Third saying from the cross - John 19:26&27.
This evening we again gather at the cross with those looking on. We see three men all hanging on crosses. Two are thieves, and they look like thieves. But the Man in the middle, Jesus Christ, looks different. He doesn’t look like He has lived a rough life, He didn’t look as though the ravages of time had had a great effect upon Him. He looks tired and is in great pain, but still He has a presence about Him that is different from the other two.As we have stood here observing this Man has spoken twice. First, He asked for forgiveness for those who were crucifying Him. Then He spoke to one of the thieves who was on another cross and told him that today He would go to heaven with Jesus. It brings a look of peace to the thief’s face. As we remain there, Jesus speaks again the third time. This time Jesus addresses His mother and a young man standing with her. It is only recorded by John, probably because it was addressed to him. Who do we know was at the cross? The list compiled from all the gospels consist of: John, the beloved disciple, Mary the Mother of Jesus and her sister, Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James the less and Joses, Mary the mother of Zebedee’s sons, that is James and John, Salome, Mary the wife of Clopas and many other women. Luke 23:49 says that “all His acquaintances and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching these things.” The three principle characters in this scene are the Lord, His mother and John the apostle. Mary, His mother and John are very close to the cross. Mary, His mother, is not mentioned much when we look at the accounts of the time of Jesus ministry, in fact not mentioned much after the account of Jesus birth. Where she is mentioned, she is not given any special courtesies or honours. Mary, having been the main person in focus before Jesus birth, after His birth fades into the background, and rightly so. It is like John the Baptist, when he said in John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Mary was a willing vessel for God to use for the purpose of carrying the Incarnate Son of God and giving Him a loving family and stable upbringing. That done then the focus of the attention must be only Jesus. We should not underplay her role, but neither should we make more of her. The veneration of Mary as performed by the Roman Catholic Church is entirely unbiblical. She is not the mother of God in any other way than in the purely physical sense. The fact that she bore the Lord Jesus does not give her any influence over Him or His actions. She is not the mother of God now and she is not able to intercede for others. The only occasion that it appears that she influences His actions is at the Mary was no more than we see her in the Bible. There is no reference to her being kept sinless from the moment of her conception and being maintained in that condition. She was a normal Jewish young woman. When the angel greeted her to announce what God’s plan was, the angel called her highly favoured and that she had found favour. The meaning is that she received grace. Grace is always undeserved, nobody has ever deserved God’s grace, it is bestowed entirely out of God’s mercy alone. When we do see interaction between Mary and Jesus it appears that Jesus treats her with less respect than we would expect. At the wedding feast at Cana John 2:3-5. Mary informs Jesus of the problem of the wine running out, implying the dishonour it would bring on the family. When replying to His mother, Jesus says “Woman what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” Some read this as saying “what has their concern to do with you and Me.” In His response Jesus does not use the term mother when addressing Mary, in fact He never addresses her as mother. He is 30 years old and is no longer under the authority of her. This then can be seen as a rebuke, reminding her who she was speaking to. What was she asking of Him? She probably wanted Him to intervene in a miraculous way, but He responds, “My time is not yet come.” What time? Usually this phrase is used to describe the time of His passion. But here it is 3 years away. We conclude then that the time of His public ministry has not yet begun. Though He does a miracle he ensures it is not done as a response to His mothers’ intervention. He rather does it as an act of grace. A second event in which we see an interaction with Mary is when she comes to a house with His brothers wanting to see Him Mark 3:31-35. We read that He is surrounded by people listening to Him, so she sends a message calling Him. The family know what He is doing, but rather that wait until He is free, they interrupt Him when He is about his Fathers work. He does not go out and rather makes a point of distinguishing between those who are His physical, temporary family and those who are His eternal, spiritual family. Those who do the will of God, these are His true family, and here were a group of people who were sitting under His teaching, fulfilling the will of God. So, we come to the cross and this interaction with Mary. Again, He addresses her as woman! Is Jesus being unkind or disrespectful of Mary by not calling her mother? No, the word here is a term of endearment and respect. It is a word that was often used by a man to his wife. Some theologists, especially of the orthodox churches which venerate Mary, and others say that Jesus uses the term woman to link her to the woman mentioned by God in the prophecy in the garden of Eden. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed.” Genesis 3:15. Matthew Henry thought that knowing how some churches would venerate Mary and attribute a special place and abilities to her, Jesus did not call her mother. The truth is that we do not know why Jesus used this term. Had we been at the cross the words Jesus spoke would have been said together “Woman behold your son.” & “Behold your mother” We accept that this is taken as transferring the care of Mary from Himself but put yourself in Marys shoes. How would this impact upon her when she heard these first words? Vine in his dictionary of New Testament words says of the word ‘Behold’ used here means “a calling of attention to what may be seen or heard or mentally apprehended in any way.” The immediate reaction would be to concentrate on her Son on the cross. Perhaps she recalled those things which were said to her and things she witnessed concerning Jesus. The angel Luke 1:32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” What of the shepherd’s report of what the angel had told them? “A Saviour who is Christ the Lord.” Simeon’s words to Mary “a sword will pierce through your own soul.” The visit of the wise men and their story concerning the star, the journey and presents. These things would surely flood into her mind. Those things she had ‘kept and pondered in her heart’. Jesus then speaks to John “Behold your mother.” Is there any significance to using the term ‘mother’ to John? He could have said ‘behold the woman.’ I am sure there is. He is outlining the relationship which was to exist between Mary and John. She was more than just a widow to be looked after, she was to be given the status and privileges of his own mother. Since the first statement is linked with the second, we know that the whole is saying to Mary, John will now act as son to you and to John that he was to take over the responsibility for Mary that Jesus would have as the first born son. Family interdependence was much more important in past times. Even in our recent past, the family would live close to each other and support each other. In Biblical times, there was no social security. The people had an inheritance from the Lord of an amount of land which as a family they would work together. It would be passed down through the generations. When the parents were too old to work the land, the children would care and provide for them. Paid employment was available but was at a very basic subsistence level. So family was all important. I am sure that the raising of the son of the widow at Nain was an act of mercy for the woman to ensure she was able to be cared for. Mary was probably a widow by this time, as Joseph is not mentioned, and would have no means of providing for herself. We are told that Mary had other children, though this is disputed by other religions. Roman Catholic doctrine states that Mary was a perpetual virgin. This is part of the belief that Mary was free from original sin and that sex and marriage are symptoms of original sin. However, the Bible plainly states that Jesus had siblings. There are some who say that these were either stepchildren or cousins. This used to be a problem in Africa where a man has more than one wife. In Ivory Coast they would distinguish true brothers and sisters as being ‘Meme Mere, Meme Pere.’ Same mother and same father. There was a special bond between them. The word used in Galatians 1:19 for brother, when Paul speaks of James as the Lord’s brother means ‘of the same womb.’ Matthew 1:24&25 tells us that Joseph took Mary as wife “and did not know her until she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.” The brothers and sisters of our Lord were, I am sure, born to Joseph and Mary. If there were other siblings, why did Jesus pass the responsibility to John to look after her? In 1 Timothy 5:4 Paul writes “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.” Luke 4:16-30 When Jesus went to the synagogue at Nazareth and spoke, though the people marvelled at His gracious words they became indignant. It is probable that His family were there at the time, but none stood with Him when the people sought to throw Jesus down the cliff. John 7:5 tells us why “for even His brothers did not believe in Him.” Here we see the wickedness of the heart. His younger siblings had been the recipients of the love of Jesus when growing up. They had seen a pure, sinless life in their brother. They would have heard wisdom and knowledge from Him greater than from anybody else, but they did not believe in Him. These very brothers of Jesus confirm the truth of the words of Jesus in John 3:19 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Jesus had 4 brothers according to Mark 6:3 & Matthew 13:55-56. Only James and Jude are mentioned specifically elsewhere. We do know that at least some of His brothers came to faith but we don’t know when or if all. We do know that after His ascension into Heaven that His brothers were with the rest of the apostles in the upper room. It is possible that they believed before the crucifixion or after His resurrection, but whenever it was, they were not standing with Him at the foot of the cross. Jesus chose the most faithful of His disciples, the one who was not ashamed to be there and risk his own life. Jesus gave the care of His mother to one who would look after her spiritually as well as physically. “And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” John happily accepted the charge given to him by Jesus.