The Seven Last Sayings of Jesus – “Behold, Your Mother”

The Seven Last Sayings of Jesus – “Behold, Your Mother”

John 19:23-27 reads,

The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. They said therefore to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”

Therefore the soldiers did these things. But there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore 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 into his own household.

Never has one man carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders like Jesus did. Quite literally, Jesus was focused on His task of bearing, in His own person, the sins of all mankind.

And yet, He did not ignore concerns for His own earthly family. He was still the son of His beloved mother, and as such, had certain responsibilities. While He was pierced through for our iniquities, He still possessed the emotional capacity to be pricked by the grief of His mother, who, with three other women, was loyally standing at the foot of the cross. From Jesus’ infancy, Mary had been warned that “a sword will pierce even your own soul” (Luke 2:35). Now that time had come, and Mary experienced the anguish of her Son’s execution.

Arthur W. Pink says of Mary, “It was her who first kissed that forehead now bloodied with thorns. It was her who first held those infant hands, and guided those infant feet to walk, that were now pierced through with nails. No other human suffered as she did at the loss of Jesus. His disciples may desert him, his friends may forsake him, the nation may despise him, but his mother stands there at the foot of the cross.” In our efforts to keep from ascribing worship to Mary (Matt. 12:47-50, Luke 11:27-28), sometimes we forget to appreciate her own great faith and great suffering.

Jesus always demonstrated conscientious responsibilities to His family. While Jesus was, from the very moment of His conception, the preexistent and divine Son of God, He provided an example to His followers. Jesus was Joseph and Mary’s Creator, and yet, as Luke 2:51 records, “He went with them and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection to them.” (This, by the way, is the last time in the gospels that Joseph is mentioned, and it is often supposed that Joseph passed away before Jesus’ public ministry.) Mary, though she had other children (Matthew 13:53-56, John 7:5), would have been particularly vulnerable to the condition of becoming a widow.

Thus, Jesus looked up from His own suffering, and provided for the physical needs of His mother. His two statements— “Woman, behold your son,” and to John, “Behold, your mother,”—indicate that John is to care for her. The Apostle John did not take from this any suggestion that Mary was to be venerated as “Mother of the church” or “Mother of the faithful,” for his reaction is simply to take Mary into his household, providing for her physical needs for the rest of her life. A comparison of the women’s titles in Matthew and Mark shows that John was Mary’s nephew—and thus the combination of his blood ties and diligent faith made him the fittest custodian of Mary.

Jesus strongly demonstrated that one’s work in the kingdom does not excuse him from his responsibilities toward his family. The Jews at one point were found to be using religious service as a pretext to neglect their parents (Mark 7:11), but Jesus said they were violating a weightier provision of the law, to “honor your father and mother.” While we ought not allow family to become an excuse for failing to serve God fully (Matthew 8:21-22, 10:34-38), neither should we think that the kingdom absolves us from the love of children and parents. In fact, true honor to our families, whether or not they are believers, is part of our Christian duty (Ephesians 6:2-3, 1 Timothy 5:4, 8). Spend time with them. Thank them. When they are infirm or needy, care for them. This priority remained near the top of Jesus’ list, and it must ours too. Don’t abandon your folks!

As a final aside, there may be a relationship between the soldiers’ dividing the clothing and Jesus’ statement to His mother. Alfred Edersheim points out in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 881-83, that most Jewish men wore five pieces of clothing—a head piece, sandals, an outer cloak, a sash or girdle, and an inner garment called a chiton (pronounced “key-tone”). It was traditional for a Jewish mother to make the chiton for her son and present it to him when he reached manhood. Who knows whether this happened in this case, but if so, it could explain why John transitions from the clothing to Mary. If anyone should have had a claim to that inner tunic it was Mary, to have a memory of her dying Son. But the soldiers took it (Psalm 22:18).

Jesus was mindful of His mother while bearing our sins. Let us learn to make return to our parents.

~John Guzzetta