The First Saying
“Then said Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them;
for they know not what they do.’
And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.”
The Congregational minister Jonathan Edwards once preached a now famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Calvary tells us about God being in the hands of angry sinners. Men had done their worst.
They had taken the Lord of Glory by force in the middle of the night. They had quickly moved Him through the ecclesiastical and civil courts in order to get a death sentence issued based upon false accusation. They had beaten Him, spat upon Him, mocked Him, and finally suspended Him upon a wooden cross between heaven and earth in a violent act of crucifixion. And the Lord’s response to all of this hatred and hostility was to pray for those who tortured Him so unjustly. The public ministry of Jesus began with prayer according to Luke 3:21, and He would close it the same way. Jesus prayed for sinners in His last hours. He came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost and He would continue to do that to the very end.
From the Lord’s example at Calvary, we are reminded that we must never stop praying for the wicked and the wayward. The brother of the great evangelist D.L. Moody will always be happy that their mother prayed like Jesus prayed. Following the death of their father, Mr. Moody’s older brother became a prodigal and ran away from home. It broke their mother’s heart because for years on end she did not know what happened to her son. But she never stopped praying for him.
“I remember some nights, said Moody, waking past midnight and hearing a voice in my mother’s chamber; and I heard that mother weeping and saying, “O God, send back my boy. O God, shelter him and protect him, and take care of him.” That was her cry. And when there came a day when the nation returned thanks for the harvest, a day when all the family came together, mother used to say to us and raise our hopes, “Perhaps he will come back to-day,” and his chair was kept vacant, and the place at the table. And he never returned.
We wrote to different parts of the country as we grew up: If we found any paper that had a man named with the name of our brother, we would write to see if it was our brother. I remember once finding a notice in a Californian paper of a man bearing that name, and I thought it was him. I wrote out there, and was very much disappointed at receiving a letter telling me he wasn’t that man.
Yet mother prayed on and hoped on, seemingly against hope, until the hair once black turned grey and the step once firm began to tremble, and I could see grief carrying that dear mother into an untimely grace. How my heart used to bleed for her!
One day, as she was sitting in her little cottage, her two youngest children, that were infants when brother left home, and were now grown up almost to manhood and womanhood, sitting at the table with her, a stranger appeared at the gate, and he came up to the east piazza and stood with his arms folded, looking on that mother he hadn’t seen for years.
Mother did not recognize her boy; but when she saw those tears rolling down over the long black beard, through those tears she saw it was her long-lost boy, and when she saw it was her lost boy she said, “Oh, my son, come in.”
And he says with his arms folded, “No, mother; I will not come across your threshold until you forgive me.”
Sinner, do you believe she was ready to forgive him? She didn’t wait for him to come in, but ran to the door, threw her arms round his neck and wept for joy. The dead was alive, the lost was found, the wanderer was come home, and the joy it gave that mother, I cannot tell it to you. None but the mother that had the prodigal boy can realize that mother’s joy. I cannot tell you what joy it gave us as a family.”
Jesus said that there is joy in the presence of the angels of heaven over every sinner that is converted. So the Lord prayed at Calvary and His prayer was answered. Just a few weeks later, on a Day called Pentecost, three thousand souls were saved when the glorious gospel was preached again with great power. Many of the people who had shouted for the death of the Stranger from Galilee, bowed their knee to their Sovereign (cp. Acts 3:17). Souls were saved at Pentecost, not because Peter was so eloquent, but because Jesus prayed at Calvary and His prayers were always answered. “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
The Second Saying
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, “Woman, behold thy son!” As Mary stood by the Cross of Calvary, the prophecy of Simeon was filled. Though more than thirty-three years had passed, Mary remembered that the day she dedicated Christ, Simeon had said to her, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also…” ~John 19:25-26
The greatest of all privileges, being the mother of the Messiah, came with the greatest of all sorrows, watching the Messiah being put to death. Still, Mary stayed at Calvary. She might have fled the horrible scene. Who would have blamed her? But Mary stayed. There was no wild outcry of uncontrollable anguish. There was no fainting. Mary suffered in silence. She agonized in profound desolation of spirit.
Mary remained during the difficult hours when others came to laugh. The Priests of Jerusalem arrived, satisfied with the death of their prize. The soldiers remained callous and indifferent. The people from the city passed by to look and wonder. Mary watched them all. She withstood the insults and injustices to remain within sight and sound of her Son.
While Mary watched and waited, Christ suffered. Then, through the blood, sweat, and tears, His eyes focused upon Mary. And when He saw her, the Lord said, “Woman, behold your Son!” “Woman,” it was a term of respect, “Behold your Son! Your Son is still your Saviour!”
Mary knew that. She had even sung about it the day she discovered she was with child, conceived by the Holy Ghost. On that day Mary said with gladness, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46). “Woman, behold your Son!” “My Son is my Saviour,” said Mary.
Having addressed Mary, Jesus spoke to His disciple named John saying, “John, behold thy mother!” We are a little surprised to find one of the disciples back at the Cross of Calvary. In the Garden of Gethsemane they had all fled and suddenly became ashamed of the Lord when the soldiers came to take Jesus away. But John did return and in his return to be with Christ he was not rebuked. Rather, the Lord entrusted to his care Mary.
By this transaction, we must assume that Joseph was dead. Mary would need someone to look after her who believed like she believed. Up to this moment none of the other family members were of the household of faith. They did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, let alone the Son of God. So Jesus turned His mother over to His spiritual brother for protection.
By this transaction, the Lord set the perfect example of how children are to treat their parents which is with proper respect and care. Written on stone by the Finger of God is the commandment to honor parents. Exodus 20:12 is reiterated in Ephesians 6:1-2. There is the promise that those who honor their parents will live a longer life.
From time to time we hear of great acts of dishonor shown by a young person to a parent. An ugly word is said. A hand is raised in violence. The child that dares to do such things may feel bold for the moment but in the same instance death and destruction begins to stalk them. I do not know what the exact Divine penalty is for children who lash out at their parents, but I do know that a certain number of years have just been subtracted from their allowed lifespan. To honor our parents means to show them proper love and affection, gratitude and respect as Jesus showed Mary at Calvary.