25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
My family and I arrived at my mother’s house for a long-awaited Thanksgiving visit. We had loaded up the kids for the five hour interstate drive and all had arrived tired and hungry but ready for hugs. Our young boys were long over due for some time with “Gigi” as they called her.
Mom usually met us outside her door when we arrived, dutifully warned by her watchful dog.
That’s odd. No mom.
My wife began supervising the unloading process with the kids and I entered the house. Mom’s dog greeted me immediately and was frantically barking.
“Mom?” I called out, as bewilderment began to turn to icy fear.
“MOM?” I called again and then heard her voice, as if in the distance.
I entered mom’s bedroom to discover her bundled up in her bed. She was weak and obviously sick. I called out to my wife and she was quickly at my side and ministering to mom as only another mother can do.
My brother lived in the area and frequently checked in on mom. He and his wife worked in the medical field and I called him immediately. He was soon at the house and lending his emergency care expertise.
Slowly we got the story from mom as to what had happened. Over the course of the week, a relatively minor medical issue had crept up its effects on her. With all of the busy preparations for the holiday and all the details of getting ready for her family to visit, she had let her awareness and treatment of it slide.
Now, on the day before Thanksgiving, mom discovered that she was unable to even get out of bed to welcome her family home.
After a visit to the doctor and prescribed medication obtained, mom was home to enjoy her holiday, pleased to rest in her chair among playing grandchildren while capable hands did work in the kitchen.
A good time was had by all and as an added bonus, mom got to come home with us and spend two weeks resting with her grandkids and her crochet–a lesson learned and blessings counted. That holiday truly put the “thanks” in Thanksgiving for us all.
This incident was a wakeup call for my family and me. Up to this point, my brother and I, with our own busy lives filled with job, kids and cares had kept up occasionally with mom and even less frequently with each other. This was before retirement could occur for mom and her schedule was nearly as active as her sons.
I am happy to say that today mom is doing well and that she, my brother and I speak every day by phone or text. We look forward to the daily “ding” of the phone that is always good for a laugh, a bit of news or a much-needed prayer from one of us. No matter the miles or the demands of the calendar, we will stay connected–from now until we are called home to Glory.
Have you called your mom lately? Maybe you have not. Maybe you cannot–for your mother has already been called home and is now with the One who loves her soul.
In each of us is a desire to care for those we love while we sojourn on this earth and we must do our best while we are here. Hopefully we do not wait until a tragedy or crisis makes it necessary.
Jesus was no different from you or me in this regard. We read in John, chapter 19 that even as Jesus hung on the cross, His mind went to His mother and family. In His last breaths He made provision for them–and in the process showed the strength of relationships anchored in Christ can be a threefold cord…not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Jesus, throughout His ministry, continually told followers who clamored for Him to reveal His true glory that His “hour had not yet come.” Now, on a hill outside Jerusalem, the hour had indeed arrived. A king on a cross and gathering darkness at noon meant that the Lamb that had been obediently led to the slaughter would soon be sacrificed to free those under the curse of sin and death forever.
Jesus has been handed over to the Romans for crucifixion and death, punishment for a trumped-up charge of insurrection and to slake the blood lust of those who hated and accused Him. Jesus is slapped and spat on, stripped of His clothes and at Pilate’s orders beaten, whipped and scourged.
Jesus is a caricature of an earthly king, a mockery of a monarch of men. He is brought before Pilate again but the Roman wants to be done with this fiasco. He presents Jesus to the raucous crowd and washes his hands of the whole affair. Jesus shoulders His cross and makes His painful way to Golgotha, the place the skull.
There, Jesus is hoisted high in brutal agony to begin to suffer and die on the cross. Pilate has one last dig at the Jewish leaders who have been tormenting him. He maliciously writes a sign, possibly scrawled by his own hand, and orders it mounted over Jesus’s bloody and bruised head:
JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Nooo! The priests are infuriated:
21 Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.” ’ ”
22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”–John 19:21-22
Pilate wants a final insult to those religious leaders who have manipulated him all day. Now, when they look up at the object of their scornful victory they will see a final mockery of themselves, of their superstitions and lies.
The hours pass beneath the sun and slowly Jesus wastes and dies.
He has been humiliated–indeed His whole life has been a humiliation as God become man, to live among sinful men. Jesus endures until the end with this final degradation of the cruel cross. His life is not taken from him but He gives Himself–in control until the very end. Scottish pastor William Still reminds us of the awe of the death of a king, the King of Kings:
This is the regal thing about our Lord, that at the most humiliating moment of his mortal life, that He died like the king He was. He bowed His head and gave up His spirit to His Father.–William Still
Holy blood has been shed, a royal promise has been kept. Redemption, at last, is accomplished.
Yet in this midst of all of this a woman sits in the depths grief at the foot of the cross. This is Mary, the mother of Jesus.
John notes that Mary is not alone:
25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.–John 19:15
The “three Marys” are among the few faithful followers Jesus has left. Since the arrest in the garden the remnants of the twelve disciples have fled, with even Peter–The Rock–denying Him.
Only John remains, possibly having kept to the shadows or the periphery of the gawking crowd. He now joins the women before the cross as they struggle in their sorrow and try to comfort Mary in her bottomless grief.
Mary, the once teenaged bride and bearer of the world’s greatest gift, remembered her visit to the temple so long ago. An old prophet, Simeon, approached with his blessing of Mary and her little squirming son:
34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”–Luke 2:24-35
Now, Mary’s son–her baby–was dying on this cross, and that painful sword was cutting deep into her soul. We forget that the Firstborn of Creation was also the firstborn of His earthly family.
How do you comfort a mother whose child is dying before her eyes? What could you say? There is nothing, no words that can ease such pain.
Jesus sees His mother and then his friend and disciple John and does a curious thing:
26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”–John 19:26
John is not her son. She has other sons. What is Jesus saying? He continues:
27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.–John 19:27
Jesus, with the pains of death and hell on his shoulders braces for His Father to turn His face away and death to take His battered body. In the midst of this, Jesus moves to bring comfort to His mother, to make provision for her future living, even as His own life fades.
Mary has been with Jesus through His whole life and ministry. She has struggled with His identity, His power and His purpose–but she has never lost her sense of His holy destiny. Christian artist Michael Card captures this in his song, "To the Mystery:"
A fiction as fantastic and wild
A mother made by her own child
The hopeless babe who cried
"Was God Incarnate and man deified?"
That is the mystery
More than you can see
Give up on your pondering
And fall down on your knees
At the wedding in Cana–possibly John’s own wedding–she panicked when the wine ran low and demanded Jesus “do something.” Jesus lovingly rebuked her but nevertheless saved the day, much to her delight.
Sinclair Ferguson points out that at Cana their relationship moves from submission to parents to honoring parents before God. This is the essence of the fifth commandment:
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.–Exodus 20:12
Now, on the cross, Jesus completes His obedience by arranging for His mother’s care by His best friend. John indicates that he fulfills this duty–and it is clear that Mary’s presence in his home for years to come serves as an invaluable source of information for the forming of his own gospel account.
This example of Christ caring for His mother, even from the cross, serves to show you and me the incredible value of our relationships. Not just family relationships but Christian relationships.
Think of your life for a moment. How connected are you to the ones you love? Hopefully you enjoy the warm bonds of family and friends–but the stresses of life, and the pressures of a culture that seeks to splinter social bonds can take their toll.
You connect on social media but even then you find yourself wondering if you are seeing your friends as they truly are or a mere sanitized version that they show you and the world. Political theorist Hannah Arendt recognized this disconnectedness:
…loneliness, once a borderline experience usually suffered in certain marginal social conditions like old age, has become an everyday experience of the ever-growing masses of our century.–Hannah Arendt
How can you stay connected to those you love? How can you care more for your fellow believers? Jesus, in a sense gives Mary to John to each other at the cross. This becomes the first beginnings of the agape or Christian love that Paul speaks of. Later, John himself writes of this in a letter and reveals the power behind it all:
19 We love because He first loved us.–I John 4:19 (ESV)
Look around you at your fellow believers. Families are struggling, there is sickness and grief. Aged parents are separated from unbelieving children by miles or memories. People battle sins in the darkness and search for hope. When you hear of a divorce, a rebellious child or a fall from grace do you tut tut and think they must have done something wrong or does your heart break as Mary’s did for those suffering the cruelties of this world?
Do not wait for tragedy to connect with your family or get to know your christian friends. Reach out to them today in love and share the bond of Mary and John at the foot of the cross where all our sins lay broken.
The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.