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Radically Obedient Discipleship Part III

Radically Obedient Discipleship part 3

This post is the final in our series about Mary, the mother of Jesus, also known as the first disciple. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read the first two posts, please take a moment to do so. We’ve learned about the importance of spiritual rhythms and the power of community in helping us to disciple well.

For this final post, we follow Mary to the foot of the cross—undoubtedly the darkest moment of her life.

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

– John 19: 25-27

 

The Disciple and the Mother

My heart has always felt such a deep ache for Mary. When I had children of my own, my heart ached even more for her—I could not imagine seeing my son experience this gruesome and horrific death. I think a child dying before their parent is one of the greatest indications that something is not right in this world. (Before I go on, if that is you, please know that as I type these words I am thinking of you and your unbearable loss. I am so sorry and I pray that our God of all comfort makes His presence known amidst your grief and pain.)

Something I had not considered before, however, is what was it like for Mary as the first disciple to watch her Messiah die on the cross?

In his book The Real Mary, Scott McKnight says, “Mary and her contemporaries thought of the Messiah as a powerful Davidic king sitting atop a throne in Jerusalem, triumphantly routing the Gentiles, conquering the land, and guiding everyone in wisdom to observe the Torah. Embracing a Messiah who would make death on a cross central to his role challenged Mary’s faithfulness more than anything she would face.”

All her life Mary was taught what the Messiah would be like. And never were those teachings even remotely suggesting he would suffer at the hands of the enemy. On this side of the resurrection, we can find all manner of Bible passages pointing toward the cross, but before then, as a whole, the Jewish people did not see that.

She spent all 33 years of Jesus’s life with him. She most likely knew him the best of all the others. As his mother, she knew the details and intricacies of his personality, likes, and dislikes, better than anyone. I wonder if she knew his teachings better than anyone else as well? And yet still, as she watched her son die a heinous death, she must have hoped that what she had been taught before he came would become true—the King would prevail. Instead, any remaining expectations of that Messiah died with him. The suffering Messiah was the real Messiah—not the warrior King she had been groomed to believe her whole life.

I cannot imagine the kind of grief she was feeling. Nothing in those moments could have made any sense to her. No faith sense and no motherly sense.

 

Discipleship requires staying close to the Savior even when it doesn’t make sense.

Do you resonate with Mary’s experience as a disciple?

In this current cultural moment as many deconstruct their faith at varying levels—whether to the point of total tear down or perhaps a renovation that includes unlearning and relearning certain doctrines and positions, Mary’s response is important for us to consider:

 

Discipleship requires staying close to the Savior even when it doesn’t make sense.

 

She never left her Messiah son’s side. She was there at the cross and she is found at the start of the church (Acts 1:14). In her grief, she clung to her community and the truth she now knew: the suffering Messiah is her Messiah and He lives on in victory. For all the disciples, but I imagine especially so for Mary, the early days of the church were a whirlwind—reflecting on the ministry of Jesus and the teachings that seemed hard to grasp at the time were now making sense. The teachings they had learned as children and young teens were now being re-examined through the lens of Jesus.

There are two things I want to encourage you with today from Mary’s story. And this encouragement is for us all, but especially for the one who is questioning all the things surrounding your faith.

First, Mary was never alone. At the scene of the cross, she is with her sister, Mary Magdalene, another Mary, and John. Here, in her darkest moment, Jesus gives her a new family (John 19:27). In Acts we see this new family turn into the church. Jesus knows that they will all need one another in the days and weeks to come. He also knows the strength that comes with the community of believers.

Second, Mary’s reality and many of the lessons she had learned as a first-century Jewish girl did not line up. She could have felt deep confusion and very well may have questioned so many things in her life. Even still, she stayed by Jesus’s side until death on the cross, through the resurrection, and after the ascension. She may have questioned everything she had ever known, but Jesus, her Messiah, she trusted.

 

Heavenly Sense

There was a season in my life that was much like an unraveling. Like many who have had similar experiences, it wasn’t one specific moment, but rather a series of moments that lead to the point in which I looked up and wasn’t sure what I believed anymore. A move, a career change, another baby, and the loss of a dearly loved one forced me to stop and be still.

And there in the stillness, I asked the hard questions: where are you in the death of the innocent, God? Where do these seemingly heart-killing things fit in your story if you are so loving? And then how do I fit in this story? If you created me for a purpose, why do I seem to hit dead end after dead end? And while we are at it, of all the doctrines and Christian positions I have been taught, which are essential and which simply are not?

It was an intense season of unlearning and relearning, of soul-seeking and finding my Messiah as I wandered through the cloudy messages and teachings that I simply couldn’t “just believe” anymore.

What got me through and continues to help me journey through the things I question and my relearning? Community and Jesus.

And this is what I want to encourage you with today, friends. Discipleship, as we have learned, cannot happen without community. Questioning and asking God the very hard questions is something that can make our faith even stronger and resolute. But doing it on your own can lead to isolation. I prayed and asked God to bring me women I could share these concerns, fears, and questions with. Women that I knew would help me wrestle in the presence of Jesus.

You see, questioning and wondering and seeking grew my faith. But I needed to know I wasn’t the only one who had been here before. And friend, if this is where you find yourself, you too are not alone.

False doctrines, half-truths, and even misunderstood Scriptures are not Jesus—no matter what anyone might try to tell you. Jesus is Jesus. And only by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the power of His Word, and in the gift of community can we discern what is true.

 

Mary, the mother of the Messiah and the very first disciple shows us that we can trust Him even when nothing makes sense anymore. And in time, he will make heavenly sense of it all.

 

 

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