Today we are going to continue our Lenten series on the Seven Last Words of Christ as we examine the power and impact these words can have on our lives. Two weeks ago we began with Jesus' first words on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” as we looked to the incredible act of forgiveness to better understand it, see what Jesus intended it to look like, and ways we can move towards that kind of mindset ourselves. Last week, we looked at the phrase, “Today you will be with Me in paradise” as we sought to understand faith and how that provides us grace, hope, and forgiveness. Today we will look to Christ's words, “Woman behold your son, son behold your mother”, as we examine the importance of care, responsibility, and love.
His Ministry Continues
As we pick up this story Jesus has already been beaten, already carried His cross through town, and already been nailed to the cross. He has already been mocked by the guards below and a thief to his side. However, he has also already sought forgiveness for the guards and those crucifying Him and promised the other thief that he would soon be in a place of beauty and wonder and be there with Jesus in a very close and personal way. Even in this situation, experiencing this unimaginable amount of pain, Christ is still actively caring for others.
At this point the focus now shifts to the people, the supporters of Christ, that are gathered at the foot of the cross. Now it is reasonable to assume they are not right at the foot, but probably off a bit, mixed in with the crowd, but in Jesus' line of sight. Remember, once Jesus was arrested, almost all of the disciples fled; fearing they would be the next to be arrested. But five people remained. The Gospels all give partial accounts, mentioning different names of those that were there. But the five names mentioned are Mary, the wife of Clopas; Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of Jesus; His mother's sister, which most scholars believe to be Salome, the mother of James and John; and the disciple whom Jesus loved, often believed to be John. These people, not thinking of themselves, but seeking to be a source of strength for Mary and for Jesus, stay together, face certain danger, and make their way to the cross. In the midst of their pain, fear, and uncertainty, they are still caring for Christ.
Now we get to the verbal exchange that is recorded for us. Our Scripture lesson tells us that when Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved, he spoke these words, “Woman behold your son, son behold your mother.”
It Is All About Care
In the midst of all of this, Jesus' pain, Mary's pain, the chaos of the crucifixion, the emotion of seeing the one you love tortured; Jesus speaks, “Woman behold your son, son behold your mother.” What is it that Jesus is trying to accomplish here? Why would He speak these words?
I believe they were spoken out of love. Compassion. Responsibility. I believe that Jesus is trying to fulfill several tasks here. The obvious one is one of familial responsibility. Jesus is trying to make sure Mary, His mother, is taken care of. Jesus realizes that soon He will die and His time to walk this Earth and have the ability to physically care for Mary is coming to an end. We know nothing of Joseph so we assume that Mary is alone. So in an effort to make sure Mary will have a home, a family, people to help her as her life goes on, He places His mother in the care of the disciple whom he loved. Now in Jewish culture the dying words of man were equivalent to a last will and testament. They were binding and taken seriously. Consequently, Scripture tells us that the disciple took Mary into his home. The Greek words used here for “into his home,” eivj ta. i;dia or eis ta idia, literally mean “the things peculiarly one's own.” This was not a request to check on mom from time to time, or give her a hand when needed. Jesus' compassion and care for His mom reached much further. He was asking this disciple to view Mary as his mother now. To love her, take her into his home, and see to her every need. Jesus knew He would not be able to do that anymore and wanted to make sure Mary was not left alone in this world.
The next task I believe that Jesus is trying to accomplish here is to take care of us. The purpose of this crucifixion is to defeat death, to be the final and perfect sacrifice, to assure that all humanity has the opportunity to be saved and spend eternity in a very close and personal way with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This was Jesus' chance to provide for all humanity while still here on Earth. This was not done for ego, this was not done out of guilt. This was done willingly out of His love and care for us. In this gift, and with these words, “Woman behold your son, son behold your mother” Mary and all of humanity are cared for.
Another aspect of this statement is, I believe, to show us that we are all part of the body. Our second Scripture lesson this morning talks about this equality and community, “...so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” As Christ is seeking shelter for his mother and eternal life for us, this equality comes through. We are all part of one family. Joined not by our blood, but by His. There is no longer separate family trees, but one tree, rooted in Christ, growing by God, nourished by the Holy Spirit. By Christ, we are one!
These eight words are rich with meaning, “Woman behold your son, son behold your mother”. These words are about care, for Mary, and for us, and a bond, between all believers. Because it is in this care, we find that community, we find that connection, and we find Christ-like love.
There’s a poem written by a woman named Annie Johnson Flint which helps explain this:
Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today, He has no feet but our feet to lead [people] in His way, He has no tongue but our tongues to tell me how He died, He has no help but our help to bring them to His side
His first word: "Father, forgive them," Christ was thinking of His enemies. His second word: "Today you will be with me in Paradise," Christ was thinking of the criminal by his side. His third word: "Woman, behold your son," Christ was thinking of his mother. Jesus died as he lived, thinking of others. Christ modeled for us a way to care for others and live for each other. Make this model a part of your life. Be the feet that lead people to Christ, be the tongue that always speaks a word of love, and be the help that shows them God.