April 14, 2006 — 4:22 PM

"Woman behold thy son"

John 19:25-27

"Standing near the cross...."

That is how the Gospel of John introduces the words of Jesus to his mother and his Beloved Disciple. This small group of women and the Beloved Disciple are standing near the cross watching Jesus die. They stand there supporting Jesus in his final hours and mourning the loss of this one whom they all love so dearly.

"Standing near the cross...."

We are not given any details about what must have been a heart-wrenching scene. How could it be anything different? A mother is losing her child. Disciples are losing their mentor and close friend. But the gospel is silent on this account. It leaves us to imagine it for ourselves. So, let us imagine for a moment.

"Standing near the cross...."

There is the mother of Jesus, watching her child. Sure, he is a grown man by this time, but do parents ever really stop seeing their children as just that, children? And this is not simply a child of hers, it is her first - one who was born under extraordinary circumstances. Oh the scorn and the ridicule she and Joseph had endured. But endure they did because the angel of the Lord had explained it all to them. They knew that this was God's will even if they couldn't completely understand what was happening.

Standing there watching Jesus hanging on the cross, so many images must be passing through his mother's mind: holding the new-born baby in her arms as she and Joseph shared the lower level with the animals of the household; searching frantically for the precocious pre-teen when he stopped to argue scripture with the leaders of the synagogue; the first sign he performed at her request when they were guests at a wedding and the wine ran out. Those were images that would stick with her long after this horrible day was over.

Those images would remind her of her love for her son and the joy that he had brought her. Those images would also make her heart ache, each time anew, at the loss of that source of love, joy and pride. How unjust this all seemed. No parent is supposed to bury their child. The child is meant to grow old and take care of the parent in old age.

And so, as Jesus' mother stands near the cross watching, we can be assured that it is not an easy moment for her. Maybe she is trying to hold herself together to be a support for her son as he dies. Maybe she stands there sobbing in the face of such incredible injustice. From this moment, her life will be forever changed by the loss of her son.

"Standing near the cross...."

There also are the women and the Beloved Disciple. They are watching this man, Jesus, whom some had known for many years and others had known for only a few. This man had changed them all through the work that he had done in and among them. How could any of them be the same after witnessing the signs that he performed? Or hearing the words that he spoke about the Father?

As they stand watching, maybe they are remembering how Jesus had helped anyone regardless of social standing. One of them may remember Jesus' acceptance of those often considered outsiders - like the Samaritan woman at the well. What a shock that had been for the disciples when they returned to the well and saw Jesus speaking with her. Social convention prohibited that type of interaction. But Jesus never let social convention stop him from helping another.

Another of them may remember Jesus' acceptance of those considered unclean - like the man outside the city gate who had been lame for 38 years or the man who was blind from birth. Traditional Jewish teaching said that these men were afflicted because they or their parents were sinners and thus they were unclean. But Jesus didn't listen to the traditional teaching. He went right up to these men and took away their infirmities.

Maybe as these women and the Beloved disciple stand there in the shadow of Jesus on the cross they remember how Jesus welcomed the rich as well as the poor, the learned as well as the simple peasant. He welcomed them all and told them all of the Father's love for them. This love that seeks to meet every need - every thirst, every hunger, every ache, every pain. Jesus' life had shown them the power of God's love to meet these needs.

How cruel it all seems - to kill this man because he welcomed all and sought to share God's love with them. Oh how they will miss him. How will they find a way to face each new day knowing that he will not be there to walk along beside them? What will they do now that their mentor will no longer be there to lead them? How will they be able to survive the pain of his loss?

"Standing near the cross...."

And then, Jesus speaks. First to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then to the Beloved Disciple, "Here is your mother."

Can you imagine the reaction in the little group standing there? Each person had been deep in her or his own deep reflection mourning and suddenly these words break through. "What is that he just said?" one woman asks another. "Did he just tell this one to watch out for his mother?" another inquires.

This is too much to believe. Jesus is obviously in great pain himself and yet he shows that he knows the pain and fear that they are feeling. And even as he is dying he seeks to reassure them. To the end, Jesus is showing them that God's love will provide for their every need.

The group draws closer to each other and their sobbing takes on an even greater strength. Jesus is thinking of them, caring for them, loving them, even to the end. What wondrous love is this?

Today as we stand near the cross of Jesus, what pain and fear are you experiencing? What loss threatens to overwhelm you?

Maybe the loss of a loved one through death or separation. Maybe the loss of a job and the security that it brings. Maybe the loss of future opportunities.

Whatever it is, Jesus is looking down from the cross and saying, "I know your suffering. I have felt it. Do not fear. I am with you always. I will provide for you. Here, right beside you, is what you need."

Standing near the cross, we can be reassured that God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit does love us, does know the pain that we suffer, and does provide for us. Hear Jesus' words and believe.

Amen.


8 Comments  |  post a comment

At 9:57 AM on April 3, 2007, Annette Davis wrote:

This was very heart felt. It moved through my spirit.
Thank you for letting God use you to spread the Gospel.
The message of the Cross can never be told enough.
To God be all the honor and glory...

At 11:56 AM on April 5, 2007, Maria Marrero wrote:

What an awesome commentary. I was asked to speak on this third phrase from Jesus on the cross and this was the approach I wanted to take, but laid uncertain. Thank your for putting on paper your teachings, thoughts, imaginiation. God bless you.

At 3:18 PM on April 5, 2007, mark wrote:

This is really touching.This has given me a new insight into the third words from the cross. Continue to inspire us with Gods words

At 6:33 PM on April 5, 2007, Patricia wrote:

To God be all the glory for the things He has done. The gospel of Jesus is so beautiful. Thank you for enlightening me with God's word.

At 12:03 AM on July 9, 2007, Liz wrote:

thank-you that was beautiful. the father lead me to that and now I feel refreshed. may you be blessed. Amen

At 12:38 AM on July 12, 2007, Jayant Christian wrote:

For John,the purpose of writing the Gopsel was to tell that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah. He has done that wonderfully. In the begining of His ministry, Jesus had addressed his mother as Woman, and here while concluding His mission, he does the same. John does draw our attention that Jesus is the Son of God. Even then John tells us," The mother of Jesus was standing near the cross of Jesus! How profound is this simple description. Mary had all through her life preserverd many wonderful things in her heart about her wonderful Son, and pondering over it. This was indeed the moment her heart must have been pierced with Sward, as fortold by Simeon. Jesus, conscious indeed about His realtionship with His heavenly Father, does not overlook Mary, His mother. Although the desiciples had fled, Mary's husband seems to have died long back and none of her other sons seem to have been present there, Jesus takes note of His mother. As His Son, He takes care of His mother. He assigns the responsiblity of His mother to John, making John as her son in his stead! It was for that reason the Mary was there in the Upper room with the Apostles. Perhaps Mary later went to Ephesus with this beloved disciple, her son in need! Where is your mother? Where is you father?

At 7:34 PM on March 18, 2008, Genevieve Bullard wrote:

This is the same angle I thought to approach the subject - God has truly confirmed his word through you. Be encouraged

At 6:44 AM on March 21, 2008, pastor m. harris wrote:

I thank God for giving you this sermon. It really blessed my heart.

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