Thorns Thine Only Crown
by Liz Curtis Higgs
Darkness was all around her.
Mary of Nazareth stood, abandoning her borrowed bed. Though it was past midnight, she had no hope of sleeping. Her son had been betrayed by a friend and then arrested by strangers. How was that possible?
Days earlier she’d come from Nazareth for the Passover, a nameless fear thudding in her heart. Simeon’s prophecy, seldom far from her thoughts, now consumed her. “This child is destined . . . to be a sign that will be spoken against.” (Luke 2:34) Finally she understood. Jesus was loved, even revered, in Galilee, but here in Jerusalem her son was hated and reviled.
Mary quietly moved toward the window, careful not to wake the others sleeping on pallets scattered around the small room. When she looked down on the empty courtyard, all was silent. Simeon’s words pressed in, sharper than ever. “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:345)
The burden of that prediction, spoken just forty days after she gave birth to her firstborn, had grown heavier with each passing year. “A sword will wound your own soul” (NIrV), the prophet Simeon had told her as they’d stood in the temple courts, Joseph by her side. “Yes, a long knife will cut your heart” (WE).
She’d first sensed the sharp edge of that blade after the Passover when they were separated from their young son for three long days. Then, not so long ago, another glancing blow to her heart occurred in the unlikeliest of places.
A wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. John 2:1–2
It’s a special blessing whenever my son, Matt, sits beside me in public. Surely Mary felt the same way. Proud. Loved. Appreciated. Grateful. The Lord’s growing number of followers were “bidden” (ASV) to join the party as well. We can picture this small but lively group seated on benches beneath a cloudless sky, wine cups in hand, enjoying the festivities.
When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” John 2:3
Mary probably felt sorry for the host, who stood “on the brink of embarrassment” (VOICE). Running out of wine was a social disaster, especially at a wedding. So “Jesus’ mother came to him with the problem” (TLB).
“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. John 2:4
His response may sound critical to our ears, but the word woman was “a respectful form of address in that culture.” Though Mary hadn’t asked Him to do anything about the wine, Jesus knew her heart, knew her intent, which is why He asked her, “Dear woman, why are you telling me about this?” (NIrV).
Before Mary had a chance to reply, He voiced His concern.
“My hour has not yet come.” John 2:4
In the original Greek it’s literally “the hour of me.” (John 2:4) Whatever His tone, Mary must have felt chastened. Now that He’d begun to gather a following, she may have thought her son was ready “to act and to be revealed” (AMP). Not so, it seemed. He told her plainly, “The time for me to show who I really am isn’t here yet” (NIrV).
Still wanting to provide wine for the wedding party, Mary played the mother card. She put the problem in her son’s hands yet made her wishes clear by setting things in motion.
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5
Was she defying His wishes or following His Father’s leading? We can be certain only of what happened. “She went ahead anyway” (MSG) and told the household servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (NASB).
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. John 2:7
No questions asked, they filled the jars “up to the very top” (NET). We can picture these obedient servants barely containing their excitement as they watched clear water change into wine before their eyes. How like Jesus to ensure the least of these were the first to see His miracle.
When the master of the banquet tasted the wine and commented on its exceptional quality, no one in the household pointed to Jesus. But Mary knew what had happened. So did His disciples.
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. John 2:11
His “wonderworks” (AMPC) began that day when He “demonstrated his power” (PHILLIPS) and “showed his divine greatness” (ERV). The motivation for His miracles was always the same—He wanted people to believe in Him, trust in Him, put their faith in Him. That day in Cana, Jesus chose to do His mother’s will and, even more, to honor His Father’s will, revealing His true identity to those closest to Him.
Mary, too, showed us something about herself. She’d become a mature, self-assured woman over the years. No longer a young virgin, meek and mild, she had a faith honed by experience and expectation. She believed the prophecies about her son and believed in His calling. So, like any mother in any century, she encouraged Him to use His gifts.
Even so, she must have felt Him draw a step further away from her that day in Cana, realizing the time of her authority was over. In the same way a grown son will “leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,” (Mark 10:7) Jesus was leaving His mother and preparing to unite with His bride, the church. (Revelation 19:7)
His earthly father, Joseph, is not mentioned in the scene at Cana. Most scholars believe he was deceased before the year of Jesus’s passion, leaving Mary a widow.
Now, years later, we find her in Jerusalem watching her son face His accusers. The grim hours ahead would test every ounce of her courage, even as the sword Simeon had warned her about had begun to pierce her “innermost being.” (Luke 2:35)
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, . . . Mark 14:55
Such vile hatred toward the One we love is unfathomable. The fact that these were religious men makes it even more bewildering. But Jesus understood them well, having once told the Pharisees, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” (John 8:44-45)
Is it any wonder “the whole Jewish council tried to find something that Jesus had done wrong so they could kill him” (NCV)? All they needed was a valid reason, some solid evidence, a credible testimony.
. . . but they did not find any. Mark 14:55
Even Jesus’s enemies discovered nothing bad about Him, and you know they tried their best. Still, “the council could find no proof against him” (ICB).
Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Mark 14:56
They couldn’t get their fabricated stories straight and so “contradicted each other” (CEB) and broke one of the Ten Commandments they claimed to cherish: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)
“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’ ” Mark 14:58
Wait. The Lord didn’t say He would tear down the temple. He said they would. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:19) A lie is the truth turned upside down, and these sons of Satan were proficient at standing on their heads.
Yet even then their testimony did not agree. Mark 14:59
Perhaps to put an end to their fumbling, Caiaphas, the high priest and self-appointed enemy of Jesus, turned to Him and demanded He answer their charges.
But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Mark 14:61
The One who is Peace itself held His peace. But when Caiaphas asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, He could not keep silent.
“I am,” said Jesus. Mark 14:62
His words struck like a lightning bolt. “ ‘I AM,’ answered Yeshua” (CJB). Think of all the times in His Word that the Lord affirms who He is: “I am the bread of life,” (John 6:35) “I am the light of the world,” (John 8:12) and “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:14) The Greek word eimi means “I am, I exist,” and the word before it, ego, is an emphatic “I.” Imagine Him saying, “I . . . I am!”
“And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:62
At that, Caiaphas was undone.
The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. Mark 14:63
He “ripped his robe apart” (CEV)—a dramatic way of expressing his “horror” (NLT), “outrage” (EXB), and “indignation” (AMP)—and then asked the crowd for their verdict.
They all condemned him as worthy of death. Mark 14:64
Excerpted from THE WOMEN OF EASTER. Copyright © 2017 by Liz Curtis Higgs. Published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.