Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.…
Earth, hell, and heaven were represented at the cross of Jesus. These representatives naturally formed themselves into groups. Notice -
I. THIS INTERESTING GROUP AT THE CROSS. Who composed it?
1. The mother of Jesus. She is mentioned first. She stands prominent among the rest, as well she may. Of all mothers, she is the most popular and interesting. She stands alone in the maternal roll of the world. Never a mother had such a Son, and never a son had such a mother. She has been made too much of on the one hand, and too little on the other. From her the Son of God inherited his humanity and his human breeding. Humanly speaking, he owed much to his mother for his fine human nature and sympathies. That Mary was his mother was not an accident. Never a mother had such joy nor such sorrow; and she was now overwhelmed with the latter. She was there: and what could keep her away?
2. Her sister. Who was she? not the wife of Cleophas. She was also a Mary; and two sisters of the same name was not a likely thing. She was doubtless Salome, the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of James and John. John was Christ's first cousin, which accounts for the likeness, the attachment, and the trust. Her name is not mentioned, which is characteristic of John's modesty. He would not mention his own name, neither that of his mother.
3. Mary the wife of Cleophas. The mother of James the Less, Joses, and Judas. Whether this Cleophas was the same as that who met Jesus on the way to Emmaus, it is difficult to decide. He was, doubtless, a good man and a disciple of Jesus; but is brought into prominence in the sacred history in connection with his more heroic wife, who outstripped him in the race, left him on the outskirts of the crowd, and pressed on with her comrades to the cross of the Lord.
4. Mary Magdalene. A well-known character of this period. Jesus healed her of many infirmities, at least from her seven unclean spirits, and ever afterwards she was specially attached to her great Benefactor, and was one of the many good women who followed Jesus from Galilee, and administered to him of their substance, according to the custom of the Jews; and she was now among that little group of sympathetic souls who attended his last moments.
II. THEIR POSITION. "By the cross of Jesus." In this position they manifested:
1. Great fortitude. To realize this:
(1) Think of the sufferings they had to witness, and the spectacle they had to see. They had to witness the agonizing death, the shame, and the untold indignities of their best Friend. Many a stout heart has failed at the death-bed of a loved one; but they stood at the death-cross of their Lord.
(2) Think of the public scorn and ridicule to which they were exposed. They were, doubtless, known to many of the Savior's foes as his adherents, and it was not at all fashionable for women to appear at such a scene; but what cared they for social propriety or public scorn? Their courage towered far above this in the performance of a sacred duty.
(3) Think of their personal danger. As the friends of the crucified One, in the very teeth of his cruel foes, their lives were in jeopardy; but they counted not these dear unto them, but stood there face to face with death.
2. Strong affection. This accounts for their courage. Their heroism was that of love, and their courage that of affection. Their affection may be looked at as:
(1) Maternal affection. What love so faithful and heroic as that of a mother? And it was never stronger than in her heart who was the mother of our Lord; and it drew her now near to his cross.
(2) Social affection.
(3) Pious affection. It was more than the ordinary affection of human kindred and friendship. It was love arising from pious attachment, from Christian hope, and faith in him as the Messiah and Savior. Mary Magdalene was still on fire with gratitude and faith, which blazed all the more near the cross.
3. Strong and genuine sympathy. They were ready to render him any help, and would, if possible, have taken some of his agonies upon themselves. They were helpless, but did what they could and went as far as possible.
4. Great self-control. We have read of mothers becoming frantic and losing their lives to save loved ones; but here there was a wonderful calm maintained, which makes the mother's love more heroic, and her heroism more sublime. There were emotions deep and stirring in their breasts, with but little or no demonstration; but there was wonderful self-control manifested, as if their souls had caught the calm spirit of the crucified One.
III. THEIR CONDUCT AS AN EXAMPLE FOR THE IMITATION OF ALL.
1. They stood by him in his hour of greatest trial and sufferings. It was one thing to stand by him in his hour of joy and triumph, in the day of his power and the exploits of his loving strength, when the heaven opened and streamed upon him its glory; when Divinity encircled his brow, and made his word omnipotent and his very gaze or touch almighty; when at his bidding diseases fled, and demons quitted their dark haunts; when the storm was hushed, and the waves crouched at his voice; when food increased under his hands, and even Death gave up his prey when he spoke. But it was another thing to stand by him on a cross, when hell besieged him with its torments, heaven seemed closed to his breathings, and Divinity itself seemed to have deserted him.
2. They stood by him when others had left him. It is one thing to stand by Jesus, one of many; but it is another to stand by him, one of four. It is one thing to follow him with faithful disciples and a jubilant crowd; but it is another to stand alone by his cross. Where were zealous and good-hearted Peter, James, Andrew, and Philip, and others? They had all left, with the exception of the disciple of love and these loving women. Others may be among the crowd, or on the outskirts, beholding from afar; but they stood by his cross when all had left him. As others leave Christ, let us stand by him and draw to him all the closer.
3. They did all they could. They were helpless, and could render no assistance. They could make no progress; still they stood their ground, and manifested their undying and unconquerable attachment. They clung to Jesus for his own sake apart from circumstances. Like them, let us do what we can, and advance as far as possible, and, when we cannot go any further, let us stand; and, indeed, in the hour of direst temptation the utmost we can do is to stand our ground.
1. Jesus has not been at any time wholly deserted.
2. It is worthy of notice that the faithful ones at the cross were women. Surely "he giveth power to the faint." In the weaker vessels was the greatest strength.
3. Those who stood by the cross of Jesus unconsciously stood near a rich treasury. The outward scene was that of shame, poverty, and untold agony and misery; but the inward was that of untold peace, joy, riches, and glory. There was the atonement made, the fountain opened, and the work of redemption finished. They stumbled on a rich fortune. This did not occur to them then, but flashed upon them afterwards. The cross did more good to them than they to him who hung upon it.
4. Those who stand by Jesus in his hour of trial, he will stand by. We all have our crosses, affliction, and death in our turn. Let us stand by the cross of Jesus, and he will stand by ours, and will not leave us in the hour of our greatest trial. - B.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.