Today’s Bible text is found in John 19:25-27. Let’s read it.
In Jesus’ life, from His birth to His death, there is a strange blending of the majestic and the lowly. At His birth, He is laid in a manger, but out in the fields of Bethlehem, angels sang His praise. Years later, He was asleep in the back of a boat when a storm lashed the Sea of Galilee, and when He rebuked the winds, there was a “great calm.” When He saw the grief of Martha and Mary, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) and a few moments later cried, “Lazarus come forth” (verse 43). And here at the cross, the Third Word shows Jesus as the Son of a woman, concerned in His dying hour about her future care.
Were any woman’s sufferings equal to that of Mary? Jesus, her Son, was dying the death of a criminal. He hung naked before her eyes, but she was helpless. His wounds bled, and she could not staunch them. His mouth was parched, but she could not moisten it. Those outstretched arms that once clasped her in a warm embrace were now beyond her reach. The nails in His hands and feet pierced her; the thorns imbedded in His brow were a circle of flame about her heart; the taunts flung at Him wounded her, too.
But the distresses of her extraordinary and brief motherhood predated the cross. Note the following puzzling unrealized expectations with which she wrestled.
I. THE HEARTACHE OF PREDICTED ADVERSITY
When Mary carried her infant into the temple in the pride of young motherhood, the venerable Simeon foretold that a sword would pierce through her own soul. She must have wondered what this mysterious prediction meant. At the foot of the cross, she knew, for the sword was smiting her, stab after stab.
But the sword would cut deeper. Had not the angel told her before Jesus’ birth that “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32, 33)? But, during His life, where was this greatness, this throne, this crown, this kingdom? The angel had told her she was to be the most blessed of women, but look at what followed: 30 years of obscurity in Nazareth. A ministry that looked promising with news of miraculous healings and great crowds. Perhaps it’s all coming now? But then news reaches her of His arrest, trial, and death sentence, and she finds herself standing at the foot of the cross. And He is dying. Where is greatness and glory now? The sword had pierced very deep.
But there were other perplexities that dogged her steps before this shattering disappointment.
II. THE HEARTACHE OF DOMESTIC PERPLEXITIES
The first of a series of perplexities began when, as a lad, Jesus went up to Jerusalem with His parents, Joseph and Mary. They lost Him. After a day’s journey, they realized He was missing, and with great anxiety returned to find Him. Their reunion, accompanied by a gentle reproof from the distraught parents, drew a perplexing reply from the boy: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business. . . . my first loyalty is not to you, but to God?” (Luke 2:49). Insolence? No. They failed “to comprehend His mission.”1
Then, while teaching in Galilee, His disciples informed Him that His mother and His brothers wanted to see Him. His answer was perplexing. He said, “Who is My mother? And who are My brethren? For whosoever shall do the will of My Father . . . the same is My brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt. 12:48-50, KJV). He was saying that those who receive Him “were united to Him by a tie closer than that of human kinship.”2 The sad reality was that Jesus received no support from His earthly relatives, and it “cast a shadow” over His earthly life and “made His path a thorny one to travel.” But, what comfort this brings to those who endure misapprehension and distrust, even in their own homes, knowing that Jesus endured the same.
There is more to come. As the black shadows began to gather, Mary left her other sons, who, as John tells us, did not believe in their brother, and hurried to stand by her first-born. Many things He did grieved and perplexed her, but she loved Him with a love stronger than death and “stood by the cross . . .” (John 19:25). Then came the astonishing phrase, “Behold thy son!” (verse 26). What was Jesus saying? He told His mother to adopt another son when she already had four sons of her own and at least two daughters. Jesus completely ignored them. He passed them by as if they were dead and entrusted His mother to a friend, John the Apostle. The sword pierced again!
Earlier in His ministry, Jesus said, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay: but rather division” (Luke 12:51). The Master is here speaking out of His own experience. He created division among His own people and in His own family. But I love to remember that division is not His final word. He is the great uniter. He divided His family only to bring them into a closer fellowship. When we see Mary after the resurrection on her way to Pentecost, she has with her not just one son, but five. Her adopted son is with her; so are James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude (Acts 1:14). They have come to accept Jesus not only as a brother but also as Savior and Lord. What hope those whose families are divided have in the promise that “Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord . . . he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:5, 6).
“In His dying hour, Christ remembered His mother.”3 From the pulpit of the cross, Jesus preaches to all ages a sermon on the fifth commandment (see 1 Tim. 5:6, 8). Jesus, suffering the extremity of pain which might have made Him insensible to everything beyond Himself attends to a domestic detail—the future care of His mother! With great pain, this was His last will and testament. To His mother He said, “Woman, behold thy son” (meaning proleptically, “Thou hast no son now”). And John accepted the charge as a gift, and thereafter, they lived together in his home.
Does not this sermon, delivered from the pulpit of the cross, inform us that our Savior has a concern for our temporal interests and our eternal interests? Let those of us who are needy and deserted take courage from this and cast our care upon Him, for He cares for us. God will fulfill His promise to be a Father to the fatherless, and a Husband to the widow, and that they have not been forgotten by Him who, in the hour of His absorbing agony, remembered Mary. AMEN.
1 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, 82.
2 Ibid., 325.
3 Ibid., 752.
Rex D. Edwards is a former vice president for religious studies at Griggs University.