Woman, behold thy son
The Lord Jesus Christ hung on a cross, nailed by His hands and His feet. There were also two criminals hanging on crosses, one on either side of Him, and around the cross there were people who reviled and insulted Him. There were passers-by who stopped, as people will, to look at a ghastly spectacle, and there were the chief priests, scribes and elders, and the callous, hard-hearted soldiers who "watched him there" (Mt 27.36). In addition to all those who hated Him (Ps 69.4; Jn 15.25), there was, near to His cross, a small group of people who loved Him. Before these events occurred the Lord had told His disciples that they would all desert Him, but Peter and the others had protested that they would never deny Him, and would be willing to die with Him (Mt 26.31,33-35). Inevitably, what the Lord had foretold came to pass and "all the disciples forsook him, and fled" (Mt 26.56). Those who showed their love for Him, and their loyalty, faithfulness, and courage by standing near His cross and being identified with Him, consisted of a number of women and one man. We read: " there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mothers sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene" (Jn 19.25). John, the Lords beloved disciple, must have returned to the cross because we learn in v.26 that he was standing there.
The Lord is the only begotten, beloved, and eternal Son of God. At His incarnation He also became, at a human level, the beloved Son of Mary, His mother. Mary, in her grief, was standing silent by the cross, watching her bleeding, despised, and rejected Son being mocked and suffering thirst and excruciating pain, and she could do nothing to help to alleviate His sufferings. How she must have suffered.
When Mary had taken the Lord as a baby to the Temple, Simeon had taken Him in his arms and had prophesied, saying to Mary, "A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also" (Lk 2.35). Now this prophecy was being fulfilled as she stood near the cross.
This was not the first time Mary had suffered stress and sadness since she, a virgin, had given birth to the incarnate Son of God. There had been no room for them in the inn and she had "laid him in a manger" (Lk 2.7), and then there was the flight into Egypt (Mt 2.13,14). When He was twelve years of age, the Lord had stayed behind in Jerusalem after Mary and Joseph had left. They had sought Him "sorrowing" (Lk 2.48). When they found Him, the Lord said, "I must be about my Fathers business" (Lk 2.49). He went with them to Nazareth "and was subject unto them", but "his mother kept all these sayings in her heart" (Lk 2.51). The Lord Jesus Christ, the creator and sustainer of all things (Col 1.16,17), was subject to Mary and Joseph. He fulfilled every aspect of the Law absolutely and completely (Mt 5.17). He did all things well (Mk 7.37).
Woman, behold thy son
Despite the intensity of His extreme suffering, the Lord thought of others and provided for their needs. When we consider His first three utterances on the cross, we see that they were all concerned, not with Himself and His sufferings, but with others. He interceded for those who caused Him such agony, and prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Lk 23.34). A little later, the repentant thief asked the Lord to remember him when He would come into His Kingdom, and He answered, "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Lk 23.43). When He "saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved," He spoke for the third time and said, "unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!" (Jn 19.26). He knew the intensity of His mothers suffering and showed His compassionate love and tender care for her. The Lord fulfilled the fifth commandment: "Honour thy father and thy mother" (Ex 20.12). Children are told to obey their parents and to honour them (Eph 6.1,2). We have mentioned already that the Lord was obedient to Mary and Joseph. The Word of God tells us that "in the last days perilous times shall come" and men will, among other things, be covetous, disobedient to parents, and have no natural affection (2 Tim 3.1-3). In the days in which we live we see the gradual disintegration of society, and of families within that society. The fifth commandment is being broken all around us. The nation is turning away from God and, to an increasing extent, rejecting Him, His ways and His commandments. These things cannot be done with impunity. We read, "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people" (Prov 14.34). Practices and relationships which are contrary to the revealed will of God are being legalized. Relationships, such as marriage and those within a family are disintegrating. As discipline and love within families break down we see discipline and standards of behaviour within society decline. So many children no longer obey their parents and do not honour them nor help to provide for their needs as they get older. On the cross the Lord thought of His mother and made provision for her present and future needs by committing her to the care and protection of John, His beloved disciple.
When the Lord spoke to Mary He did not address her as "Mother". The word "mother" is an emotive word and is associated with love, gentleness and care, and yet the Lord said "Woman". Nowhere in the Scriptures do we find the Lord referring to Mary as "mother". At the wedding in Cana He addressed her as "Woman" (Jn 2.4). Why did He say, "Woman"? Could it have been because as He looked down the centuries He foresaw the rise of Mariolatry? Being omniscient He foresaw the worship of Mary as the "Queen of Heaven". He foresaw that Mary would be regarded, by some, as one to whom prayer could be made and as one who would be able to intercede with God on their behalf. Believing such things ignores the plain teaching of Scripture that there is "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2.5). It can be suggested that the Lord did not use the word "mother" because it would encourage, and subsequently be used to authorize, the equally erroneous worship of Mary as the "Mother of God". Addressing His mother as "Woman" indicated that their vital relationship was spiritual, as is the relationship between the Lord and all believers. He was Marys Lord and Saviour.
Mary must have been a very lovely lady, and, before the birth of the Lord, the angel said to her, "blessed art thou among women" (Lk 1.28). Nevertheless Mary was a sinner, for "all have sinned" (Rom 3.23), and she needed a Saviour. Mary herself said, "My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour" (Lk 1.47).
Behold thy mother
We do not read that the Lord rebuked John when he returned to the cross. On the contrary, when the Lord spoke to him He showed His confidence and trust in His beloved disciple. Having presented John to His mother as her son, He then graciously said to John, "Behold thy mother!" (Jn 19.27). In committing His beloved mother to the tender care and protection of John He honoured that disciple by bestowing upon him both privilege and responsibility. Mary had other children (Mk 6.3), but it seems that His brethren did not believe in the Lord until after His resurrection (Jn 7.3-5; Acts 1.14), and it was not to these that He committed the care of His mother.
Mary was probably a widow when the Lord was crucified for we do not hear of Joseph from the time the Lord was twelve years of age (Lk 2.43). She needed someone to provide for her physical and mental needs after the Lords death, and who better to do this than John who "from that hour took her unto his own home" (Jn 19.27)? They would share together such wonderful, blessed, and comforting memories of His love, His words, and His deeds.
Mary was to be to John as a loving mother, and John was to be to Mary as a loving son. How Mary must have rejoiced when John returned with the news of the Lords resurrection (Jn 20.8,10). After the resurrection and ascension of the Lord, Mary gathered with others who were conscious of their need of prayer, and they "all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1.13,14).
To be continued.