Summary: The third word of our Savior on the cross is directed primarily to his mother. An analysis of Jesus’ third word on the cross, as set forth in John 19:25-27, teaches us about his compassion.
It is often profitable to study the last words of dying men. Many sermons have been preached on the last words of Jesus. As he hung on the cross on that first Good Friday he uttered seven short sentences or phrases. We usually call these the “seven last words of Christ.”
For the past few Good Fridays we have been examining these so-called “last words” of Christ.
The first word that Jesus uttered was a word of forgiveness addressed to the Father on behalf of those who were crucifying him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
The second word that Jesus uttered was a word of salvation spoken to the thief on the cross: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
The third word that Jesus uttered was a word of compassion addressed primarily to his mother. It is found in John 19:25-27:
"Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ’Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ’Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home" (John 19:25-27).
As I said, the third word of our Savior on the cross is directed primarily to his mother. An analysis of Jesus’ third word on the cross, as set forth in John 19:25-27, teaches us about his compassion.
I. Jesus’ Compassion Is Sovereign
First, Jesus’ compassion is sovereign.
By saying that his compassion is sovereign I mean that Jesus never intended for his mother to be exalted to the position of Mediator. Even in his hour of death Jesus implies that he is still sovereign, and that Mary is not to be exalted.
Notice that Jesus uses the term “dear woman” instead of “mother.” The great English bishop J. C. Ryle of the last century said, “But I think it is remarkable that our Lord does not say, ‘Mother.’ And I cannot help thinking that, even at this awful moment, he would remind her that she must never suffer herself or others to presume on the relationship between her and him, or claim any supernatural honor on the ground of being his mother. Henceforth, she must daily remember that her first aim must be to live the life of faith as a believing woman, like all other Christian women.”
What is the significance of this as far as our view of Mary is concerned regarding her ability to help us now? Again, let me quote J. C. Ryle: “We surely need no stronger proof than we have here, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was never meant to be honored as divine, or to be prayed to, worshipped and trusted in, as the friend and patroness of sinners. Common sense points out that she who needed the care and protection of another, was never likely to help men and women to heaven, or to be in any sense a mediator between God and man.”
This text of Scripture teaches us that Mary was never meant to be in any kind of exalted position. All worship and honor was to go to Jesus alone. Jesus knew that, holy as she was, she was still only a woman and that, as a woman, she must feel deeply the death of her son. He therefore commended her to the protection of his best-loved and best-loving disciple, in brief and touching words: “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother” (19:26b-27a).
II. Jesus’ Compassion Is Personal
And second, Jesus’ compassion is personal.
The great problem with the human saviors, who, over the centuries, have dreamed their great dreams and flung their empires around the world, is that in the process they lose sight of the individual. Our personal universe of hope and pain, struggle and achievement, pales into insignificance beside their great all-inclusive plan; the individual becomes expendable.
But Jesus is different. This king who reigns on the cross at Golgotha is truly unique. Here is a king whose embrace is as wide as the world. Here is a king to whom “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given” (Matthew 28:18). And yet, here is a king who can simultaneously embrace each of us in a personal, loving commitment which touches our hearts.
It is perfectly illustrated here in this third word from the cross. As Jesus hung there on the cross, suffering excruciating personal pain, wracked with the burden of the world’s redemption on his shoulders, he found time to express his personal, loving concern for his mother. We should never again wonder if Jesus cares about any of us individually. He does. He demonstrated that personal concern on the cross. Amy Carmichael wrote a poem that captures this truth well: