During our Good Friday service at Providence Church
, we have reflections on the 7 sayings of Jesus on the cross. This year, I spoke on the 3rd, found in John 19.
but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”
Whenever I compare this saying to the other 6 sayings of Jesus on the cross, I initially think of Sesame Street ... of these things is not like the other. Here we seem to have the mundane among the spiritual, the human among the divine.
But, here is a tender moment, full of compassionate obedience. In His greatest moment of need, Jesus focuses on the need of His earthly mother.
Jesus is fully God & fully man. As such, he had human responsibility: Obedience to honor His father & mother.
Jesus perfectly obeyed the law and this moment is no exception. Jesus felt an obligation to ensure the welfare of His earthly mother, thereby fulfilling the 5th Commandment to honor one's father & mother.
However, the 5th commandment is more than just “children, obey your parents.” Even after you grow up, you never stopped being a son or daughter and you're never free of that obligation. Even if they pass away, you honor them with your reputation, but also by caring for them when/if necessary as long as they live.
This is not just a Old Testament obligation, but is plainly seen in the New Testament also. When Paul addressed the obligation for those in the church to care for their widows, he issued a bold statement:
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
- 1 Timothy 5:8
Jesus made sure his mother was taken care of, but notice that He did not admonish his own brothers to care for their mother. Why is that?
Jesus’ younger siblings were not there at the cross and apparently not believers at this time. But, we have further insight from Mark 3 where Jesus prioritized the spiritual family over the natural, physical family.
For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
- Mark 3:35
There's a powerful lesson for us there as well, particularly with regard to providing for our Christian brothers & sisters, especially if there is a lack of physical family. Plainly, our loyalty should be to our spiritual family over our physical family. But this is more good news than a burden.
“And if Jesus purchased the church with his own blood and ordained that in it bereft mothers find sons and sons find mothers, then no one should be without a caring family today in the body of Christ.”
- John Piper
Jesus bypassed His physical brothers and entrusted to the disciple He loved, His true brother, His loving mother.
She was loving and faithful, though it had to have been difficult. His disciples, friends, and nation may disown Him, but Mary was there at the foot of his cross.
In Luke 2:34-35, Simeon had told Mary that Jesus was appointed "for the fall and rising of many in Israel." But, He also delivered these sobering words: "and a sword will pierce through your own soul also." The full weight of those words must have been felt standing at the foot of the cross watching her Son endure rejection, scorn, mocking, physical pain, and bearing the sin of His people.
“What sorrow it must have caused her when, because there was no room in the inn, she had to lay her new-born babe in the manger! What anguish must have been hers when she learned of Herod’s purpose to destroy her infant’s life! What trouble was given her when she was forced on his account to flee into a foreign country and sojourn for several years in the land of Egypt! What piercings of soul must have been hers when she saw her Son despised and rejected of men! What grief must have wrung her heart as she beheld him hated and persecuted by his own nation! And who can estimate what she passed through as she stood there at the cross? If Christ was the man of sorrows, was she not the woman of sorrows?”
- A.W. Pink
To this woman, Jesus tenderly gave a surrogate son.
And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Some commentators wonder whether it's long or short-term care in mind here? After all, James & Jude later believe and become leaders in the church, with each even writing a New Testament epistle. Some suggest she may have eventually went to live with one of them, but there is tradition that asserts she lived out her days in John's household.
Either way, the next few days were going to be pure agony and her other children probably weren’t around and if they were they wouldn’t likely have been much comfort. The beloved John, however, would be care for and comfort Mary. He would also bring her good news.
In John 20, Peter & John learn that Jesus is not in the tomb, so they go to investigate. John entered, saw, believed, and went back to his home (John 20:10). It's subtle, but who would be there? Jesus' mother Mary and her heart would rejoice.He is not there; He is risen. He is risen indeed.