A Word of Tender Care (John 19:26-27)
- Order of Service: Evening Prayer
- Hymns: LSB #447 (7-9), 450
Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
How many exasperated parents haven’t scolded their child, “One day your kids will treat you the same way you’re treating me!” I may have heard that a few times when I was growing up. I’ve got two young children. Is it now payback time? How many of us grown-ups look back and shudder at some of the things we said and did to our parents while we were growing up? If so, we need to spend a few moments looking at our Savior and His Cross. We need to pay special attention to His third word from the Cross: “When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” He spoke a word of tender care: one for Mary and one for us.
It’s absolutely amazing that Jesus could think of anything at all except the agony that He was suffering. Why? He had already been brutally beaten. Now those wounds from the scourging across His back were rubbing against the rugged trunk of the Cross with every breath. He had to push up with His feet and flex His arms for every stinging, shallow breath He took. That shallowness would cause Him to need to take more and more breaths the longer He hung there. Each time, fiery bolts of pain shot through His arms and His legs. But the physical agony wasn’t the worst of it. There was the spiritual agony as He suffered the torments of God’s judgment and wrath for the sins of the world. Just as He carried His Cross from the Praetorium, Jesus carried your sin and mine on His shoulders. No one forced Him to carry our sins. He volunteered to suffer and die for them. As He hung there, suffering the torments and punishment of Hell, through all the excruciating pain that wracked His body, He was still able to think about His mother.
Why? What was Mary going through? Her firstborn son was being executed as an enemy of the Roman Empire. Did she think about how things could have been different? Or did she think about the words of the prophet Simeon some thirty years earlier? He had said, “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. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” One of the soldiers surrounding the crosses on Golgotha that Friday afternoon could have run her through with one of their swords. It would have made things easier and quicker. She stood there at the foot of the Cross with her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and John the son of Zebedee.
Joseph was dead. Mary would be an unsupported widow who would have to beg to survive without Jesus. No social security. No welfare system. What about the rest of the family? James, Joseph, Simon, Judas, or any of their sisters? Where were they? They were Joseph's children. No legal responsibility for Mary. She was all alone in this world. Looking up at her Son hanging on the cross. Unable to help her at all.
But Jesus was the perfect, obedient Son to the very end. He took no chances. He knew that she would need someone to care for her. Who better than the disciple whom He loved? Unlike the rest of the disciples, John hadn’t deserted Him when He was arrested, tried or crucified. He wouldn’t desert Him with His final request. Jesus said to Mary, “Behold, your son.” And to John, “Behold, your mother.” John tells us, “From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” Jesus provided for His mother because He knew no one else would. He cared for her. He cared for us and spoke His word of tender care for us.
“When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’” This is more than just a tender moment between a son and his mother. This is our Savior continuing His mission to fulfill the Law in our place. He’s not concerned with giving people a tender moment during the Passion reading. He’s concerned in fulfilling the Fourth Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother.” This word of tender care shows Jesus keeping this commandment just like He did every other commandment. He honored His mother in making sure she was taken care of. He kept this commandment for you and for me. He kept it for each of us imperfect sons and daughters who don’t always honor our parents the way we should. For every time our parents said, “Clean your room.” And we responded, “I don’t feel like it. Maybe later.” For every time our parents asked, “Why weren’t you home by curfew? We were worried sick.” And we shot back, “Curfew is for babies. None of my friends have a curfew. I’ll do whatever I want.” For every time an aged parent says, “I haven’t heard from you in a long time. Why don’t you call anymore?” And we get defensive and say, “It’s been so busy at work and with the kids. I just don’t have the time to call.” For all those times we fall so short of the bar our heavenly Father set when He asked us to honor our mothers and fathers. He sent His perfect Son to fulfill that commandment for you.
“Woman, behold, your son. [Son,] behold, your mother.” It’s a word of tender care for the mother who gave birth to the perfect Son of God. It’s a word of tender care for every imperfect child of God. This tender care being what brought Him to earth to die for our sins and pay our debt. This tender care that offers us the forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Amen.