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John stood aghast as he watched the demise of his leader. Jesus was not like any other leader he had known before. Jesus had lead by example. He had always been concerned for John's welfare and John had felt truly loved by him.
John grieved at the scene before him. He pondered the events of the past week and wondered how this could be happening? Just one week ago Jesus had arrived in the city hailed as a king. Now he hung on a cross between two thieves. What had transpired to lead to this? It all seemed a blur to John now. He knew that Jesus had made enemies among the religious leaders. He had pointed out errors in their thinking. But he never thought it would come to this.
John had been with Jesus for about three years and had learned much about the Kingdom of God. He had heard Jesus talk about how a follower of God should live, in love and harmony with everyone. Even one's enemies. Yes, he even had to love these religious leaders who had brought about the crucifixion of his beloved leader, and the Roman soldiers who laughed and jeered at him as he hung on the cross. Indeed, despite what was happening, he sensed that Jesus loved these people.
His thoughts were interrupted as someone in the crowd yelled out "He saved others. Why can't he save himself!" John thought about this. How much had Jesus saved others? John had seen Jesus do some amazing things. He had brought sight to the blind, opened the ears of the deaf and caused the lame to walk. He had fed thousands from just a handful of food and even brought his friend Lazarus out of the tomb. Jesus had been so selfless now he was the subject of abject hatred.
A tear formed in John's eye as he considered the love that Jesus had shown him. He recalled with fondness the time that Jesus had washed all of the disciples' feet. Jesus was the leader yet he had acted as a servant in an act of selfless love. He thought with shame about the time he and his brother had coveted glory and power. They had not really understood that love meant service. Jesus always showed love to all of the disciples, even Judas whom he knew would later betray him.
John knew that Jesus would do anything for him, yet on the night that Jesus was arrested he had done nothing to help him. He should have stood up to the guards that came for him in the garden, as Peter had done, but instead he just stood watching as they took him away. He was too scared to do anything. Now it was too late. Jesus had been hurriedly sentenced to death on fabricated evidence. Now he was suffering the cruelest form of death known to man. A horrible, long, painful death. John felt helpless to do anything. He could not overpower the Roman soldiers and take him off the cross.
John wondered how God could let this happen. He truly believed that Jesus is the Son of God. The supernatural events that surrounded his crucifixion - the darkness and the earthquake had attested to that. But John knew because he had been so close to Jesus during his ministry. He heard Jesus speak with authority about God's kingdom. He had seen Jesus' love in action. Jesus had claimed to be God's Son and John had no doubts about this claim.
But now the Son of God was hanging on a cross. Why was this happening? He remembered Jesus saying that he had to be lifted up and that anyone who believed would have eternal life.1 Is this what he meant by being lifted up? Lifted up on a cross? Was Jesus making the ultimate sacrifice so that all who believe may have eternal life?
John saw Mary the mother of Jesus standing among a group of women. He recognised all of them as followers of Jesus. He saw the distress in Mary's face so he walked over to comfort her. Mary acknowledged him as he approached.
"Mary." John stumbled over his words. "I know how much this must hurt. We all loved him. But I believe this is God's purpose to bring forgiveness for sins."
Mary's sobs grew louder and John put his arm around her. He stood silently with her as they gazed up at the cross. He did not know what else he could say or do to ease her pain. He felt that he could do nothing to help her. His heart was unbearably heavy and he felt unable to do anything.
Suddenly Jesus looked down on them from the cross. It seemed to take all his strength to talk but he managed some words that cut John to the heart. He looked first to Mary and said "Woman, here is your son." Then he turned to John and said "Here is your mother."2
In his dying moments Jesus was concerned for his mother. He was dying and he wanted to ensure that she would be cared for. John felt a deep sense of honour. Jesus had entrusted him with the task of caring for his mother. He determined that he would take her into his own home and treat her as though she were his own mother. Jesus had plainly said that from this moment Mary would be his mother. He held onto her as she cried on his shoulder.
They stood together watching Jesus last moments. As he weakened he looked down from the cross and said "I am thirsty." A soldier grabbed a sponge, soaked it in wine vinegar and raised it to Jesus. He sucked from it then with one last cry called "It is finished."3
1. John 3:14-15 2. John 19:25-26. 3. John 19:28-30
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