And now. Now my baby is a man. And I kneel at the foot of a cross and watch him die. My first-born, my joy and my blessing, whipped and tormented. A mother should never have to see this. The infant that played at my feet.
They said he would reign for ever. They – angels, shepherds, wise men – they all said he would be the hope and the saviour of his people. How can that be when he hangs limp and battered, dying a criminal’s death?
My hope has gone, crushed with my son. As his body is beaten and tortured so hope is cast out of my soul. As nails are hammered through his flesh, with each thud, my heart breaks a little more.
Blessed. The angel said I was blessed. Blessed to have found favour with God. And how does my blessing takes its form? It finds me at the foot of a cross as life drains from my son’s body. With each agonised breath he takes, I gasp for air for him. I call upon God to send his angels, to move heaven and earth to rescue his son – my son. I beat upon the ground and scream out to God, ‘For this? This is why he was born? No! Where are you?’
My son is dead.
And now words return to me, words spoken by an old man in a temple. A sword will pierce your soul. And as my soul screams, I can only trust and wait, and wonder – what was it all for?
‘What are you doing?’
I don’t reply immediately to the question. How can I explain? I'm sitting in the shade beneath a tree, apart from the others. I need to be on my own, to try and understand, to try and make sense of the things that had happened.
I’d knelt on the ground at the foot of a cross as my son, my precious, Jesus, my first-born, died a criminal’s death. I’d watched as my son who had never hurt anyone had suffered the horrible painful fate of a murderer.
I’d wept at last as the skies darkened and all heaven and earth screamed with my pain and his agony as he took his last breath. And then it had been done, and John had led me away while they took his poor bleeding body down from the cross and laid it in a cold empty tomb.
And now they are saying he’s not dead. They’re saying the tomb was empty. They’re saying they've spoken to him. That he’s alive. And I want to believe – oh I want to believe with all my heart - but I'm too scared to let myself hope. I start to tell John this. He has been caring for me; I need to answer his question. But then the voice speaks again.
And this time I know it isn't John who is addressing me.
I turn around quickly and look behind me. He is standing there, smiling at me. He holds out his arms. I stumble and trip in my rush to get up and I almost fall into him. He wraps his arms around me and holds me close. He strokes my hair and whispers, ‘It’s all right, it’s going to be all right.’ And I remember how I did the same to him when, as a child, he fell and hurt himself.
And now I know it will be all right.