This sermon was delivered to to congregation at Trinity United Methodist Church in Youngstown, Ohio on March 2, 1996. It is based upon New Testament scripture from John 19:26-27.
“When Jesus saw his mother, and the other disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said unto his mother, woman, behold your son! Then he said to the disciple, behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”
This morning we come again to Calvary. Calvary…where all the rivers of prophecy come together in a sea of fulfillment. Calvary…where all the ransom church of god is saved to sin no more. Calvary…where a dying savior invites all to come and find the light that never ends.
Jesus spoke seven times from the cross. His first word was a prayer to god asking god to forgive his enemies. His second word was a promise to a dying thief. This morning we hear him speaking to his mother and to john, the beloved disciple. To his mother he says, “Behold your son”, to john he says, “Behold your mother!” but we must remember always that it was not the thief, not john, not Mary, but Jesus who was,and is the central figure in Calvary’s drama.
Let us take a moment and picture the scene. Three large crosses stand upon Calvary’s hill. Jesus, the son of god, hangs upon the center cross. The mob jeers, the soldiers gamble, the religious leaders rejoice! Jesus looks down and sees his mother standing near the cross. By her side, is the disciple john. We do not know how but, the scripture tells us they were “By the cross”. Jesus lifts his voice and says to his mother, “Woman, look at John. From now on he will be your son.” and then he spoke to John, “John, from now on she is to be your mother.” Then, we are told that, from that hour, John took her to his own home.
First, let us consider the mother by the cross. Mary could have truly been called “The woman of sorrows”. When she was just budding into young womanhood, the angel Gabriel came down one day and stood before here and said, “God has highly favored you…He has selected you to become the human instrument through whom his son will come into the world. You are going to bear a child, his name will be called Jesus, he will do mighty things, and reign forever and ever.” Mary was puzzled and troubled! “And how can this be?” she asked. “I’m not married. I have had no relationship with any man.” Gabriel said, “The holy spirit will be the father and god will speak him into existence. Don’t worry about it! Just leave the matter entirely with god.”
Mary bowed her head in marvelous submission. Naturally, she was troubled. Never before had a virgin born a child. Never before had a child been born without a human father. She knew that others would not understand, and they didn’t. In a while she became the victim of cruel gossip! She was pure as the driven snow but they spoke evil things about her, and, it broke her heart!
As Jesus grew up and entered the ministry, Mary saw him despised and rejected, hated and persecuted! Now, she sees him hanging upon a cross, dying. And her heart, once again, breaks with sorrow. When Jesus was just a few days old, Mary and Joseph brought him to the temple to present him to the lord, according to Jewish custom. An old man of god was there; Simeon, by name. And when he saw the child Jesus, he took him in his arms and prophesied concerning him. And then he turned to Mary and said, “A sword shall pierce through your own soul.”
The prophecy is fulfilled, the sword is now piercing her heart! She was the first one to plant a tender kiss on his forehead. Now his head is pierced with thorns! She had held the little hands as he took his first steps. Now those hands are nailed to the cross! She had guided the little feet in the right ways. Now they are nailed to a tree! Surely, mary wept bitter tears and her poor heart broke once again! And she remembered the words of Simeon and knew that the prophecy had been fulfilled. She had great bliss at the birth of Jesus. Now she has great sorrow at his death.
We see here also the constancy of a mother’s love. His disciples deserted him. His friends forsook him. His nation rejected him. His enemies cried out for his blood! But, his mother stands there at the foot of the cross. The crowds mock him, the priests jeer at him, the soldiers are callous and indifferent. Jesus is bleeding to death and there, is his mother watchin6 it all! She did not faint, she did not run away, she was bound to Jesus by a mother’s love. And so she stood faithfully and courageously by the cross!
Second, we come to the son on the cross. Jesus wants to care for Mary’s future before he dies. He says to Mary, “Go with John and be a mother to him!” to John he says, “Take her and be a son to her!” Jesus lived a complete life. He discharged every obligation to god and man. He was not willing to die and leave anything undone that he ought to do. So, he arranged for his mother’s future.Well being.
Here we see Jesus setting a wonderful example. When god gave the ten commandments, he gave us instructions as to how we should feel and act toward our parents. (exodus 20:12) “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the lord your god giveth you.” (Ephesians 6:1,2) “Children, obey your parents in the lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother.” which is the first commandment with the promise, “That your days might be long upon the land which this lord your god giveth you.”
I am convinced when we honor our parents we give them more than mere obedience. We give them our love, our affection, our gratitude, and respect! When we are children, we are to obey our parents; when we grow up, although they no longer command us, we are still to honor them.
We must take Jesus as our example in the matter of caring for or remembering our parents. We can never fully discharge all of our obligations to them.
Here is another thought in serving god…We must not ignore family ties and responsibilities. Of course, if god calls a person to serve him and his or her parents try to prevent this, that person must step out and do what god says! But, we must always remember our parental obligations. Here is Jesus doing the greatest thing that was ever done upon this earth, dying for all humankind, yet he doesn’t overlook his responsibilities to take care of his mother.
Jesus always did the right thing! No one would ever justly criticize him. Now, no one could ever say he had neglected his mother. Even in the darkest hour of his life, Jesus could stop dying, long enough, to do the right thing about his mother our faith calls us to let Christ and his church, and our families to have our love and service. Surely, all of these, put together, make the ideal combination.
Third, there is the disciple at the cross. The people closest upon earth to Jesus were his disciples. His life and theirs were knit together by cords of love! But, none of them loved him more than john! In the gospel which john wrote, he refers to himself as “The disciple whom Jesus loved”. He loved Jesus…And Jesus loved him! At the last supper when Jesus sat at the table with the disciples and told them that he was going to die…Where do you find john? He was leaning against Jesus. None of the others seemed to resent this. They seemed to realize that john had the greatest capacity for love!
When Jesus foretold his death, he gave a warning to his disciples. He told them that when the shepherd would be smitten, the sheep of the flock would be scattered abroad. Peter jumped up and cried out, “Though I be put to death with you, I will never deny you.” Then we read that all, all the other disciples said the same thing! Now what did happen? Just what Jesus foretold! (Matthew 26:56) “They all forsook him and fled.”
Now, when Jesus told john to be a son to his mother, he was simply saying, “I want you to take my place and do my work for me!” This is just what he says to every believer! “Take my place, my life do my work. As the father has sent me, even so send I you.” Someone has said that the word “Christian” means “A little Christ.” We can never do the great things Jesus did, but we can try in our own way to live as he did and to do his work on earth!
Look at the wisdom of Christ’s choice. He knew that john loved him greatly, therefore, he would be the best one to look after his mother. If we love Jesus, we will look after his interests here. The thing closest to Jesus’s heart is his church – this church – and its mission of bringing people to the gospel and winning lost souls. But, Jesus was also wise in selecting Mary to be with john! One day on the island of Patmos, god would pin back the curtain of eternity and permit john to look into the future. John would then write the book of revelation. The best training john could have would be daily companionship with Mary, the mother who lived so close to Jesus in the thirty years before he entered the ministry. Yes, Jesus Christ does all things well!
Before long, all is over! The figure on the central cross is still! His suffering is over! Death has come! Death in your place and mine! Death which makes us forevermore alive! We see john obediently and gently walking Mary to his own home, as Jesus requested. A great artist has painted a wonderful picture showing the three crosses outlined against the evening sky. John is leading Mary away. You can see the agony of her soul in her face! And, in her trembling hands, she is carrying the crown of thorns taken from Jesus’s brow. We do not know that this is a true picture, but this is just like a mother’s love!
My friends, Jesus has told us to do certain things. Our task today right here in trinity, is to live for him and to make him known to others!
Jesus on the cross, remembered Mary! But he also remembered you and me! He gave his life for us! However, all that he did is in vain, as far as you and I are concerned, unless we open our hearts and let him come in!
A preacher went to see a man and said to him, “I want to talk to you about your -soul!” the man replied, I am too busy to talk right now.” the preacher took him by the hand, pulled him down close to himself and whispered in his ear, “What if I had been death? If death came for you this morning, would you be ready?” scripture tells us to believe on the lord Jesus Christ and we shall be saved!
A closing prayer…
Father, we come to you this morning to ask for your forgiveness for the thoughtless things we have done and said to others. We have not remembered your commandment to love one another. We sometimes have forgotten your Son Jesus and the trials and tribulations he went through in our behalf so that we may appear sinless before you. grant that our minds and hearts will remain open to your Gospel – your Good News. give us the will and the aay to spread that Gospel to further the building of your Kingdom here on earth.
In Jesus name we pray.