I apologize for last week’s omission of our development of the characters of Peter and Mary when it comes to a crucified Messiah. We were in Seattle, got home late, and it didn’t even cross my mind. But, we’re back — Mary’s at the Cross, Peter has skipped away. The rugged reality confronts both of them and the meaning of “Messiah” will never be the same.
Let this be clear first and foremost: no one embraces the cross naturally. Not the mother of Jesus and not the principal apostle.
Peter, whose story is so well known, is interrogated or at least questioned within earshot of Jesus during his ordeal — and Peter claims he’s never heard of Jesus and, in spite of his Galilean accent, he cannot be connected to Jesus. Why? He’s afraid of the cross as an instrument of death that could engulf his own life. He knows what it would mean to say, “Yes, I know him; and I happen to love him and follow him.” It means that Peter, too, would bear the cross. Peter gets this one opportunity and he fails … miserably … sadly … and the event will mark Peter.
The cross scares because a life of following Jesus can involve dying with Jesus.
Mary is there … and that’s about all we know. Mark 15 tells us that the women who were around her — Salome (her sister), Mary of Clopas and Mary of Magdala — were followers of Jesus and that they provided for Jesus. We can assume these are not onlookers, but genuine followers who are close enough to Jesus to see the cross, his pain, and his death. They watch it.
What did Mary think of it all? We don’t know, but what we do know is that what she thought would happen — her son being the Davidic Messianic king who would establish that final dynasty — just never quite happened as she thought it might. She had to learn that the Messiah would be a sword who would pierce her soul (Simeon), that her Son had a relationship to a Father that transcended his relationship to Mary, that he would do things in God’s own time, and that the true “dynasty” was actually a clutch of those who sat with Jesus, encircled him and listened to his teachings — and then practiced them.
The Gospels leave us wondering about both Peter and Mary — what would become of them? … and many are left wondering today about the sense the cross has when they see its utter reality.