Our Lord’s Final Words from the Cross: John 19:25-27: Sons and Mother

Your Son, Your Mother (610x351)Perhaps, you’ve been there. Few events stamp themselves into your memory with such force. To be present when a loved one dies is a powerful experience. When grief grabs you in such a holy moment, it defies description.




Your throat constricts, your chest tightens, and breathing becomes a labor. Even when death provides relief from suffering, a part of you withers away when your loved one dies. Death was never a part of God’s original creation. God never created us to die. And so, no matter what, a jagged aberration of what should be, cuts deep within. For death is an aberration.

Our Gospel reading describes something similar. Someone is dying. But we find no deathbed, only an execution cross. And where are the other, immediate family members? Joseph wasn’t there. He was no longer alive. Jesus was 12 when Scripture last mentions anything of Joseph. When Jesus tells John to care for His mother, that means Joseph was no longer alive to do that.

But where is the rest of the family? Only one family member is there—His mother, Mary. She is standing by the cross with three other women—her sister (Jesus’ aunt) and two other women, whose names are also Mary.

No mother expects her child die while she still lives. We don’t expect life to take such a turn. Children bury their parents, not the other way around. Little in life is more heart wrenching! Who plans to attend his own child’s funeral? Even years later, a parent will grieve for a child whom death has snatched. Such a torment comes to Mary!

When Jesus was a baby, a man named Simeon told Mary that a sword would pierce her soul. Weeping beneath the cross, that sword of grief slices into Mary’s heart. She lifts her head. Her Son is in anguish and torment, naked and nailed to a cross. But she stands vigil, at the cross her station keeping. What should she do, but be a mother at such a dark time?

So different was this day than the day of His birth. Then, Jesus was pink with new life; now He is ashen white in death. Then, He cried out with His first breath of air, as only a newborn can do. Now, His lungs gasped. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46).

The night of Jesus’ birth beamed, bright as day, as “the glory of the Lord shone around” the shepherds (Luke 2:9). Now, the day turned into night. St. Luke writes, “At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon” (Luke 23:44). Three decades earlier, angels shook the sky with song. Now, the earth rumbles and quakes in deepest sorrow.

Shepherds came to worship and adore the revealed Messiah. Now, men cursed and turned away. Wise men brought their gifts of gold; now, a foolish man was still holding his 30 pieces of silver. Then, Mary gazed at her son, the baby Jesus, and everything was beginning. Now, sadness and horror filled her eyes, and all turned dark as life now emptied from His eyes.

And John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, stood next to Mary. All the other men scattered in fear, except this young follower of Christ. John, who leaned on Jesus’ shoulder the night before at table, now stares up at the scene against a blackened sky.

How confusing: That’s not how John pictured the events of the day! They entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna!” Children sang, leaping for joy. Palm branches waved in the breeze. Jesus came as the King that He was. What a moment—even the crowds had rallied behind Jesus.

Everything collapsed and came down to this moment. Jesus is before him: broken, beaten, bleeding, and dying. But the events of the day also crush this young man, John, nicknamed the “son of thunder.” He, too, wept beneath the cross, bereft of his thunderous power to help his friend and Lord.

Jesus is before them, enduring the most extreme suffering imaginable. And yet, amid His unspeakable torture and agony, Jesus looks at His mother and takes the time and effort to care for her. He comforts Mary. Instead of letting His pain rule the day, Jesus thinks of her. He will attend to her future provision. He commits Mary to the care of His friend and disciple, John. Jesus tells him, “Here is your mother.”

But more is in those three words than our ears might pick up. Earlier, which now seemed so long ago, Jesus told the crowd: “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I didn’t come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Being true to His word, when Jesus told John, “Here is your mother,” He was fulfilling the Law to the last.

If Christian tradition is true, Joseph was older than Mary, a widower when they met. And so, if Joseph had a surviving brother after he died, Mary would’ve then lived in his household. But that didn’t happen. For later, when Scripture is silent of all mention of Joseph, we find Mary, with her Son, Jesus, not Joseph’s brother.

So, Jesus tells John to care for His mother after He dies. But is more taking place behind those words? For the Bible also tells us that Jesus had “brothers.” And if those brothers were sons of Mary, Old-Covenant Law commanded the oldest surviving brother to care for her—not someone else! That was the Social Security back then.

Jesus is dying. Who will care for His mother? John will! But that goes against Old-Covenant Law, which Jesus came to fulfill! God’s Law mandates for someone else to care for Mary, not John! Is Jesus quitting? Is He letting pain and exhaustion claim the day? Is He failing to fulfill God’s Law? Why? Jesus is so close to earning our salvation. What He does makes no sense.

Says who? Years later, John again considered our Lord’s crucifixion. He pondered. None of Jesus’ bones were broken. He reflected. A soldier pierced Jesus with a spear. John wrote, “All this [not some of this] took place to fulfill the Scripture” (John 19:36).

So, more happened than having no broken bones and a pierced side. Jesus endured a full crucifixion, which including Jesus telling John to care for His mother. Even that took place to fulfill what Jesus came to do. Jesus didn’t fail in fulfilling the Old Covenant, even God’s Law, revealed in Scripture.

But that’s only true IF Mary had no other children, other than Jesus. For a step-brother had no duty to take in his brother’s mother. God’s Law didn’t obligate him to provide and care for her. What does this mean? Mary didn’t have any other children. Jesus’ brothers and sisters are step-brothers and -sisters.

So, when Jesus asks John to care for His mother, He’s still the Messiah. He’s not violating God’s Law! Even in the throes of death, Jesus displays greater love than God’s Law demanded or expected. For the One, who dies to save, loves, without failure or flaw. He does so, not meeting, not just fulfilling, but even exceeding the Law. That’s your Savior!

Jesus goes above and beyond for your salvation. When John recorded the conversation between Jesus and His mother and himself, he wanted Christ’s Word to pierce us, as well. John wasn’t telling us something about Mary, whether she had other children or remained a virgin her whole life. He wasn’t sneaking in something about himself. No, John was telling about Jesus, revealing who He is as your Savior.

On the cross, Jesus becomes the surrogate Sinner. And now, while fulfilling, and even exceeding the Law, Jesus asks John to become the surrogate son. Such compassion! Even in His dying breath, Jesus cares for the needs of His mother, beyond the letter AND spirit of the Law. He did more than was needed, all to save you!

After giving birth to Jesus, Joseph may have whispered in Mary’s ear, “Here is your Son.” Now, those words pierce her ears with abrasive, raw emotion, for Jesus is telling Mary that death now comes to greet Him.

“Here is your son.” But Jesus didn’t entrust His mother to just anyone. He didn’t ask John to be her caregiver because he happened to be at the cross. Convenience played no part. Nothing Jesus did to save you was convenient.

Jesus’ life now comes full circle. Christmas finds its conclusion and purpose on the cross. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his only Son” (John 3:16). “This is how God loved the world”: He gave John to Mary and Mary to John.

According to Church tradition, John took care of Mary in Ephesus until she died. Only after her death does John join the other Apostles. Then, he writes some of the inspired words of the New Testament, even after the others died a martyr’s death.

We have an expression: “Blood runs thicker than water.” But baptismal water is even thicker than blood, binding us into one, in a covenant with Christ, into an eternal communion (Colossians 2:11-15). Jesus revealed that reality when He asked John to care for His mother.

In Christ, Mary gets a new son, and John gets a new mother. Jesus brings them together. But Jesus isn’t stingy. Like them, He also brings us together; now, through the water and Word of holy baptism. In Him, as part of the body of Christ, Jesus moves us beyond death and the grave. Our union with Christ is so real that He even pulls us into the resurrection and the life of the world to come.

We are one in Christ; He makes us one. So, look around. Here is your brother, your sister, your family. Amen.