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Two Mothers Beneath the Cross

In this world we can expect tribulation. So Jesus informed all His followers.

As the world seeks to celebrate Mother’s Day with flowers and sweet candy, we remember that troubles and bitter sorrow also come with the job. Blessed are all godly mothers who bear their cross with faithful patience.

If we were to ask, ‘Who is the most notable example of this in Scripture?’, who would not think of Mary, the mother of Jesus?

Mary’s motherhood certainly started in perplexity. How could it even be possible? Yet when the angel explained it, Mary participated in another Christmas miracle – bowing in humble faith to the Lord’s will, believing that with Him nothing is impossible. Even the shame of a threatened divorce was removed.

As her Son Jesus grew and began His public ministry, certainly there were wonderful emotions for the mother as she heard His words of life and observed His validating miracles.

But there were difficulties also when on several occasions Mary sought to assume the right of being Jesus’ Director of Ministries, only to be rebuked! Then there were those agonizing hours of Holy Week as her Son was arrested, mocked, scourged, condemned, and then crucified. All of that surely brought to fulfillment the prophetic words of Simeon to Mary, “yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:35).

Yet out of a mother’s heartache came joy in seeing Jesus risen from the dead, and as she accepted His innocent suffering and death as the price for her and for all mankind’s redemption.

Mary is not worthy of our worship (as Luther said), but she is blessed indeed and deserves our attention and celebration over what God made of her.

So also all godly mothers deserve our honor and love!

Is there a mother who perhaps suffered tribulation equal to or greater than Mary’s, greater than any other woman in the Bible?

Let’s consider one possibility–an Old Testament counterpart to Mary. She was a mother who suffered greatly, loved unreservedly, displayed overwhelming courage and patience in the face of tragedy, and was finally comforted by our Lord’s lesser father—King David.

Rizpah and Her Life Story!

Her name was Rizpah, and her story can be read in chapter 21 of Second Samuel.

Rizpah by Chantal Baros. Oil on canvas

Rizpah was a concubine of King Saul. Her bitter grief resulted largely because of his sin. Decades before, the Gibeonites had deceived Joshua into signing a non-aggression pact with them. Joshua had sworn by the name of the Lord that Israel would never harm them.

But years later, in his zeal, Saul had tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to annihilate the Gibeonites.

Because of this broken vow, God sent drought upon Israel. In trying to make it right with God, King David asked the Gibeonites what could be done to make amends for the broken treaty. The Gibeonites wanted neither gold nor silver; what they did want was that seven of Saul’s male descendents be given to them to be hung or crucified. David agreed. Among the seven victims were two sons of Rizpah.

Rizpah could not prevent the fate of her two sons, but she did carry out a last vigil of love, protecting their dead bodies from further dishonor. Donning sackcloth in her mourning, through heat of day and cold of night she stayed close by the sun-scorched, bloated, blackened, decomposing bodies of her sons, chasing from them the birds, dogs, and other scavengers. And she did this day and night for nigh unto six months—hungry, faint with thirst and exhaustion, enduring ridicule and unwanted pity.

No doubt she was convinced that her sons hung there, dead and dishonored, not for their own sins but for those of another.

David eventually heard of Rizpah’s plight. Together with the heretofore neglected bones of Saul and Jonathan, Rizpah’s two sons were finally given a proper interment. So David comforted this mother. And so also the drought was broken as the rains returned.

If Rizpah and her sons looked for the day of David’s greater Son, Jesus, then they will surely rejoice on the wonderful day of Resurrection.

Bearing the cross is a promised part of this earthly life, and many times mothers bear it in connection with their offspring.

But standing faithfully with Mary at the atoning cross of Jesus brings forgiveness and joy, including the comfort and hope of the resurrection of decayed bodies and dusty bones from mortal dishonor to immortal glory.