Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross, #3

“Woman, behold thy Son” — John 19:26-27

Christians in some African cultures hope to have one last chance before they die to gather around them friends and family to impart some final words of encouragement. What would your last words be to your family?

Imagine yourself at the foot of the cross as the following scene unfolds before your eyes. “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:23-27).

Soldier’s Greedy Apathy

As the greatest and most climactic event in all history was unfolding on cross above them the Roman solders were busy gambling in their indifferent greed for a used clothing. The tunic was of some value being seamless. However, they missed the value of what was happening for mankind to the near naked Son of God on the cross.

Mary’s Support Group

When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane most of the disciples of Jesus fled. Just who was at the cross? Jesus’ enemies were not the only spectators at the cross. The Gospels list several women (Matt. 27:55-56; Mark 15:40,41) and one lone disciple, John. First, we have Mary the mother of Jesus. This had to be hard for her to watch her firstborn tortured to death on the cross. Second, is Jesus’ mother’s sister.  Third was Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee: James and John. Next, there is Mary Magdalene from the village of Magdala. Luke 8:2 informs us that “seven demons had gone out” of her. There is no reason to identify her with the prostitute of Luke 7:37-50. Finally, Mary the wife of Clopas was one of the women who went to the tomb on the morning of the resurrection (Matt. 28:1). She was the mother of the apostle James the Son of Alphaeus (Clopas is the variant of Alphaeus), who is also called James the Less (Mark. 15:40).

Women played an important role in Jesus’ Ministry from the beginning. They were even the source of his financial support. “Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance” (Luke 8:1-3). A woman was the first missionary to the Samaritans (Jn. 4:28-29). It was a woman who anointed Jesus with oil in preparation for His death (Matt. 26:6-13). Women were the first to come to the tomb and found it empty on the resurrection morning (Mark 16:1-18). A woman who first saw Christ raised from the dead.

John’s Trustworthiness

The fact that Jesus leaves his mother in the care of John seems to indicate that Joseph had died, leaving Mary a widow. Jesus as the eldest son in a single parent home, Jesus must provide for her. His brothers were “James, Joses, Simon, and Judas” (Matt. 13:55).

At the time of Jesus’ death, Mary’s other children were unbelievers. “For even His brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:5). They became believers when Jesus rose from the dead. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14).

At first when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane John also fled. Jesus knew this would be the case due to a prophecy. “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ …But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56). However, John’s cowardice of the disciples was only temporary. Notice that Jesus did not rebuke John for having left but gives him a glorious honor.

Why entrust Mary to John and not one of Jesus’ half-brothers or another disciple? John was there with Mary at the cross. Everyone who comes to the cross is given new responsibilities. Furthermore, John was “The disciples whom (Jesus) loved” (Jn. 21:20-24).

Jesus first asked his mother to accept John’s protection and care. He calls John “son.” Mary was losing one Son but gaining John as a son. According to tradition Mary lived out her days with John in the town of Ephesus on the west coast of what is now Turkey.

Mary’s Worthiness

Mary was selected to be the mother of the Son of God (Luke 1:38). She had been an obedient servant of God. Jesus calls her “woman” which is a term of respect, but He never calls her “mother” in the Gospels.

When Simeon prophesied to Mary concerning Jesus, he told her “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35). Mary paid a price to rear Jesus. Her son was conceived in shame. She had to lay her Babe in the manger. Their family had to flee to the land of Egypt to avoid the murderous intent of Herod. She watched as the men of Nazareth rejected Jesus. Now at the cross her innocent son his condemned as a criminal.

Mary too was a sinner just like the rest of humanity. Her son died for her sins. She was His disciple. Mary was no sinless co-redemptrix as taught by Catholicism. Christ rebuked those who wanted to elevate Mary to a place of extraordinary veneration (Luke 11:27-28). Jesus did not commend John to Mary, but Mary to John.

Jesus’ Obedience

Remembering to make provisions for the needs of His mother shows that Jesus was concerned about others and caring for family just like all men. His focus was on others on and around the cross not on His crucifixion. In this, Jesus was being obedient to the Law of Moses in regard to the fifth commandment. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex. 20:12). He did not say to her “it is Corbin” (Mark 7:9-13) or place her in some old folk’s home in Jerusalem.

This saying on the cross demonstrates the priorities of Jesus. He had the power to come down from the cross for the sake of His mother that she should not be left alone. He practiced what He preached, putting God’s kingdom first (Matt. 6:33).
Because Jesus came to earth to be a child and son and later die on the cross, we are now His brothers, sisters, and mothers. Jesus said, “‘Who is My mother, or My brothers?’ And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother’” (Mark 3:33-35).

– Daniel R. Vess

2024-06-23 - Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross, #2
Categories: The Forum