THE THIRD WORD FROM THE CROSS (John 19:26,27) So Jesus, seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, 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 family. There are at least three reasons that this word of Jesus to his mother and to the beloved disciple is a tremendous encouragement to our faith. The first reason is this: if Jesus was so eager to care for his mother in her hour of need, how much more is he eager to care for his disciples who hear the word of God today and do it.
Ordinarily one would reason just the opposite: if he loved his disciples who were not his relatives, how much more would he love his own mother. But Jesus didn’t view things in an ordinary way. With him it was strangely true: if he loved his mother with a natural affection how much more can his obedient disciples bank on his love. We know this because of an incident recorded for us in Luke 8:19-21: His mother came to him and his brothers also, and they were unable to get to him because of the crowds. And it was reported to him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see you. But he answered and said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. ” That was not a depreciation of his mother and brothers, but an exaltation of obedience. It means very clearly those who hear the word of God and do it have a more ready access to Jesus’ fellowship and help than do his own family members. In one sense it is very risky to hear and do the word of God. For the word of God is always calling us to sacrificial acts of love. “He who would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his own cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
But in another sense there is nothing safer and more rewarding than to hear and do the word of God, because Jesus said, those who hear and do the word of God are my mother and my brothers. Loving obedience to the word of God puts us in a relationship to Jesus which is more intimate and more certain to be heard and helped than his nearest family relations. So you can see now what a tremendous encouragement it is to our faith when Jesus makes provision for the needs of his mother at Calvary. Those who hear and do the word of God have an even greater claim on Jesus’ care than she.
So if he took care of her, will he not much more provide for all your needs, “O ye of little faith”? The second reason that this word to Jesus’ mother is an encouragement to our faith is this: if Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in a moment of his deepest weakness and humiliation, how much more can he provide for your need in his present power and exaltation! Not only are you, as an obedient disciple, in a better position than Jesus’ own mother to receive blessing at the hand of the Lord, but he is now in a better position to give it to you than he was to her then.
According to Ephesians 1:19,20 the greatness of God’s power which is working on behalf of us who believe “accords with the working of the strength of his might which God generated by raising Christ from the dead and seating him at his right hand in heaven. ” The satisfaction made for our sin at Calvary was so complete that God honored this sacrifice by raising Jesus from the dead and giving him incomparable glory and power and wealth of all things. And so when the apostle contemplates whether we can bank on Christ for the provision of our need, it is this wealth of glory that gives him assurance.
He says, “My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). The risen Christ is so full of glorious riches that he need not turn anyone away. As Paul says in Romans 10:12: “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches to all who call upon him. ” Therefore the word of Jesus to his mother from the cross is a great encouragement to our faith. For if he could provide for his own in the moment of his weakness and humiliation, how much more can he meet all our needs today from the right hand of God, full of power and wealth and glory.
The third reason Jesus’ word to his mother encourages our faith is that it illustrates for us the benefits of the church, the body of Christ. Notice that contrary to custom and expectation, Jesus did not admonish his own brothers to care for their mother. Whatever the reason for not putting Mary in the care of her other sons, the new relationship between Mary and John illustrates for us the provision made for us in the body of Christ. You recall how Jesus told the rich man to sell all he had and follow him. The man turned away and Jesus said, “How hard it will be for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. And Peter said, “Behold we have left everything and followed you. ” And Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms for my sake and the Gospel’s but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. ” Now where in this life are we going to receive 100 children and 100 mothers? Answer: in the church, the family of God.
When Jesus says to Mary: “Look on John as your son”; and to John: “Look on Mary as your mother”; he is showing us how our needs are to be met when we have left everything to follow him. Paul said in Acts 20:28 that Christ “purchased the church of God with his own blood. ” Therefore one of the gifts Jesus gave to us from the cross was the church: a loving, caring, sustaining, encouraging family beyond family. And it is a great encouragement to our faith that he illustrates the meaning of the church the way he did in the relationship between John and Mary.
So let us all take courage in the care and power and provision of our Lord. If he was eager to care for his mother, how much more eager will he be today to care for those who hear and do the word of God! If Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in the moment of his greatest weakness and humiliation, how much more can he provide for your need in his present wealth of power and exaltation. And if Jesus purchased the church with his own blood and ordained that in it bereft mothers find sons and sons find mothers, then no one should be without a caring family today in the body of Christ.
Amen. Behold, my beloved disciple shall be to you a son, and provide for you, and discharge toward you the duties of an affectionate child. Mary was poor. It would even seem that now she had no home. Jesus, in his dying moments, filled with tender regard for his mother, secured for her an adopted son, obtained for her a home, and consoled her grief by the prospect of attention from him who was the most beloved of all the apostles. What an example of filial attention! What a model to all children!
And how lovely appears the dying Savior, thus remembering his afflicted mother, and making her welfare one of his last cares on the cross, and even when making atonement for the sins of the world! There is something infinitely moving in the fact that Jesus in the agony of the Cross, when the salvation of the world hung in the balance, thought of the loneliness of his mother in the days ahead. He never forgot the duties that lay to his hand. He was Mary’s eldest son, and even in the moment of his cosmic battle, he did not forget the simple things that lay near home.
To the end of the day, even on the Cross, Jesus was thinking more of the sorrows of others than of his own. In this passage there is something which is surely one of the loveliest things in all the gospel story. When Jesus saw his mother, he could not but think of the days ahead. He could not commit her to the care of his brothers, for they did not believe in him yet (Jn 7:5). And, after all, John had a double qualification for the service Jesus entrusted to him–he was Jesus’ cousin, being Salome’s son, and he was the disciple whom Jesus loved.
So Jesus committed Mary to John’s care and John to Mary’s, so that they should comfort each other’s loneliness when he was gone. In the end Jesus was not absolutely alone. At his Cross there were these four women who loved him. Some commentators explain their presence there by saying that in those days women were so unimportant that no one ever took any notice of women disciples, and that therefore these women were running no risk at all by being near the Cross of Jesus. That surely is a poor and unworthy explanation.
It was always a dangerous thing to be an associate of a man whom the Roman government believed to be so dangerous that he deserved a Cross. It is always a dangerous thing to demonstrate one’s love for someone whom the orthodox regard as a heretic. The presence of these women at the Cross was not due to the fact that they were so unimportant that no one would notice them; their presence was due to the fact that perfect love casts out fear. Maybe she could not understand, but she could love. Her presence there was the most natural thing in the world for a mother.
Jesus might be a criminal in the eyes of the law, but he was her son. [Barclay Commentary] Even while dying on the cross, Jesus was concerned about his family. He instructed John to care for Mary, Jesus’ mother. Our families are precious gifts from God, and we should value and care for them under all circumstances. Neither Christian work nor key responsibilities in any job or position excuse us from caring for our families. What can you do today to show your love to your family? Some Christians reading this passage emphasize how precious Mary was to Jesus. She was most certainly dearly loved.
But this only serves to emphasize the deep love of John for Jesus, and of Jesus for John. Christ was comforted knowing that His friend would care for His dearly loved mother. The closer we are to the LORD, the more likely He is to commit precious things and precious people to our care. Let’s love Him deeply, that we might be privileged to serve our LORD as John served Christ. [The 365-Day Devotional Commentary] What Does This Word from the Cross Teach Us? As I reflect on this Third Word from the Cross, I begin to see something about the extent of Jesus’ love. Here he is dying in agony, gasping for each reath. He sees his mother, the one who comforted him through all of childhood’s cuts and bruises, teases and taunts. When he was a boy he would run home to mother and instantly be wrapped in her protective, comforting mother-love. But now as he sees her at the foot of the cross, heartbroken, weeping, inconsolable, his heart goes out to her. Rather than being consumed by an understandable concern for his own welfare, he is touched by hers. She is a widow — soon to be a widow who will be known as mother to that crucified criminal, Jesus. Life will not be easy for her.
The other children in the family (whether hers or Joseph’s we just don’t know) don’t believe in him as she does (John 7:3-5). Though it might eventually be judged their legal duty to care for her, perhaps Jesus senses that such care would be less than what she deserves. 25 What Are We to Learn from the Third Word? What are we as Jesus’ disciples to learn from this Word from the cross? 1. Love for our Family First, we must love our parents — no matter what. Sometimes our parents misunderstand us or disapprove of decisions we make. Sometimes they can hurt us grievously.
I can remember my dad’s disapproval of me becoming a pastor in a “denominational” church and the pain I felt from that rejection. But I must love my dad. Jesus, too, had felt the hurt of misunderstanding from his family — even his mother. It’s apparent that during part of his ministry, at least, his family didn’t understand him. At the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11), Mary pushed Jesus to change the water into wine, even though he tells her, “My time has not yet come. ” His family thought, “He is out of his mind,” and went to take charge of him (Mark 3:21, 31-35) — his brothers apparently along with Mary. Even his own brothers did not believe in him. ” (John 7:5) But whether they understand or even approve of us — whether we can even trust them at this point in our lives — we are told: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). Christ-powered love can help heal the hurts from our families. We must love our parents. 2. Responsibility for our Family Second, we are responsible for family obligations. Jesus was clear that his disciples must put commitment to him above family relationships — sometimes even using hyperbole to drive this point home. 6 Our obedience to Christ must become primary and obedience to parents must become secondary. Having said that, just because we are Christians doesn’t mean that we are absolved of family obligations. The Apostle Paul is adamant: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. ” (1 Timothy 5:8) When we are immature believers, sometimes we take rash actions towards our families that in retrospect weren’t filled with Christ’s love.
Our priorities, however, are clear: (1) God himself, (2) our families, (3) our work for God. How do we reconcile our primary commitment to Jesus with responsibility for our families? Sometimes with great difficulty. But to put Christ first doesn’t mean that we are free to neglect our other priorities — it means only that we get our priorities in proper relation to each other. God will give us wisdom to work this out. Also available as an e-book or paperback. Here at the end of his life, we see in Jesus the tender love of a son for his mother — a mother who had sometimes misunderstood him.
As he dies he settles his earthly obligations as best he can, we hear him say, “Dear woman, here is your son … Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27). Prayer Father, we see Jesus’ example of love and responsibility. As wonderful and loving as family relationships can be, they are often complex and sometimes hurtful. We ask you to help us sort them out. Show us how to love you at the same time we love our family members. Give us the divine wisdom that we need so that we can love as Jesus loves. In His name, we pray. Amen.