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Behold, Your Mother

May 14, 2023 Speaker: Jonathan McLeod Series: Sayings of Jesus on the Cross

Topic: Family Scripture: John 19:26–27

Famous Last Words

Our current series is on the last words of Jesus, the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross.

When a person dies, we often want to know their last words. Sometimes last words are powerful. Sometimes they’re funny. And sometimes they’re strange.

  • “Give me my glasses.” - Mark Twain
  • “One last drink, please.” - Jack Daniel
  • “Well, folks, you’ll soon see a baked apple.” - George Appel, an American murderer, prior to execution by electrocution
  • “Me mudder did it.” - Arnold Rothstein, American mobster, when asked who had fatally shot him
  • “Give my love to Mother.” - Francis Crowley, American murderer, prior to execution by electrocution
  • “You are wonderful.” - Arthur Conan Doyle, spoken to his wife in their garden; he proceeded to clutch his chest and die

The third saying of Jesus on the cross is found in John 19:26-27: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!”

What do these words of Jesus on the cross tell us about him?

The Death of a Mother’s Son

Four women are standing near the cross of Jesus: “his mother [Mary] and his mother’s sister [possibly Salmome, John’s mother], Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (v. 25).

There’s a contrast between these four believing women and the four unbelieving soldiers, who are gambling for Jesus’ clothing. The big prize is the tunic, which is “seamless” (v. 23). (One commentator wonders if this tunic had been made by Mary.)

Also near the cross is “the disciple whom [Jesus] loved” (v. 26; cf. 13:23; 20:2; 21:20). The unnamed disciple is John, the author of this Gospel. 

When Jesus sees his mother and John standing there, he says to Mary, “Woman, behold, your son!” (v. 26). And then he says to John, “Behold, your mother!” (v. 27a).

We think of the crucifixion of Jesus as the death of our Saviour, but it was also the death of a mother’s son.

Mary was probably a widow, about fifty years old, with little or no prospect of remarriage. We’re told that “from that hour [John] took her to his home” (v. 27b). He cared for her as his own mother.

So even in the midst of such awful suffering, Jesus made sure his mother would be taken care of.

Being the Mother of Jesus

What was it like being the mother of Jesus? You might think it was an easy job. Jesus was, after all, the perfect child! But you might recall what Simeon said to Mary when Jesus was only a few days old: “A sword will pierce your own soul” (Luke 2:35). It turned out that being the mother of Jesus wasn’t easy.

(Being a mom often isn’t easy. We are to find our identity in Christ, not in motherhood, etc.)

Do you wonder why Jesus addressed Mary as “woman” instead of “mother”? He wasn’t being disrespectful. (The NLT translates the Greek word as “dear woman.”) Still, I’m sure Mary would have preferred to have been called “mother.”

To help us answer that question, let’s look at three other interactions between Jesus and Mary.

[Read Luke 2:41-51.] Mary scolds the twelve-year-old Jesus: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress?” (v. 48). Mary says “your father,” but Jesus talks about “my Father”: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (v. 49). He has a dual identity. He is both the son of Joseph and the Son of God. But Jesus didn’t use this as an excuse to disobey Joseph and Mary. Verse 51 says that he “was submissive to them.” What we see though is that Jesus and Mary’s relationship wasn’t a normal mother-son relationship.

[Read John 2:1-4.] Again, Jesus addresses Mary as “woman,” not “mother.” Why? Perhaps it’s because Mary thinks that Jesus will do what she wants him to do because she’s his mother. But his Father’s will is more important than his mother’s wishes.

[Read Matt. 12:46-50.] Jesus says that his mother and brothers are those who do God’s will. [Read Luke 11:27-28.] He’s not saying that family isn’t important. He’s saying that what’s most important is being a child of God. 

James and Jude, the brothers of Jesus, realized this. [Read James 1:1; Jude 1:1.]

Family Responsibilities

What do the words of Jesus in John 19:26-27 tell us about Jesus?

First, Jesus was someone who made sure he obeyed the Fifth Commandment.

Second, Jesus believed that membership in God’s family is more important than blood relationships.

Why did Jesus choose John to take care of his mother? Part of the reason was probably because his brothers were not yet believers (John 7:5).

I want you to see what John says near the start of his Gospel. [Read John 1:12-13.] This is what matters most. Mary becoming a child of God was more important than being the mother of Jesus.

We have family responsibilities, both in our family and the family of God.

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