He stood there and watched the daylight turn to darkness in the middle of the day. It was a fearful thing, but he hardly noticed. His heart was already shredded, the light was already going out, and darkness seemed only fitting. At least there was no sparkling sunlight or laughing breeze to mock his grief. There was mockery enough from the lips of those who had gathered round the foot of the cross to rejoice in his Master’s death. “You saved others, but you can’t save yourself!” (said in a tone of such superiority and cool sarcasm that it made the bones of his skull grate with tension) was probably the least and kindest thing that came from their mouths. And these were supposed to be the religious leaders of Israel! How could he ever respect them after this? They were as deaf and blind as the ears of corn that would soon be waving in the fields. Jesus had healed the sick, fed the hungry and made the blind to see; and their response was to rejoice in his agony.
He tried to shut out their voices as he stood there with the women. Those mocking jeers were like the braying of a thousand devils, and yet, he had never noticed before how terribly monotonous cruelty actually was. It could inflict, cast down and destroy, but it could not build up or create. Somehow that was a thread of comfort, even in so great a desolation. They could take away his Master, but they could never take away what his Master had said and done, they could never take away his kindness, his wisdom, his single-minded courage. Above all, they could never take away his love, or the answering love in John’s heart. But they had taken away his Master, and right now John was not sure he could ever forgive them for that.
But what was this? Jesus was speaking. It cost him so much torment to turn breath into words, so every word was infinitely precious. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And, once again, he turned John’s heart inside out. Ho could … No, stop right there. He could, and he did. There had never been any difference between Jesus’ teachings and his actions. It was one of the things that set him so apart from everyone else.
He noticed Jesus’ mother staggering under the pain, and put a supportive arm around her. Then he looked up and saw that Jesus was looking straight at them. And, again, he spoke: “Woman, this is your son,” he said to Mary, then, with effort, he moved his eyes to John. “This is your mother,” he said. In spite of everything, John lifted his chin a little. If this was the Master’s last command to him, he would give his whole self to honouring it.
And the dreary hours of his desolation passed, until, with a loud cry, Jesus said “It is finished!” What was finished? For John it seemed like the whole world was finished and done for. Yet he could not surrender totally to his pain. He had a reason to keep going, he had Mary to care for.
He did not know how short a time it would be until his world began again; that on Sunday morning the whole world would begin again, transformed forever, and that he would be among the first to witness the truth. For now he must walk through the darkness, and wait …