This was the title given to last week’s Lent Course bible study based on Jesus ‘ words to his mother ‘Dear woman, here is your son’ and to the disciple ‘here is your mother’.’
Here are the study notes:
The Compassionate Christ
This is the third statement spoken by Christ from the cross. As Jesus surveys the scene, amidst all of the activity around the cross He now sees His mother grieving deeply as she looks on helplessly. Through His own untold anguish, His heart of compassion reaches out to her and to His best friend, John. As their eyes meet, His thoughts are for them and their future care when He is gone.
Words of affection: ‘Dear woman….’ As He looked down, son to mother, memories of happy family times would have flooded to His mind. What a wonderful, loving, faithful mother she had been, despite the shame others had heaped upon her. For His sake, she had carried the stigma of conceiving a child outside of wedlock and lived with the slurs of marital infidelity whispered continually behind her back. He remembered the mother she had been to Him through His tender and defenceless infant years. His use of the word ‘woman’ in no way implies disrespect, but was a term to convey deep honour, respect, endearment and affection. Jesus was fulfilling the will of His Father in heaven in the words of the fifth commandment, ‘Honour your father and your mother’.
The words spoken to Mary so many years before by Simeon in the temple after the birth of Christ, ‘And a sword will pierce your own soul too’ (Luke 2:35) had now become a stark reality for her. The sword was piercing through her beating breast as she beheld her son dying on the cross. The gaze and words of Jesus directed towards her in these moments may not have lessened the pain, but would have given her the assurance that she was close to His heart and in His thoughts. As for any mother, this would have brought some measure of comfort to her soul. His words demonstrated His care, love and concern for His mother.
A precious gift: ‘…here is your son.’ To the last Jesus was thinking about others and not Himself. His heart of love was always giving precious gifts. To His executioners He had bequeathed pardon from on high, to the dying thief He had bequeathed paradise and now to His mother He bequeaths His closest friend. It was a double bequest. To His bereft friend, the precious gift of a mother and to a bereft mother, the precious gift of a son to take care of her. They were two of the most belied people in His life and at this time of His deep anguish and pain, His thoughts and concern were towards them. Tradition tells us that Mary was widowed before Jesus and her other children from her marriage to Joseph grew to adulthood, and that Jesus became the head of the household, supporting them by working as the village carpenter in succession to Joseph. Now, as the head of the family He makes the provision of care for His mother. As in the first two statements from the cross, His concern was not for Himself but for others.
A solemn charge: ‘Here is your mother.’ This part of the statement is directed to ‘the disciple whom he loved’ and it is clear from other references in his Gospel that John is referring to himself in these instances (13:23; 20:2; 21:7,20). They would have been standing a little way from the cross, young John’s protective arm around the grieving mother of Jesus. As Jesus said, ‘Here is your son’, her gaze would have momentarily turned to John; now in response to Jesus’ words, John fastens his arm more tightly around Mary, looks into her pain-wracked face, then up into the eyes of his Messiah and nods. He understands this solemn charge. In these moments Jesus was seconding John to the sacred responsibility of looking after His mother. Whether or not Jesus might have chosen one of the other disciples we do not know, as they were not present for possible selection. They were found to be in dereliction of their duties that day. John, who loved Jesus deeply and dearly, was present and would have counted it an honour and privilege to take on such a responsibility for his Lord, and the Gospel account records that from that time on John took Mary into his home.
We said in the Introduction that Lent was not only a time of giving up but also of giving out by acts of self-sacrifice and kindness. During Lent this year, why not take responsibility to reach out into your community by an act of care, or demonstrate an act of kindness by taking someone into your home as John did, even if it is only for a meal?
The words of Jesus on the cross for His mother reveal the heart and love of a true son for His heartbroken mother. Mary through her life and devotion displays the hallmarks of a fine and devout mother. At Calvary she stayed to watch and weep. What a great comfort she must have been to her dying son.
She had been a model of true motherhood. The meaning of her name is ‘bitter’ or ‘sorrow’, and that truly came to pass for her, but she never allowed it to estrange and alienate her from the son she loved deeply. After Jesus had ascended into heaven about 120 people were gathered in an upper room and Mary the mother of Jesus was found among them (Acts 1:14). She had brought Jesus into the world, now He had ascended to His Father in heaven. Along with His other followers she was hungry for more of God and waited with them to receive the blessing of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Maybe you are estranged in some way from a member of your family. Why not make an effort this Easter to start the process of reconciliation, even if the first step is only sending an Easter card?