While suffering on the cross for our sins on Golgotha, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, spoke seven short, simple but significant sentences. These sayings reveal a great deal about the heart of the Lord Jesus. No one Gospel writer recorded them all. Certainly, the Holy Spirit was sovereign in this. He chose in His wisdom to give the four Gospel Writers the privilege of recording what He deemed best for their Gospel material. Mark and Matthew were given the privilege of recording only one of the seven sayings, while the remaining six sayings were shared equally between Dr. Luke and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. Each records three sayings in their Gospel accounts.
These so-called seven sayings from the cross by our Savior, have been held dear by the Church primarily because they have opened to us a window into our Lord's heart and mind while suffering for our sins on the Roman cruel cross. The amazing thing about each saying is that they were spoken not in anger, resentment, bitterness, or with a complaining or vindictive spirit. In fact, each is a vivid expression either of His great care, concern, compassion and His sacrificial and selfless love for us, or of His dreadful but divine work of bearing our sin, or His final conquest and victory over sin and Satan.
The season of celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ is certainly an appropriate time to pause and ponder each of these sayings. I believe doing so will enhance and energize our spirits to worship Christ with a new sense of purpose and passion. Of course, meditating on these sayings should not be limited to Easter celebrations. It should be practiced all year long because Christ's sacrifice on the cross for our sins is key to our daily living and eternal future.
My purpose is to present each saying in an article in the order in which they were spoken by our Suffering Savior. I have entitled the third saying: "The Savior's Supreme Concern for His Mother."
There is no doubt that our Lord Jesus deeply cares about those who love Him. When He saw His mother weeping at the foot of the cross, He made expressed His deep concern for her. He made provisions for her care. He instructed John to take care of her. The lesson here is that Jesus knows and cares about our needs. Jesus didn't use His suffering as an excuse not to care for His dear mother. And yet that is what most of us do. We hide behind our pain and suffering to seek sympathy form others rather than seek to serve them. John alone records our Lord's supreme concern for His mother. "When Jesus therefore 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!' And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household" (John 19:26-27). My primary focus will be on Jesus' words to His mother and His words to John, the disciple whom He loved. I would like to emphasis three essential truths from His words to His mother and to John. First, is His respect for His mother (John 19:26d). Second, is the responsibility for the care of His mother (John 19:26e). Third, is the role of His disciple in the care of His mother (John 19:26f).
Respect for His Mother: "Woman," (John 19:26d).
Our Lord's words to His mother were spoken with great respect and tenderness of heart. How remarkable it is that in the midst of His excruciating physical suffering to have the grace to speak to His mother about making provision for her. Shortly before His death for the sins of the world, Jesus began to make arrangements for the care of His mother by first addressing her as "woman." This expression seems cold, distant, disrespectful, and impolite to our modern ears. Earlier, at the wedding at Cana in John 2:4, our Lord used this same expression in addressing His mother. There, at first glance, it seemed that He was being impolite to His mother. But that is not the case. The general Greek term for "woman" is gune. In this verse, the vocative form, gunai is used. The vocative gunai is by no means a disrespectful form of address. In calling His mother "woman," Jesus did not show any lack of respect for her. Rather the term could be used to express affection and respect. In other words, Jesus was showing great respect and affection to His mother by calling her "woman." Our Lord was in effect saying, "Dear woman, I am about to make some provision for your care. I know the needs in your life. And I even in My pain and suffering on the cross, I will make sure you are taken care of." Mary, no doubt, felt the love and affection of Jesus in addressing her as "woman." Even at Cana, when Jesus first publicly called her "woman," Mary didn't think her firstborn son was being disrespectful to her. She didn't complain then or now, of being slighted or disrespected by Jesus. She knew she was precious to Jesus from the human point of view. She conceived Him in her womb through the supernatural working of the Person of the Holy Spirit. She gave birth to Jesus. She laid Jesus in the manger. She carried Jesus to flee to Egypt. She cared for Jesus during His childhood. She, with Joseph, went looking for Him in Jerusalem, where they found in the temple. Mary saw how Jesus continued in subjection to her and Joseph after their return from Jerusalem. She treasured in her heart all the things said about Him and what He said that day in the temple. Mary knew Jesus had nothing but respect and affection for her. Actually, after the resurrection, two angels and the Resurrected Lord Himself used this title of respect to address Mary Magdalene near the tomb (John 20:13, 15).
As the Lawgiver, Jesus knew the importance of showing respect to others. He was living out the fifth commandment of honoring one's father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Even in His moment of great physical pain, He did not forget to show respect to His mother. By showing respect to His mother, Jesus sets an example for us. Not only must we be challenged to revere God in our address of Him and attitude toward Him, but we must also demonstrate respect for others. It is so easy to take others for granted and show them little or no respect. The believer's life must be a life characterized by demonstrating reverence to God and respect for others. Sometimes, when we are going through difficult or hard times, we become demanding and disrespectful to those around us, even to our loved ones. We put on a face that sends a message that says: "I'm hurting right now. Therefore beware not to say or do anything to trigger me to unload my hurting emotions on you." Although, our suffering or hurt pales in comparison to our Lord's, yet He displayed an attitude of respect and affection for His mother. Please, the next time you want to use your hurt as an excuse to be rude and rash to others around you, pause. Ponder Christ on the cross. Peer into His eyes and see the pain He went through for you and yet how gentle and respectful He was. I guarantee you, you will repent of your attitude.
Responsibility for the Care of His Mother: "behold, your son" (John 19:26e).
Literally this reads "Woman, behold, the son of thee." By these solemn words, our Lord is making it clear to His mother that He is transferring the responsibility of caring for her to another person. It is as if Jesus is saying to His mother, "Mother, the time has come for Me to hand over the responsibility of your care to the disciple I love." So this verse could be rendered, "Dear woman, consider John, the disciple whom I love as your son. Because I am transferring the responsibility of caring for you to him from this very moment."
Since Joseph, Mary's husband, has not been mentioned since their return from Egypt (see Matthew 2:19-23), it is generally assumed that he has passed away. Jesus, being the firstborn and breadwinner of the family, was therefore responsible for the care of His mother. I believe Jesus shouldered this responsibility well. Why? There was no place in the Gospel accounts where we are told of our Lord's neglect of His mother or other family members. But since His mission on earth has now come to its final phase, He thoughtfully made arrangements for another person to shoulder that responsibility. Perhaps, you are wondering where were Jesus' half-brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas, mentioned in Matthew 13:55. Why should they not be given the responsibility of caring for their mother? Your question is a good one. And it has a good answer. From the biblical records, Jesus' half-brothers were still unbelievers at this time. They were also not sympathetic to His ministry at this particular time. John lets us into their life of unbelief just before Jesus' last visit to Jerusalem. He writes:
Notice the brothers' use of the words, "Your disciples." They exposed themselves here. They were making it clear that they were not the disciples of Christ. Their statement therefore agreed with the inspired words of John. Jesus' brothers were not believers at this point. Later, after His resurrection and ascension, they became believers (see Acts 1:14). James, later became an elder of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13). I have no doubt that Jesus knew that His half-brothers would make a u-turn to believe in Him later. But He felt the urgency now to commit the responsibility of caring for His mother to John because, as a true believer, he could be counted on for spiritual support and encouragement that His mother desperately needed now. Jesus knew His unbelieving brothers could not provide His mother the much needed spiritual support and encouragement. I believe part of Jesus' training of John included handing over to him the responsibility of His mother's care in the event of His death. Jesus had been preparing John for this responsibility all along. Now the time has come to commit the care of His mother to John. That's exactly what Jesus is doing here.
Think of this! Who would you commit the responsibility of caring for your loved ones if sickness or death makes it impossible for you to do so? Who are you preparing to shoulder the responsibility of caring for your family members when the Lord calls you home? Please, don't think you can pull it off at the last minute. Invest time now to train and prepare a trusted and godly member of your family.
Role of His Disciple in the Care of His Mother: "Behold, your mother" (John 19:27f).
having let His mother know that He is now handing over the responsibility of caring for her to John, our Lord turns to John, the disciple He loves, to say to him that the role of caring for His mother is now his. "Behold, your mother." This could be rendered, "Here is your mother." It is interested to note that Jesus didn't give the role of caring for His mother to any other disciple. He chose John. Why not Peter? Why not James, the brother of John? Why not Matthew, the former tax collector? We are not told why Jesus chose John. Peter had just suffered the great humiliation of denying Jesus. He had not yet been restored. So, perhaps, Jesus spared him from a further weight to carry. Honestly, I believe John had been one of the most steadiest and responsible disciples. So Jesus could be assured that His beloved mother would be in good care with His beloved disciple. John himself reports that after Jesus' charge to him, "from that hour the disciple took her into his own household" (John 19:27). the implication here is that John cared for Mary as his own mother. Jesus made provision for His mother, who was almost certainly widowed, with little or no personal income.
By making arrangements for the care of His mother in the light of His coming death, Jesus honored her mother. In other words, He was obedient to the fifth commandment, "honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12). Even in His pain on the cross, He was kind, considerate, caring, and concerned for His mother. Our Lord's care and concern for His mother in His dying moments reminds me of David's care and concern for his parents. In a troubling and trying time of his life, David, the last son of his parents, made arrangements for their care. Fleeing from Saul, who was intent on capturing and killing David, David still took time to make arrangements for the care of his aging parents. David, like the Son of David, the Lord Jesus refused to use his distressing and difficult situation as an excuse for shirking the responsibility of caring for his parents, thus honoring them. Please listen to the Bible's record of this awesome example of expressing care for one's parents.
What a remarkable story of care and concern for one's parents even in a time of distress. David was leading the "3D" company. Distress! Debt! Discontented! What a group to lead! David was surrounded by negativity. He was being hounded by Saul. He was also the youngest son of his parents. Once his older brothers chewed him out for asking about Goliath. But relying on the power of the Spirit, he rose above the circumstances that he was a responsible and a concerned son of his parents. In this regard, you can say, the Lord Jesus is the true "Son of David."
From our Lord's and David's examples, the Bible is teaching us the concern true believers in Jesus should have toward the physical needs of family members. We cannot use the excuse, "Life is tough for me right now. So I can't express care and concern for my family members. Perhaps, when things get better for me, I will show care for them. I will express concern for them. Now, I'm just focused on getting through the difficulty in my life." I have news for you. David didn't wait till life got better for him before he made arrangements for the care of his parents. Our Lord didn't wait till He rose from the dead before He making some provision for the care of His mother. Personally, this lesson is so precious to me. Ever since my response to the call of God, life has been tough for me on several fronts. But through all the hardships, God has helped me to express care and concern for my aging mother and my siblings. Whenever, the Lord blesses me with a gift from His hand, I do not forget to send some portion of it in support of my beloved mother and siblings. It is my little way of letting my family know I am concerned about them, even in my trying and hard times. I thank my Lord Jesus for demonstrating His concern for His mother, even while on the cross. 1 Timothy 5:8 forcefully speaks to believers regarding this issue of caring for the needs of those in their family: "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever." Strong words!
John Stott eloquently captures our Lord's supreme concern for the care of His mother in these tender and touching words:
Jesus' supreme care for His mother in a time of great distress teaches us that He knows and cares for our needs. What care do you have today? A prodigal son? A broken relationship? A failing marriage? A long wait for an answer to prayer? Jobless? Homeless? Bankruptcy? Forgiveness? Freedom from addictions? Whatever you need, bring it to Jesus for He still cares. He is willing to forgive your sins if you do not know His forgiveness. He is willing to save you, if you have not entered into a saving relationship with Him. Simply ask Him, "Jesus, I am a sinner in need of Your salvation. I ask You to save me from my sins today. And I thank You for saving me."
The Savior's Supreme Concern for His Mother!
By Joseph Ametepe
We Proclaim Jesus.