The second in a series on the cross of Christ by guest blogger, Erin Johnson. Erin graduates this spring with a Master’s of Arts in Biblical Studies from Epic Bible College and Graduate School. She is also a wife and the mother of two teenagers.
I have been preparing my heart to celebrate the resurrection by meditating on the very last moments in the earthly life of Christ. All four gospel writers note, almost in passing, that as Jesus took his last breaths there were “some women watching from a distance” (Mark 15:40). As I read the accounts, flipping from one gospel to the next, I began to imagine myself at the place of the skull with that group of women on the day the Author of Life was killed. At first, it seemed a futile, if not a silly exercise. But then, in my imagination, He saw me there.
Let me be clear: This was not a vision from God or a prophecy of any kind. This was an exercise I designed so that I could better understand what “those who knew Jesus personally” (Luke 23:49 GNB) experienced on that day. I envisioned as many details as Scripture gave me. I thought of the dark sky at midday and the metallic smell of blood. I pictured people gawking as they passed by on the road and others gathered “as spectators” who had come to watch “the show” (Luke 23:49 MSG). I saw the soldiers gambling and spectators taunting. I imagined the sound of the three victims moaning in pain and gasping for breath. Undoubtedly, there was weeping from within the group of women. As I visualized all of this, I looked up at Him on the cross and in my imagination, He looked at me too.
We know that Jesus was aware of the people present while he was on the cross because the Apostle John records an exchange between Jesus, his mother Mary, and John, during which Jesus essentially asks his best friend to take care of his mom. We are told, “Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there…” (John 19:26 GNB). The Greek word John used for “saw” is horaō. Strong’s defines this as, “properly, to stare at…to discern clearly…” This small detail became important to me. Despite his pain, he was able to see and discern those who had gathered there, so it is plausible that Jesus saw and discerned the others gathered there as well. If I had been there, perhaps He would have seen me too.
Scripture tells me in Genesis 16:13 that long ago and far away Hagar felt unseen. Alone in the desert, she told the Lord, “You are the God who sees me.” Again, the original Hebrew word (ra’ah) is defined as, “to be near, perceive.” Apparently, Hagar’s need to be truly seen was greater in that moment than her immediate need for food and shelter. I can relate to her struggle with feeling invisible. I suppose that is why it was meaningful when Jesus looked at me as I stood on my imaginary Golgotha.
Romans 6:6 (GNB) says, “And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed...” Watchman Nee taught, “We were crucified when Christ was crucified, for God put us there in him.” So then, in my imaginary scene, when I was standing near the cross with the three Marys as Jesus died for all of us, I died too. I am thankful today that my story does not end at the place of the skull because as Paul wrote, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” Romans 6:8 (NIV). So, I guess I was there in a way. And so it seems plausible that He did look at me. Indeed, at the cross, He is the God who sees me.