave yourself to my Father in heaven to be his holy vessel. Then you gave your young womanhood to raising me to manhood. But this present pain, this present death, I must bear alone. Because it is for you, dear woman, as well as for the whole world that I die. It is for you...”

    A few precious seconds, then the soldiers push the condemned men on. But I believe I saw them there together... a mother, a son... a woman, a Savior. Did you see them, too?

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