What would you have thought if you had been at the cross on the day Jesus died, and the Savior of the world asked you to take care of the mother of the Son of God? What do you think John thought when on the cross Jesus asked him to consider his mom to be his mom from that day forward? Let’s think about that as we reflect on these words from John 19: 26 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,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
We aren’t told what John was thinking, but we are told what he went about doing. He took Mary into his own home to care for her as a loving son would care for a dear mother. So he certainly was willing to do what Jesus asked. But no matter what thoughts might have come into his mind at that moment at the cross, it is clear that what he was thinking in his head could be very much helped by what he was seeing his eyes. He was definitely seeing a son’s love – and he was definitely seeing the Son’s love – two special kinds of love from the same person in wonderful action on that horrible and beautiful hill called Golgotha. Let’s take these moments to see the same things John saw and see how it can help us respond to whatever requests Jesus makes of us in his Word in our day by day life as his dearly loved children.
On the cross we first join John in seeing a son’s love – a wonderful example of the holy Jesus caring for the one who had given him birth. It can be easy some times to over-speak about earthly things and earthly relationships and to think that for Christians earthly things and earthly relationships should not really be all that important. It is clear from God’s Word that we dare not let the things of this world get in the way of our connection to our Savior God. In fact, one time Jesus even said in the presence of his family that he had other relationships more important than those he had with his family. He said at that time, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and my sister and my mother.” However, part of our connection to our Savior God includes the earthly things and relationships he has given us to enjoy while we are alive in order to give us an opportunity to thank him for those things by the way we use and treat what he has given us before we go to heaven. Jesus clearly loved his mom as a son. Now that he was about to die, Jesus dearly wanted her to have someone else care for her as a son after he was gone.
But now think about it from Mary’s point of view for a moment, because this also can help us think about why there would be a son’s normal, everyday love. The verses right before our lesson describe what Mary had just seen. We don’t know how much of his suffering she beheld along the way to Golgotha, but we are told that she was one of the women standing there near the cross. Right before this conversation with Jesus, she had seen the results of the conversation of the soldiers who were guarding his body, as they decided to cast lots to see who would get Jesus’ clothes. The last thing Mary saw was the soldiers taking away her son’s clothes. This was the loving mom who had wrapped him strips of cloth at his holy birth. This was the loving mom whom we can imagine making him outfits for his school and his play. This was the loving mom whom we can imagine making sacrifices, as so many moms do, so their children can have what they need, even if it sometimes means that as moms they go without.
We have to imagine some of those things, but we don’t have to just imagine what Mary was also seeing. Mary also was actually seeing something far worse than her son’s clothes being thrown to the winner of a game of throwing dice. She was also experiencing the fulfillment of something that she must have pondered in her heart for years – those words of that man named Simeon in the temple over thirty years before, who had said that a sword would someday pierce her soul. This was the day her soul felt the sword’s sting. This was the day that as a believer in the Lord she knew would come, since the Lamb of God had come to die for the sins of the world, but this was the day that as a mother she may have prayed her son could avoid, because knowing something will happen doesn’t necessarily make it easier when it does happen, as is the case so often for us, too, when we know the surgery is coming, but then the day arrives, or when we know having to say good-bye is coming, but then the day arrives, or as when we know that first break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend is coming, but then the day arrives and so many other everyday events of life. Jesus himself, knowing full well what was coming, a few hours earlier had prayed to his heavenly Father, that, if possible, this cup would be taken from him, if the work of salvation could be finalized in a different way than by going to the cross. But now the time had come, with Mary right there at his cross beholding her son’s last breaths and hearing her son’s last words.
The disciple John was also right there with Mary at that cross, and he could see a son’s love — and a mother’s love, too – an earthly love that is very special and important and a gift from God to work hard for in our own lives if we don’t have it and to work hard to keep in our own lives, if we do. But as special as that bond of a son’s love for his mom was, the other thing John saw – and the other thing which you and I see — at that cross rises to an even higher level – an infinitely higher level — because while we do see a son’s love, we also see the Son’s love. And it is that love which makes everything okay in our lives, even if we do not have the earthly things or the earthly relationships we wish we could, or if they are not a part of our lives as much as they once were.
We see the love of Jesus, the Son of God, in two specific ways on the cross, both of which we can think of in connection with Jesus telling his mother that she would be taken care of by John and Jesus telling John that he was the one chosen by the promised Christ to take care of the mother of the Son of God. Can you think of those two ways in which we see the love of God’s Son, both of which make all the difference in the world in what thoughts will go through our own minds when we are asked by God to care for the things he has given us to enjoy on this earth?
The two ways in which see Christ’s perfect love on the cross are, first of all, what he was doing – and, secondly, what was being done to him. What he was doing, even as he was dying, was keeping God’s law that he had come to fulfill. What commandment is it that tells us to honor our parents and all in authority? The Fourth Commandment. On the cross we have an example of Jesus fulfilling the Fourth Commandment, just as he always had, and just as always did with all of God’s commandments. This kind of love has to just overwhelm us especially when we realize that because of what Jesus did, God the Father says you and I have done the very same thing. In God’s eyes, it is as if we have always obeyed and cared for our parents, and that we have never sinned against anyone else in an authority position. In God’s eyes it is as if we have always done everything right, even though we know and confess the truth that we continue to do so much so wrong.
But that’s what makes the second way we see his love so particularly moving and emotional – seeing what was being done to him, even though what was being done by him proved he did not deserve to have anything like that be done to him at all. But all the times you and I have disobeyed God, all the times you and I have disrespected a parent or a teacher a boss or an elected leader, all the times you and I have shown by our actions how little we seem to be thinking of Jesus Christ at that moment, all those times – and so many more times – are what drove those nails into his hands and placed him on the tree on which he died. In other words, both in Jesus’ perfect life as our substitute and in Jesus’ innocent death as our substitute we see the perfect love of the Son – the perfect love which assures us we are loved by God every single second of every single day, no matter how we may feel at that particular moment, no matter hard it may be for our human eyes to see what Jesus promises us is true by faith.
What do you think John thought when Jesus asked him to take care of his mother? As a human being, he might have had the very same struggles and the very same questions and the very same concerns that any of us could have had. But as a believer in the Lord, he also would have felt the same way we would have felt if Jesus Christ had asked us to take care of the one who as a little boy had taken care of him. We would have wanted to reflect a son’s love to show our thanks for the Son’s love – the same love that leads us to thank God and to live for God today, as Jesus in effect says to every one of us, “Here is your brother. Here is your sister. Here is your father. Here is your mother. Love them as you would love me – and as I have loved you!” Amen.