Sermon preached on May 14, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.
To you mothers, Happy Mother's Day. Today is a day in which we honor our mothers and thank them for who they are. In this regard there was never a better son than Jesus. He was perfect and was the quintessential son. This morning I want to consider His words to His mother while He was on the cross. This is Jesus' third saying from the cross and it was directed to His mother and to His beloved disciple. Jesus said to His mother, (HCSB)
here is your son."
said to the beloved disciple,
thing we see from our text is that
Jesus had great love for His mother.
There are three things in our text that show us this.
The first is Jesus directing her to John as her son and directing John that this was his mother.
John Calvin writes on Jesus' words to John,
"Behold thy mother! For by these words he charges him to treat her as a mother, and to take as much care of her as if she had been his own mother."
"Jesus, in that awful hour, thought of others rather than himself,"
"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 in the days when He was taken away."
At just that point Jesus directs His attention to His mother and tells John to take care of her. D.A. Carson writes,
"it is wonderful to remember that even as he hung dying on a Roman cross, suffering as the Lamb of God, he took thought of and made provision for his mother."
Consider Mary at the cross. How hard Jesus' suffering must have been for her. You'll remember that when Mary and Joseph brought young Jesus to the temple, Simeon said to Mary,
child is destined
to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel…
And a sword will pierce your own heart too."
had predicted Mary's grief at her Son's execution. Jesus
suffering must have been incredibly hard for Mary. How
horrible it must have been for her to see Him undergoing
Her grief was compounded by the fact that in the midst of Jesus' suffering, people were heaping abuse on Him, mocking and ridiculing Him. Psalm 22 spoke of that and gave us a picture of Jesus on the cross. It reads, (Psalm 22:12f)
bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me…
Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet."
to see such hatred directed at one she loved, to see them
be so exceedingly cruel to Him—it must have crushed
her. It's hard for us to imagine the anguish and agony that
At exactly that time, Jesus turned His thoughts to her. He made provision for her, directing John to take care of her, and very likely suggesting that John escort her from the vicinity. What love Jesus had for his mother. Even when He was dying on the cross, He took care of His mother.
Edersheim (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. 2, p. 602) even suggests that as soon as Jesus said this to John, John immediately escorted Mary away from the horrible scene, as if Jesus' request implied that. That certainly could be for in Matthew's account of the latter stages of the crucifixion, (Matthew 27:55-56) he says that many women were there, watching from a distance. He names Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons. He doesn't mention Mary, Jesus' mother. So it seems that she had left the scene of the crucifixion at some point while Jesus was on the cross.
Thus it is quite possible that Jesus' words to John implied that he should escort Mary from the scene of the crucifixion in order to lessen her anguish.
The second thing in our text that shows Jesus' great love for His mother is the fact that
these words to her and regarding her were His last regarding his human relations.
Edersheim correctly sees this request as a pivotal turning point. He writes, (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. 2, p. 603)
"Now at last all that concerned the earthward aspect of His Mission—so far as it had to be done on the Cross—was ended. He had prayed for those who had nailed Him to it, in ignorance of what they did; He had given the comfort of assurance to the penitent, who had owned His Glory in His Humiliation; and He had made the last provision of love in regard to those nearest to Him. So to speak, the relations of His Humanity—that which touched His Human Nature in any direction—had been fully met. He had done with the Human aspect of His Work and with earth."
Jesus' first three sayings on the cross relate to other people and Jesus' provision for them. The last four sayings are in a different direction. He cries out in anguish, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It had to do with His sufferings of enduring the wrath of God for our sins. Then there is the cry, "I am thirsty," then, "It is finished," and finally, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
But before Jesus turned to face the full wrath of God for our sins, before He turned away from this world to undergo the horrors of abandonment before God—the last thing He did was to make provision for His mother.
The third thing in our text that shows Jesus' great love for His mother is the fact that
He addressed her as 'Woman'.
He didn't address her as, 'mother', or 'dear mother' or anything like that. The NIV has Jesus calling her, "Dear woman", which is unfortunate, because the word 'dear' is not in the Greek. The NIV doesn't give us an accurate translation here. The Greek word, 'woman' occurs 215 times in the New Testament and only twice does the NIV translate it 'dear woman', here, and in John 2:4 where Jesus was at the wedding in Cana and they ran out of wine. When His mother told Him about the lack of wine he called her, "Woman". But the NIV renders it, 'dear woman'. As far as I know, no other translation does that. (I checked about a dozen translations.) From a strictly linguistic viewpoint, there's no reason to do that. The word doesn't mean 'dear woman', it means, 'woman'.
I suppose the NIV adds the 'dear' to soften the seeming harshness of Jesus addressing His mother as, 'Woman'. Marg told me a story that happened in school not long ago. She was getting after a student because he was misbehaving. But he didn't like her rebuking him. So he turned and said, "Woman!" His response was inappropriate, rude and disrespectful. I suspect that the NIV translators didn't want anyone to think that Jesus spoke to His mother like that so they put it as, "Dear woman."
But of course Jesus wasn't being inappropriate, rude or disrespectful in addressing His mother as 'Woman." Something of a much higher order is going on.
Why did he call her 'Woman' and not 'Mother'? Why not say, 'Mother, behold your son.' Why say, 'Woman'? It's somewhat of a cold expression.
William Hendriksen writes,
"It was very kind of him to say, 'Woman,' and not, "Mother,'. The word, 'Mother' would have driven the sword even more deeply into the soul of Mary."
That may be, but next point that Hendriksen makes is the important one. He writes,
"Mary must no longer think of him as being merely her son; for the more she conceives of him as her son, the more also will she suffer... Mary must begin to look upon Jesus as her Lord. Yes, even then she will suffer, but this suffering will be of a different nature, she will then know that though indescribably terrible, his agony is, nevertheless, glorious because of its purpose. She will then begin to concentrate on its redemptive meaning. Hence, not mother but woman. Mary's emotional suffering—as any mother would suffer for her son who was being crucified—must be replaced by something higher and nobler, that is, by adoration!"
Jesus had started to teach Mary this at the wedding in Cana. When His mother told Jesus that they had run out of wine, He called her 'Woman'. She assumed that the intimate relations that they had had up until this time would always persist. But Jesus in His public ministry was not only the son of Mary, but the Son of God, or the Son of Man, who had come to bring many people into the family of God. As John tells us in 1 John 3:1,
great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!"
children of God because of the work of Jesus. He has
brought us into God's family.
Hebrews 2:11 tells
that Jesus is not ashamed to call us 'brothers'.
As He was beginning His public ministry, He was showing His mother that their family relationship was going to be superseded. A new relationship was going to be established, and His mother should recognize this.
And here, on the cross, Jesus called Mary, 'Woman', to show her that His relationship with her as mother was now receding. John Calvin writes,
"Christ wanted to show that He had completed the course of human life, He puts off the condition in which He had lived and enters into the heavenly kingdom where He will rule over angels and men. For we know that Christ's custom always was to recall believers from looking at the flesh. This was especially necessary at His death."
From now on she would no longer be primarily His mother but rather one who had been blessed through His sacrifice—one who would have her own place among the people who He had purchased with His blood.
Thus we see that Jesus' love to her on the cross was not only love to her as a son- but love to her as her Savior.
There are three lessons to learn from this truth.
First, some people today have the mistaken notion that Mary, because she was the human mother of Jesus, still has a unique relationship to Him.
They believe in praying to Mary and asking her to intercede with Jesus for them.
But such ideas are to be rejected, there is no scriptural support for them. Indeed, it seems that Jesus was here deliberating guarding against such a misunderstanding. He didn't call her "Mother" but "Woman". All such notions of Mary as mediator are to be rejected. There is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
Secondly, we see from this that there is a priority in our duties.
Jesus' love for His mother was subservient to His doing the will of the Father.
It must have been hard for Jesus on the cross to see His mother suffer so much. That was, perhaps, an even greater temptation for Him to come down from the cross than the taunts of the people who were mocking Him.
But Jesus stayed on the cross, even though it was breaking His mother's heart. The sword that Simeon spoke of, the sword that pierce Mary's heart—was taking place while Jesus was on the cross.
In tempting people Satan sometimes tries to create a tension between our love and duty to other people and our love and duty to God. We see that in Adam's temptation. Eve was deceived when she sinned, but not Adam. (1 Timothy 2:14) As Eve stood before him with the forbidden fruit, (Genesis 3:12) Adam had a choice to make. Was he going to choose Eve or was he going to remain faithful to God?
Sometimes it might seem like there's a conflict between our duty to God and our duty to our family. One man Jesus called replied, (Matthew 8:21)
first let me
go bury my father."
thrust of his objection was that if he followed Christ, he
wouldn't be able to fulfill the obligation that he owed to
When God calls us to something it sometimes happens that our parents, wife or children call us in a different direction. What is one to do in such a situation?
Jesus a supreme example here. Jesus knew this temptation. Jesus knew what His mother Mary was going through. Indeed, before it came to it I'm sure that He thought about how hard His sufferings would be on His mother. John 18 records our Lord's arrest, and records that when they came to apprehend him, Jesus,
all that was going
to happen to Him,
went out to meet them."
the things that made his going to the cross difficult was
the fact that he knew it would be incredibly difficult on
his mother. He knew the grief and sorrow it would cause
her. Yet in order to save her, in order to become her
Savior, He had to go to the cross. He chose the cross even
though He knew it would cause His mother grief.
Thirdly, for you Christians, this means
you should be assured that you are in the category of people that Jesus' loves.
Jesus didn't just love His mother Mary. He didn't just love His beloved John. No, He turned from them and died for all of His people. D. A. Carson, (Pillar) writes on Jesus' use of the word 'Woman'.
"In John 2:1-11, Mary approaches Jesus as a mother and is somewhat rebuffed. If she demonstrates the first signs of faith, it must be the faith of a disciple, not a mother. Here she stands near the cross with other disciples, and once she has assumed that stance she may again be assigned a role as mother—but not as mother of Jesus, but of another fellow-disciple."
In Matthew 12:48 we read that someone told Jesus that his mother and brothers were outside, wanting to speak to Him. Do you remember how Jesus replied? His answer was shocking. Jesus replied,
and who are my brothers?'
Pointing to his disciples, he said,
'Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven
is my brother and sister and mother.'"
loved His mother. If you're a Christian, He loves you with
the same kind of love. You are so special to Him. How you
should be rejoicing in your standing in Christ. He loves
you with the same kind of love that He has for his mother.
He loves us as he loved his mother, his brothers and
Lastly, if you're not a Christian, consider why Jesus went to the cross even though He knew it would cause His mother such grief. Why did He do it?
It was so that sinners like you could be brought into God's family.
He suffered. He let His mother suffer. Why? So that you could come into the family of God. Go to Jesus now. Ask Him to save you. How can you reject such love? Go to Jesus.