Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)
We are following the story of Christ’s seven words spoken from the cross, and we have saved for today the word that shows the love of Christ for his mother. That’s where we are headed, but I want to begin by reminding you of Mary’s story. I have a very simple outline—A Mother’s Joy; A Mother’s Anxiety; A Mother’s Salvation.
A Mother’s Joy
Who can describe the joy that God would bring into the world, through you, the birth of a child? This is an amazing miracle in which a new life is born into the world.
Anticipating the birth of her child, Mary composed one of the most beautiful songs ever written—the Magnificat, “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:46-48).
This is a day to thank God for the gift and the sheer joy of being a mother. What an amazing gift of God that he should use you to bring new life into the world, that his miracle of forming new life should take place in you.
For Mary it was unique. She was a virgin. The angel appeared to her and said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Here is the miracle of the incarnation. God takes human flesh. The Son of God is born of a woman. Mary gave birth to Jesus, she wrapped him in cloths and she laid him in a manger. No wonder the Holy Spirit moved Elizabeth to say to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” (Luke 1:42).
A Mother’s Anxiety
The birth of a child brings great joy. Raising a child brings great anxiety. Every mother would agree with that. You may think, “If I had a perfect child, I wouldn’t have anything to worry about.” But Mary had the perfect child, and yet as you read the story, it’s clear the pressures on her must have been great. There’s no motherhood without anxiety.
Let me give you four snapshots of Mary’s anxiety, even with the perfect child…
This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. (Luke 2:34-35)
It started when Jesus was just eight days old. They took him to the temple. A godly man by the name of Simeon spoke a blessing over Jesus, and then he said to Mary, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (2:35). This was the first indication of what it would mean for Mary to be the mother of the Son of God.
Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you. (Luke 2:48)
That’s why I use the word anxiety. There is no parenting without anxiety. Twelve years later Mary and Joseph were back in Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. There are multiple families, relatives and friends travelling together.
Jesus is twelve years old, that’s middle school and middle school students like to be with their friends. Mary assumes Jesus is with the other students. But when they look for him, he’s not there. They go back to Jerusalem and there he is sitting in the temple, asking questions and answering them too.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)
Jesus’ ministry began in Nazareth, his home town. It seems Joseph had died by this time, and Mary therefore managed the care of her family alone. As Jesus travelled, there would have been many moments in his life where his mother was not present. But when he spoke in the synagogue of his home town, surely she would have been there.
After quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus said, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (4:21). Instead of being glad, “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff” (4:28-29).
That’s some reception in your home town. We don’t often read of Jesus in Nazareth after that. But Mary was there. It was her home town too. What was it like for Mary to live there in a town that so decisively reviled her son?
Mother and brothers
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. (Mark 3:20)
A mother will always be concerned that her son has enough to eat. It’s not surprising that Mary was concerned about Jesus. This godly woman lived her son, and when she saw him missing meals and losing sleep she became anxious for him, as any mother would.
Mary came to the house where Jesus was teaching and someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you” (3:32). Jesus asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (3:33). Then he looked at the crowd of people sitting round him and he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister and mother” (3:34-35).
What did Mary think when she heard him say these words? In some way her unique relationship with Him was going to end. There’s going to be a new family and it won’t center round Mary, it will center round Jesus. It won’t be a family made one in the flesh. It will be a family made one in the Spirit, made one in Jesus Christ in order to do the will of God the Father.
When you look at the experiences of Mary, the joys and sorrows throughout the Gospels, what sustained her through all these burdens and anxieties? She had seen the glory of Jesus. John opens his account on the ministry of Jesus with the story of the wedding at Cana, where they ran out of wine. Mary brought the problem to Jesus, and said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).
Jesus turned the water into wine and John says, “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” (John 2:11). Mary saw it.
There’s something here for every mother today. What will sustain you through the pressures and anxieties you face as a mother? Seeing Christ’s glory and knowing that this Savior is able to do all things. He is for you. He is with you.
A Mother’s Salvation
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother… (John 19:25)
It is very striking that, with the exception of John, all of the disciples had fled. We are told that around the cross there were four women—Mary, the mother of Jesus; her sister; Mary, the wife of Clopas; and Mary Magdalene. Together with John, these four women watched, and they were no doubt weeping, and waited and worshiped amidst all the mocking and spitting and taunting of a Christ-rejecting world.
None of us can enter into what it meant to Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who bore him into the world, to see Jesus suffer as he did. Erwin Lutzer has some especially beautiful words about this,
She who had planted kisses on the brow of that little Child,
now saw that brow crowned with thorns.
She who held those little hands as He learned to walk,
now saw those hands pierced with nails.
She who had cradled Him in her arms,
now saw Him writhing alone on the garbage dump of Jerusalem.
She who loved Him at birth, came to love Him even more in death.
Simeon’s words had indeed come true—a sword was piercing Mary’s soul too.
A massive silence
Jesus was on the cross for three hours before the darkness came at noon. During those three hours he spoke only three times. Jesus said only three sentences in three hours.
Think about it, that is a massive amount of silence! And when he speaks, the crowd listens up, “He’s saying something! He’s speaking…”
When the cross is set in place Jesus looks up, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” then silence from Jesus. Later he turns a little to the side to speak to the thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” then silence again. Later Jesus looks down and speaks to his mother, “He’s going to speak to me!”
It was the nailing that led Jesus to say, “Father, forgive them.” It was the thief that led him to say, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” What was it that led Christ to speak to his mother at this moment?
Chuck Swindoll points out that Jesus spoke to his mother when the soldiers cast lots for his robe (19:23-24). They had taken the rest of his clothes and divided them. But the robe was seamless and they decided to cast lots rather than tear it. Swindoll asks, “Who do you think would have woven this robe? Who would have made such a beautiful garment for our Savior?” Then Swindoll asks,
Why now? She’s been there all along, watching and weeping… Could it be because of the seamless tunic? I think so… When they touched the tunic, they touched something very near to His heart—the garment made for Him by His mother.
I think he may be right. Out came the lots and they’re gambling and laughing. They touch his robe and Jesus looks down at his mother in love and great compassion, “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother’” (John 19:26-27).
A changing relationship
What is Christ saying? How could John possibly replace Jesus? It is the kindness of Jesus to provide for the care of his mother. John can care for Mary, but John can never take the place of Jesus. So, why does Jesus say, “Here is your son?”
Some of you have experienced the irreplaceable loss of a child. To say to a mother who loses a child, “Well, there are other children,” completely fails to grasp the unique bond between a mother and the child to whom she has given birth. In the birth of Jesus, Mary found indescribable joy, and now as he suffers, she feels and experiences an irreplaceable loss. John can never take the place of Jesus. Everyone knows that.
So there’s something more going on here than Jesus providing for the future care of his mother. The relationship between Jesus and Mary is changing. For 33 years, Jesus has been the son of Mary according to the flesh, but as you know, he was also the Son of God. He assumed human flesh, which he took from his mother, so he could become our redeemer. This is why he came into the world, and this is why he was on the cross.
Now, on the cross, the blood is draining from his body. The life is ebbing away from his flesh. The old order is passing and the relationship between Mary and our Lord is changing. As Mary stands at the foot of the cross, in her grief and in her sorrow, she must have been crying out, “My son, my son, my son…”
And Jesus is saying, “No, you must no longer think of Me as your son. Woman, behold your son. From now on John is to take that place in your life. Regard him as your son.” Well, then, how is she to regard Jesus? As her Savior and her Lord.
When the angel told Mary about this child to be born she said, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). She had always looked to God as her Savior. So, how would God save her? Answer: Jesus goes to the cross and lays down the life he had drawn from Mary. His body is broken. His blood is poured out. Mary’s son dies and in his death he becomes her Savior.
I want you to understand what was happening here. It is very wonderful. Mary loses an irreplaceable Son and she gains an incomparable Savior. Mary’s gain was far greater than her loss. She lost the love of a Son who was taken from her in death. But she gained the love of a Savior who death could never take from her. She lost the joys of a Son who had brought her happiness on earth. She gained the joys of a Savior at whose right hand in heaven there are pleasures forevermore.
She gave him life in the flesh for a time. He gave her life in the Spirit for eternity. At the cross, she lost an irreplaceable son and gained an incomparable Savior. Her gain was far greater than her loss.
The Greatest Gift
Being a mother is a great gift, but it is not the greatest gift. Having a godly mother is a wonderful gift, but it’s not the greatest gift either. My great question for you today is—what do you know about a mother’s salvation?
Roll the story forward and Mary has been in heaven for nearly 2,000 years. If she could be here today, she would say, “The life he gave to me is by far greater than the life I gave to him.” Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit (John 3:6).
By the flesh, Mary’s life was in Jesus. By the Spirit his life was in her. Jesus said on one occasion, “The flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63). Mary’s joy lies, not in the life she gave to Jesus, but in the life that Jesus gave to her.
Mary would say to us, “I was so privileged to have this unique relationship with him in the flesh, but that changed at the cross. In his agony, he made it quite clear that John was taking his place in that regard. The flesh passes away and I entered heaven, not because Jesus is my son, but because Jesus is my Savior, not because he is mine by birth but because I am his by faith.”
Becoming part of the royal household
You may have heard about a certain wedding that took place in a small country about 4,000 miles away just over a week ago. What a marvelous occasion that was as Prince William was joined in marriage to Kate Middleton.
On the day of the wedding, the London Times led with a piece on the front page entitled, “To Marry Her Prince,” in which they describe how this private tale of love captured the imagination of people from Delhi to Dallas,
One Couple, one moment, and the whole world watching… William Arthur, Philip Louis Windsor of Wales will marry Catherine Elizabeth Middleton at 11 this morning, in the presence of his grandmother, Her Majesty the Queen.
One of them was born to take his place in the history books, the other a girl who was destined to lead a life of peaceful anonymity until fate and he, stepped in. She wakes up today in a London hotel Kate Middleton, girl about town; she goes to sleep in Buckingham Palace tonight a princess of the realm.
Here is this girl born a commoner, but by union with the prince she becomes part of the royal household. She did not get there by birth. She got there by union with the prince. No wonder that captures the imagination of people from Dallas to Delhi.
Luther says, “Faith unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom.”
Faith unites you to Jesus Christ, so that you share his life. The reason he took our life is so that you may share it forever by faith. You won’t get there by flesh, but by faith, through union with Christ.
“The Son gives life to whomever he is pleased to give it” (John 5:21). Whoever you are by birth and nature, Jesus Christ invites you to come to him today. On this Mothers’ Day, he is pleased to give that life to you.
 Erwin Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, p. 76, Moody press, 2003
 Cited in ibid., p. 73
 London Times, April 29, 2011
 Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian, p. 62, Fortress, 2008
© Colin S. Smith
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