Summary: This is the third message in a Lenten series on"The Seven Last Words of Christ." I also have information on appropriate dramas that can be used as an introduction to this and the other six messages in the series.
The Concern that Never Dies
John was the only disciple who stood by Jesus until the very end. I am reminded of Ben E. King’s 1986 hit song “Stand by Me”:
When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we see
No, I won’t be afraid
Oh, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand
Stand by me, so
Darling, darling, stand by me
Oh, stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me, stand by me
If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
Or the mountain
Should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No, I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand
Stand by me. . .
Excluding John, as mark 15:50 tell us: “All of them deserted him and fled.” John was there at the cross with four women: “Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were His Mother, and His Mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” His mother, His Beloved Disciple John, and three other women who followed and supported Jesus in His ministry were the only ones to “stand by Jesus at the Cross.”
When Joseph took marry and Jesus to the temple for their purification, the elderly Simeon shared with Mary this prophetic truth: “. . . A sword will pierce your own soul too.” This is the ultimate fulfillment of that prophecy some thirty-three years later.
The Greek historian Herodotus in the fifth century before B. C. Said in his histories, Book I: “In peace children bury their parents. War violates the order of nature and causes parents to bury their children.” It is not just war that brings many parents the pain of having to bury their children. Bumper Quick, our good friend who was called to preach when I served as his pastor at Sandoval united Methodist Church, and his wife Jill buried their oldest daughter Emily, who was only 22. As she stands at the Cross of her son, Mary can empathize with all parents who have been called upon to bury their children, but best of all is the marvelous truth that so can God our Heavenly Father. He understands the pain and hurt of losing a child in death, and He is the one who wipes away the tears from grieving parents’ eyes.
Even in the moment of His deepest agony Jesus is concerned for the well-being and care of His Mother. By this time Mary was most likely a widow, for Scripture does not mention Joseph after the Holy Family took their trip to Jerusalem for the Passover when Jesus was twelve. Although protected under Mosaic Law, widows in New Testament times usually led a difficult existence. Most of them were poor. Many were victims of harsh oppression and exploitation, and their cases were seldom heard in the courts of their day. If a widow was left without any adult male relative to serve as her legal protector and provider, her way was difficult indeed.
Jesus throughout His ministry has always shown a special concern of compassion and justice for widows, and now His thoughts turn to His Mother. Who will be her male protector and provider? We know that Jesus has four half brothers who are named James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas in Matthew 13:55.
So why does Jesus choose John as Mary’s protector-provider in place of one of His half brothers? Most likely the reason is these men as yet are not believers. They will become so and be included in the 120 whom the Holy Spirit empowers for ministry on the Day of Pentecost, but they do not come to trust Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior until after His Resurrection. Jesus selects John, “the disciple whom he loves,” for this ministry, because John and Mary share a common faith and spiritual bond. John is one whom Jesus can trust to care for the spiritual, physical, and material needs of Mary.
On the surface it seems that Jesus is extremely harsh in addressing Mary, “Woman, here is your son.” We recall their early conversation with at the wedding in Cana of Galilee in John 2:4, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” The English sounds harsh, but the Hebrew and Greek are not. The term “woman” in Biblical languages is most tender and affectionate; it is a term of endearment and respect.
In both these encounters between Mary and Jesus Mary needs to grow spiritually in her relationship with Him. She must stop seeing Jesus as her son, her little boy, and acknowledge Him as her Lord and Savior, for she is just like each one of us, “a sinner who has come short of the glory of God.” Jesus was the God of eternity eons before He became her son in Bethlehem’s manger. She must know God the Son as her own personal Savior and Lord. Their relationship must change from that of mother to son to that of disciple to Savior.