The first three cries that the Lord made while He was on the cross all concerned other people. He was dying to save sinners and right to the end He cared for the needs of others before He looked after His own needs. As far as we can tell, the apostle John was the only one of the Lord’s disciples who actually attended the cross. As far as we can tell he left Calvary for a while to take Mary, the Lord’s earthly mother, to his home after the Lord gave him the command that we read about in this passage.
- In Luke 2: 34 we read that an old man called Simeon saw the Lord Jesus and told his mother that the child was set for the rising and falling of many in Israel and sword would pierce her own soul. We can see how this prophecy was fulfilled when Mary was standing beside the cross. Christ Jesus was her firstborn son, he was required by law to look after her in her old age. However, that wasn’t the major issue here. Mary was watching her son die. He was innocent and the execution was a travesty of justice.
- Apart from Peter and John, all the disciples had forsaken the Lord and fled. Peter followed at a distance but then he denied that he knew the Lord and went away, in shame, to weep. Finally, John knew the high priestly family and followed the Lord all the way to the cross. However, the woman who knew and loved the Lord followed Him to the bitter end (see v 25).
- As the Lord was hanging in agony on the cross, He looked and saw His mother standing nearby and His sensitive nature was deeply troubled. He could see His mother and “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. We know that this disciple was John as that is how he refers to himself throughout this gospel.
- Earlier in His ministry the Lord had condemned the Pharisees and scribes for using their own rules to lay aside God’s commandments (Mark 7: 9-12). They found a way to override the commandment for man to honour his father and mother. However, even though the Saviour was in desperate agony, He still remembered His human obligations before God and took time to make sure that His mother was cared for.
- In terms of the Lord’s humanity, Mary was the closest person to Him and John was the closest person to the Lord spiritually on earth so it was fitting that the Lord would commit His mother to the care of the disciple whom He loved.
- The next question that we have to ask is why didn’t the Lord leave the care of His mother to one of Mary’s other children? We know that Joseph is no longer involved in the story after the visit to the Temple when the Lord was twelve and tradition states that he died soon after that. We also know that during the Lord’s life Mary’s other children didn’t believe in the Lord (John 7: 5). Psalm 69: 88 says, prophetically of the Lord, “I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children” so the Lord chose not to commit Mary’s care to them. In Mark 3: 31-55 we read about the time when the Lord’s mother and brothers came to find Him and He said “Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.” The spiritual bond between Mary and John would have been very strong because they were both among the very earliest people to believe in the Lord. By doing this the Lord made sure that He had satisfied every emotional and legal requirement placed upon Him. He did all this while He was experienced the deepest possible suffering, physical, emotional and spiritual, a man could ever suffer.
- He addressed His mother as “woman”. We have to be careful when we read the Bible not to read it through the lens of our modern culture. We live in a post modern, rationalistic, feministic, self indulgent age and we assume that the people of other ages saw things in the same way as we see them today. This is wrong! The term “woman” is respectful and quite proper. We do not read that the Lord called Mary “mother” at any stage. This would tend to destroy the myth that has grown up around Mary as the mother of God. When the Lord addressed Mary during the wedding at Cana he also called her “woman”.
- The Lord had a natural relationship with His mother but the story of salvation in entirely based on the Only Begotten Son and the gift of His sinless life. There is no room for anyone else, not even the “mother of God”. Now that the Lord was dying on the cross, He was completing His eternal destiny and was no longer to be seen as just a man. He was God and will always be God so it is important that we don’t reduce God by taking time to worship His “mother”.
- The Saviour told Mary to look on John as her son from this time forward. She was to to remain what she had always been, an remarkable woman of great faith but no more than that. John wrote to tell us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God but he didn’t ever make any claim above being one of Christ’s servants. This means that Mary remains one of Christ’s servants as well.
- We know that John was Mary’s nephew so there was no legal problem with John taking care of Mary.
- The Lord didn’t even call John by name he just said “Behold thy mother.” The relationship between John and the Lord hadn’t changed in any way by this command. John was still the disciple whom Jesus loved and was still committed Him as the Christ, the Son of God. There are five “Beholds” in John 19. 4 “Pilate said behold I bring him forth to you”. 5 “Behold the man”. 14 “Behold your king”. 26 “Behold your son”. 27 “Behold your mother”. These beholds give us a wonderful picture of the Lord and His work. The first behold reminds us that there was no fault in Him. This was the verdict of the Roman procurator who was legally entitled to make such a judgement and that verdict will stand for all eternity. Christ was a man in whom there was no fault and there was no legal judgement against Him to say otherwise. “Behold the man” reminds us of the Lord humanity and His great humiliation on our behalf. He had no sin but yet He became a man so that He could die, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin”. However, He was not just a man, He is also the true King of the universe. The last two beholds remind us of the Lord’s deep compassion.
- The Lord told His followers that no man was to love his father or his mother more than he loved Christ for such a person is not worthy of following Christ (Matt 10: 37) and if a person wanted to follow Christ would have to hate his father , mother, wife and other family members in comparison to the love that he had for Christ (Luke 14: 26). The Lord put His loyalty to Father and His desire to glorify the Father’ Name above all His earthly ties.
- It seems as though John took Mary to his own home at that time. We read that the Lord said other things on the cross before He cried out about His own thirst so that would lead us to believe that John wasn’t at the cross for the entire time. He did say later (v 35) that he bare record and his record is true. This would mean that John was entirely accurate in his account but he could only record the things that he himself witnessed.
- After this episode we only hear of Mary once in the NT. She was with the apostles and continuing in one accord with prayer and supplication. We can assume that Mary spent the rest of her days in this kind of service for the Lord for there is no other evidence to contradict this.
- There are many legends and traditions about Mary and some of the wonderful visions or things that she did but there is nothing to support this in the Bible. The Lord left nothing for us to worship or remember save Himself alone. He is the perfect Saviour and He deserves all the worship and glory.