Shortly after the birth of Jesus a wise prophet named Simeon declared to Mary ‘that a sword would pierce through her soul’. He was saying to her that her new baby boy would one day bring deep internal trauma to her soul. In our church we have been thinking about the last words of Jesus on the run up to Easter. When looking at the seven sayings of the cross I was very drawn to the third statement Jesus made. John records it in John 19v 26-27;
‘When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home’
This is an interesting phrase Jesus uses and was the one I was most curious to understand. In one sense it doesn’t seem to have the weight of some of the other sayings of the cross; it doesn’t speak of forgiveness, paradise or abandonment. It seems like just a simple act of kindness, yet this statement is packed with meaning and symbolism. John is the only gospel writer to include this statement from the cross.
John’s style of writing is very different to the other gospel writers. In John’s narrative of the crucifixion there is no Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross, no taunting from the crowd, no crying out in despair, no darkness overshadowing and no veil tearing. The other gospel writers say Jesus was alone but John makes sure we know he had a few friends and family there with him. John wants us to see calm in the midst of chaos, a man losing his life but yet still in control. Here is a few things I learnt from looking at this saying of Jesus
At the foot of the cross our needs are met.
At Calvary Mary has to watch her son’s hands being nailed to a piece of wood, the same hands she held as he grew up as a child. Mary had to watch the brow that she used to kiss good night driven through with a crown of thorns. Her soul was pierced as she watched her son. As the solders draw lots for his garment made by his mother it prompts the statement ‘behold your son and behold your mother’. With all that is going on upon Jesus body and within his mind he still takes time to meet his mother’s needs. His mother’s welfare is paramount in his mind. This teaches us what our Lord is like! As the life drains from his body, in that place of brokenness, he meets needs. From that place of weakness he can meet his mother’s deepest needs. Today we remember he is no longer on the cross but he is seated at the right hand of power and if Jesus can meet the needs of his mother from the brokenness of the cross how much more is Jesus able to meet our needs today from the place of highest authority at the right hand of the Father.
At the foot of the cross the Church is birthed.
As Jesus says woman behold your son we have to think ‘why now?’ Why didn’t Jesus just take John aside at the last supper and share his desire? Why wait to the cross to make this declaration?
At the cross he will bypass the normal bloodline and give his mother to his friend and his friend to his mother. He creates a new relationship at the cross, he creates a new community at the cross, he changes the basis of relationships and a new family is born at the cross. A community of broken people is brought together at the cross. Here we have the church forged in the suffering of Calvary. Today the cross still brings people together, from the oldest to the youngest, bypassing race and background the cross brings together a new community, a new family, a community started at the cross and held together by the cross
At the foot of the cross there is level ground.
At the cross he calls Mary woman and not mother, the same way he called her woman in his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. He doesn’t use the phrase mother here at the cross because he is showing that even though she bore him, here at the cross their relationship has changed. He is now not only her son; he is also her saviour. They no longer just have a mother-son relationship; at Calvary they have a sinner – saviour relationship. It shows us that the ground around the cross is level. Everyone must come to God the same way.
No matter who we are Jesus has to stoop down to us all. God accommodates himself to us and comes down in his grace. The ground at Calvary has no room or space for prejudice, sectarianism or racism; it is level ground. All can come but they must come by grace. No one is climbing up or reaching up to Calvary but Jesus is stooping down. At Calvary we have no right to look down at anyone else we can only look up to our Saviour.
Jesus statement to his mother from the cross may at first glance seem less important than the other six statements but as the Lord suffers in agony and as his mother has her soul pierced we see beautiful things taking place at the foot of the cross.