Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.…
Is it not a striking fact that our Lord was allowed to die under such conditions of cruelty and wrong-doing without a single protest, so far as we can find from the record, from the lips of aa apostle, disciple, or well-wisher? This is a fact which we ought honestly to consider. Catching a new inspiration, the apostles became eloquent in the proclamation of that Cross whose mystery, while it was uplifted, had silenced them. Let us consider —
I. The silence of some IN THE PRESENCE OF A STRANGE AND PAINFUL SURPRISE, In order to understand this better, let us recall some of our Lord's preceding utterances to His disciples: See how repeatedly He discourages the possible suggestion of resistance. He had also said, "No man taketh it [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." He further intimated, when danger seemed to threaten Him prematurely, that there were twelve hours in the day, and that His hour had not yet come. Throughout it was not resistance, but passive endurance, that Christ taught.
II. The silence of the majority of the disciples arose also from FEAR OF THE APPARENT TRIUMPH OF EVIL, AND THE SUCCESSFUL CONSPIRACY OF WICKED MEN. Their fears weakened their grasp of Christ, and when that was done there was nothing left for them but flight. Not an apostle's voice was heard at the cross. They alone of all men were those who had nothing to say! In the face of that silence the question comes to us, "How could these men ever speak again in the name of that Christ?" And with what a high sense of privilege the commission came to those who had so recently been silent when they might have spoken — "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature"! It came to them as the restoration of a forfeited right ever to speak again for Jesus, since that gift had been neglected in the supreme moment of need.
III. The silence of HELPLESSNESS IN THE PRESENCE OF TYRANNICAL FORCE — a silence that would largely pertain to the women.
IV. The silence of LOVE IN THE PRESENCE OF INSCRUTABLE MYSTERY. This would above all apply to Mary. The cries of blasphemy which now rent the air, and pierced her ears, but ill accorded with the harmonies of the angels' song which still lingered in her memory. There are times when our only safety is to be quiet, to bear passively the burden of mystery, and to look conflicting providences in the face and answer them nothing.
V. The silence of INTENSE GRIEF THAT COULD ONLY SPEAK — if it spoke at all — in tears, since words were too weak.
VI. The silence of FAITH THAT COULD WAIT FOR THE SOLUTION. I believe that Mary and John and the woman at the cross had that faith in a great measure. There might have been other obscure disciples in the crowd who had it. I wonder sometimes that some of the deaf and dumb to whom Christ had given speech and hearing did not use their new-born speech on this occasion; but it may be that in that throng, as well as in the smaller group near the cross, there was at least one here and there who could look the mystery in the face and say, "I cannot solve it, but I will wait. He that believeth shall not make haste." Even at the cross of Christ, and among that tumultuous throng, there was a faith to be found in solitary hearts that could leave all with the Crucified One. "I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it up again?" To some at least who had heard those words, the suggestion would come, "What if this be after all but the expression of His power? What if the Cross be but the Gospel in paradox?" Conclusion: While, therefore, there is much in the silences at the cross of Christ that fills us with humiliation and shame, we will not indiscriminately condemn all the reticence of that hour. There are times in every true life when silence is the expression of the mightest faith. One man speaks and ejaculates, yet only reveals hysterical weakness; the other man waits, is calm, and utters not a word, because he is strong enough to be quiet. The Cross of Jesus Christ is too sacred, too sublime a thing for us to talk of until we know something about it. "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." If you do not know that, the best thing you can do is to be quiet, and look at that Cross in silence. Do not talk flippantly, much less scornfully, about that in which you have no share. In the presence of His Cross the world is now silent for very shame, but we who have trusted in Him are in its presence filled with a joy which shall sustain us in all sorrow, and find its consummation in the rapture of that eternal world, where, Christ shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied, and where we shall face to face behold Him who has washed us from our sins in His own blood.
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.