Summary: From the cross, Jesus cares for his mother. In so doing, he calls us to care for our family and for our broader spiritual family, and to put others before ourselves.
Seven Last Words from the Cross Part 3 * John 19:25-27
We are in a seven-week series leading up to Easter called, “Seven Last Words from the Cross.” We’re looking at the seven distinct things Jesus said while being crucified. Last words matter, and the last words of the Son of God matter deeply. First, we listened as Jesus asked his Heavenly Father to forgive his tormentors. Then, last week we listened to a dialogue between Jesus and one of the criminals beside him, where he said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Today, we listen in as Jesus cares for his family. And we learn that ... family matters!
Let me paint the picture: It is sometime between 9:00 am and Noon. Jesus is hanging on the cross, dying a painful death. Most of his disciples have scattered, in fear and confusion. A number of women supporters remain near the cross, until the Roman soldiers later move them back. One of them is Mary, Jesus’ mother. She’s no longer a young woman; she is probably around 50 years old now, a senior citizen in that time, and most certainly a widow. Can you imagine her pain as she sees her firstborn son brutally executed before her eyes?
Amidst the agony, Jesus notices Mary there. And instead of thinking about himself, he considers her needs. Perhaps he remembers the story of when Mary and Joseph had brought him for his baby dedication to the Temple, and Simeon had warned Mary, “A sword will pierce your own soul” (Luke 2:35). He sees the agony she is going through as she watches his death. Through his next words, we can apply three simple yet profound lessons. The first lesson is simply,
1. Care for your family
Maybe this should go without saying, but family matters! Family counts! Family means something. Jesus sees Mary standing there, no doubt with a broken heart, and he cares for her. He does what he can for her. He cannot take away her pain, but he can provide for her care. Even moments before his death, Jesus lives out the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16).
By this time, Joseph is out of the picture. Jesus, as the firstborn child, is responsible for his mother’s care. Apparently, his half-brothers are not present. Scripture tells us they are not yet believers (John 7:5), although they will become so after the resurrection (Acts 1:14). But to this point, they have wondered at times if Jesus was insane (Mark 3:21). So they are not much help at the cross.
Some scholars believe John and Jesus were first cousins; perhaps that was why Jesus chose John to step in and help. Or perhaps it was because Jesus loved John in a special way, as John likes to write when referring to himself as the “beloved disciple.” Jesus loved all his disciples, even Judas, but he had a special place in his heart for John, at least in John’s recollection.
So here from the cross, Jesus gives his last will and testament. Words matter in ancient Israel. Words are binding. And as surely as if he had drafted it up in a written will, Jesus assigns his mother’s care to John standing next to her. Jesus says, “Woman” [it’s an affectionate term in Aramaic! Perhaps the term ‘mother’ would have been too much for her to handle]. “Woman, behold your son. Behold, your mother.” Jesus uses wording similar to that used in a betrothal. He is binding them together into a new relationship: mother and son. Even while dying for the sins of the world, Jesus cares for his family. So should we.
At this past week’s funeral for America’s pastor, Billy Graham, Graham's daughter Ruth told how her father hugged her following a difficult divorce and greeted her with the words, “Welcome home.” She recalls, “There was no shame. There was no blame. There was no condemnation, just unconditional love. And you know, my father was not God. But he showed me what God is like that day. When we come to God with our sin, our brokenness, our failure, our pain and our hurt, God says, ‘Welcome home,’ and that invitation is open for you.”
Billy Graham shows us that family matters. When we care for our family, we please God, who gave us our family. Care for your family, and in a wider sense,
2. Care for your spiritual family
Even though John and Jesus may have been cousins, even more significantly John and Jesus were spiritually related. Jesus was the Master, Teacher, Rabbi, and John his pupil, student, follower. Jesus was Lord and John his humble servant. As John recorded this story on paper, many years later, he used the word “disciple” to refer to himself. First and foremost, John was Jesus’ disciple, his follower, his learner. And when Jesus said, “Care for this woman as your mother,” scripture records that John did not blink an eye. He took her in from that day forward.