Jack Graham - Behold Your Son! Behold Your Mother
Take your Bibles and open them with me to John, the nineteenth chapter. beginning at verse 26: "When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' And then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home". William Barclay, the Bible commentator, said this: "There is something infinitely moving in the fact that Jesus in the agony of the cross, in the moment when the salvation of the world hung in the balance; thought of the loneliness of His mother and the days that he would be taken away".
Standing by Mary is John the disciple who writes these words, who gave us these words from Jesus, along with three other women, including Mary's sister. This is John, the same John whom Jesus loved and who loved Jesus very much. And Jesus tells John to care for His mother. Why? Because the substitute, the one dying on the cross, substituting for us, our sin, would need a substitute: someone to take His earthly role and responsibility as the leader of His family. Amazing, isn't it? While Jesus is dying for the world, He is caring for His mother. He's taking care of His family.
Look at Mary the mother who is at the cross. Mary was a godly woman. As a young teenager she was told by the angel that she would birth the Savior of the world, the Messiah, the Son of God. What a privilege that was. And in the favor and the grace of God she accepted that role, that responsibility. She said, "Be it unto me according to Your will". Mary was a godly, godly woman. But with a great privilege of being the mother of the Savior, came great pain. As a matter of fact when Mary and Joseph brought the Christ child into the temple for His dedication, then Simeon, the aged saint, he took that child into his arms and he spoke a prophecy concerning the Savior and why He had come. And then he said to Mary in Luke 2:35, "And a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed".
The sword, the pain was promised; that Mary would experience great suffering as a result of her birthing and bringing the Savior into the world. There would be the pain of being accused of being an unfaithful wife. And then later on when Jesus is growing up, and how difficult would it have been to raise the Son of God? The boy who's always perfect! How do you lead a child like that? And Jesus would say to His parents, "Do you not know that I must be about My Father's business"? And there was the pain of knowing as a mother that He was not altogether hers. He belonged to the world! There was the pain when Joseph and Mary took the Christ child, fled for their lives into Egypt and they were separated like immigrants from their country and their friends and their family. Yes, there was much pain along the way. But now she is at the cross and she stands as a silent, suffering witness that Jesus is who He claimed to be, the Son of God!
I'm amazed by Mary's faith and courage. She's not swooning; she's not collapsing. Though she is suffering, she is standing in faith and hope at the cross. Now it's important to remember that Mary also needed a Savior, just like you and me. While we honor Mary and her motherhood, as we honor every mother... and if you are a mother, thank God for the significant role that you play and responsibility that you take in life. Don't allow anyone to denigrate the great opportunity you have, like Mary, to be a mother! And to love your children! And Mary did, but she is a human mother and she should never be exalted. Certainly not worshipped! Mary is not a co-mediator with Christ. She is not a co-redemptress. Mary is a woman and like every woman and every man on earth, in need of a Savior!
So we're never taught in Scripture to pray to Mary or through Mary! In fact, the Bible clearly says in 1 Timothy 2:5: "There is one mediator between God and man, the Man, Christ Jesus". We pray in Jesus' name, not in Mary's name! Mary was at the cross in need of redemption! And in the midst of her pain and suffering, she now knows the consequences of sin, as her own darling Son is dying in payment for her sin. As a young girl she exalted God by saying, "My spirit rejoices in God, My Savior". Jesus, God and Savior! And Mary is losing a Son, but she's gaining a Savior! She's saying goodbye to her earthly Son, but she's saying, "I will live in the power of my heavenly Savior". Later, after the resurrection, Mary would be among the believers that would gather in the upper room in obedience to our Lord's command to wait on the promise of the Holy Spirit. And Mary was among them, but not above them. The angel said to Mary, "Great are you among women," not above all women.
So I'm pointing out to you that she now knows that Jesus is not a helpless victim, a helpless captive, but a willing sacrifice. And that her darling little Lamb, Mary's little Lamb is dying for the reason that He was born, to be the Savior of the world. And Mary the mother, now becomes Mary the believer in Jesus, her Son, as her Savior. And she now knows that it's better to have Jesus as Savior even than to have Him as a son. Mary at the cross. But then we see John, the disciple near the cross. He tells us in our verses that, he, along with the others were standing near the cross. John, of course, was one of Jesus' closest friends, among the three intimates of Christ: Peter, James and John, who were often taken aside and given special insight into the power of Christ, and the transfiguration is an example of that: In the garden they went a little farther with Jesus as He prayed.
So John was among the closest of the close to Jesus. It was John who put his head near the heart of God, the heart of Jesus, on His chest at the Last Supper and there he heard the heart of God beating for the world in love, as He is preparing to go to the cross. John finds himself there at the cross, but what you need to remember is John wasn't there originally. In fact, when Jesus was arrested and judged, John disappeared like the rest of the disciples. You say, "Where's that"? Matthew 26:56 "But all this had taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled, and all the disciples left Him and fled". So John, with the rest of the men who had followed Jesus, ran. Why did they run? Matthew says they were scandalized. That's a word which means they were ashamed.
Of course, they were afraid. Imagine that! John who says, "I'm the disciple whom Jesus loved. I love Jesus; Jesus loved me". But at crunch time, at cross time he was afraid and ashamed. And he ran away with the rest of them, until something happened that led him back to the cross. What was that something? The Bible says, "There is no fear in love... that perfect love casts out fear". And in the love of Christ he came back! He came to the cross! And he stood there! Interesting, there's no words of rebuke to John. "Where were you? Why did you leave"? But only words of restoration and responsibility as He gives His mother to John. So it's an obvious thing to point out that if you've run away from the Lord, if you've been away, maybe you were ashamed of Jesus, or afraid, and you melted in the face of opposition or persecution or mockery. You denied the Lord in some way! You were under a trial and you failed the test! You're in the shadows, away from God, away from Christ! You once knew and loved Jesus, but you're no longer there! You can come back to Him today.
The cross means that you can be forgiven. And John came back and so can you! And when he came back, he was given this awesome responsibility of taking care of the mother of Jesus. As I said, the substitute, the Savior needed a substitute. So Jesus gave the responsibility of His mother to His friend, His trusted friend, John. And John was to represent Him (Jesus) in the world. Isn't that what God has called us to do? Isn't that what Christ is calling us to do as we come to the cross? To represent Him in the world, to be His hands, His feet, His eyes, His heart? When we come to the cross, we're all called as the body of Jesus, the presence of Jesus in this world, to assume our responsibility as servants of Christ! What a privilege that is! John was the last among the disciples standing at the cross. He was the last man standing.
And it's interesting to me that he was the last man among them to live and to stand at the end to see the glorified risen Christ and receive the revelation. I don't know what the connection may be there, but it's significant to me that because this man came to the cross and stood there, God blessed his life and gave him a great vision of himself that the world now knows. Jesus said in John 20:21: "As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you into the world". Have you ever wondered why Jesus didn't give His mother the responsibility of His mother to His younger brothers? Jesus had younger brothers, you know. Mary and Joseph had other children. So these were the half-brothers of Jesus. Why didn't Jesus give Mary to one of His brothers?
Well, first of all, His brothers were nowhere to be found because we're told in the Scripture that His brothers did not yet believe. That's John 7:5. His brothers did not yet believe in Him. They would come to believe in Him after the resurrection, and James His brother would give us the book of James and be the leader of the church of Jerusalem, but up to this point His brothers were not believers. So watch what happens here: Jesus establishes a new spiritual family for His household. He assigned John the spiritual leadership of His home because John was a believer.
And there is a sense in the body of Christ in the family of God that we are closer to one another in the faith as brothers and sisters in Christ as this forever family is united. That we are closer to one another than we would be even to family members who do not know Jesus. And while we have a responsibility to love and care for our family as we're going to see in just a moment, it is unique and interesting that in Christ we have a new family! This is the living legacy of our Lord! His last will and testament from the cross. "John, take care of My mother". And John did it all of his days. It's said here in the scripture that from that day forward Mary went to his house, went to his home. He took her in. And while they were in Jerusalem Peter and John partnered, along with the others after the resurrection to get the Gospel to Jerusalem and then beyond. And John became a missionary.
And church history tells us that John went to Ephesus as the leader of the church at Ephesus, and that Mary went with him. And that Mary the mother of Jesus, was a faithful Christian to the end, and she died at Ephesus. John took care of his responsibility. This is why we need to say and sing, "Lord, lead me to the cross. Rid me of myself. I belong to you. Lead me to the cross". And I'm calling you to the cross. Some of you back to the cross, like John, there to find forgiveness and to take up your responsibility to follow Jesus.
One final word that I have from this saying at the cross, and that is Jesus the Savior on the cross. We've seen Mary the mother at the cross, John the disciple near the cross, but Jesus the Savior on the cross. What did He say? "Woman, behold, your son. Behold, your mother". It's incredible that while Jesus is saving the world, He's taking care of His mother. While Jesus is dying for the sins of all and loving the whole world, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son". He is tenderly loving His mother and taking care of her. It's the perfect model for us because not one of us are discharged from the duty and the sacred obligation of taking care of our families, starting with our parents, including our spouses and, of course, our children. And if Jesus on the cross could care for His mother then we also share this holy obligation to our families!
The fifth commandment, the key commandment that connects our worship with God with our walk for God, the Ten Commandments is right in the middle, the fifth one, "Honor your father and mother". Honor them, respect them. We're told in the New Testament that children are to obey your parents. So as long as we are at home with our parents we are to obey our parents. Did Jesus obey His mother and father Joseph? Yes, He did. I'm sure they weren't right all the time, but He obeyed them. He lived in perfect submission within the family that God had given Him. And your parents aren't always right, but the Bible says "Obey your parents, for this is right in the sight of God".
Proverbs 23, verse 22 says, "Listen to your father who begot you and do not despise your mother when she is old". As long as we live we're to honor our parents: our mothers and our fathers! And then to honor their memory when they're gone. Now I say this because we live in a culture that devalues and often discards the old! But Jesus calls us to do the opposite: to include and embrace our loved ones, and to care for them. I don't care what kind of mission you may be on. You say, "Well, I'm changing the world". Okay, start with your own family. Whatever cause you may represent, your greatest call, your greatest cause is the legacy of your own family!
Again, beginning with your parents, and then your family that God has given you. No matter what you may accomplish in life, you cannot be considered a success if you don't care for your own family! In fact, 1 Timothy 5:8, the Word of God says this, look at it, "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives and especially for members of his household, he had denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever". You may be thinking, "Well, my parents weren't all that honorable. I didn't have a mother like Mary. And my family hurt me. My parents hurt me". Ask God to give you a spirit of reconciliation. Go to your family, work for forgiveness. And if they're gone, respect them enough not to speak evil against them. Give it to God. And most all of us today can stand to give thanks for those who have loved us. And this is our moral responsibility! Not to throw away our parents! Speak to them! Talk with them! Listen to them!
I picked up my cell phone the other day and I was reading some news on there and I looked at the date and it said March 5. And when I saw that I thought, "Oh my goodness, March 5, that's my dad's birthday". He's been in heaven now a good while, but I honored his memory even today, along with my mother, along with the rest of my family! This is our legacy in Christ! That we love Christ and that we show our love for Christ by loving others, starting with our own parents. Tell your parents how much you love them. Spend time with them. Show them respect. And make sure when you come to the end, like Jesus, you leave a legacy of love for your family.
One final thing. When Jesus was dying on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth, here is His mother, and He gives away His mother because He is establishing a new relationship with her. He is now her Savior, not just her earthly son. So He establishes and declares this new relationship. But there's a renunciation of that relationship. This is why He said, in my view, "dearest woman, or woman", rather than calling her mother. This was not disrespectful. It's a term of endearment, woman, but she is now in the role of humanity. "Dearest woman", the one in need of a Savior. And He gives her to John His trusted friend. So He's without the tender mother love that He needed.
The next statement that He makes from the cross is "My God, My God! Why have You forsaken Me"? So in that moment on the cross Jesus is without human mother love, the dearest of all loves on earth, and now He is without heavenly love it appears, forsaken, abandoned by His Father. He is abandoned by God and alone from His mother. No one would have ever been so alone as Jesus when He died on the cross for you and me. What grace, Oh how marvelous, oh how wonderful. So we come to the cross and there we find our salvation, there we find and discover our responsibility to live a life of purpose, to get involved in the family of God. We have a new family now. It's the family of faith. Forever friends, a part of this great eternal home that we have in Christ.