For students who are taking notes, the title of this sermon is: Mother and friend, take care of one another. The text is from John 19:26-27
Point 1: Jesus was still compassionately thinking of others even when hanging on the cross.
Jesus preached his most powerful sermon from the cross. The first three statements from the cross reveal an enormous and incredible love for others. In all three statements, Jesus was thinking of others. Jesus said, “Father, forgiven them, for they know not what they do” and in this statement Jesus was focusing on the needs of the soldiers and crowds who were ridiculing him and not on his own pain. In the second statement, Jesus was focusing on the thief on the cross when he said to the thief, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” And the same quality of love for another is found in the third statement when Jesus was concentrating on the needs of his mother and best friend. He simply said to his mother. “Here is your son.” He said to his best friend, “Here is your mother.” Jesus was telling the both of them: Take care of one another in the future when I am physically gone from you.
It amazes me that while Jesus was in the midst of such enormous pain, he could think of the needs and pain of others.
I have discovered that a personality is consistent in life and in death. Jesus was enormously compassionate during his life and he was enormously compassionate during his death. People are consistent. People are consistent in both living and dying, and so was Jesus.
Point 2 (for students taking notes) is the setting. The setting was Golgotha, the place of the skull. Golgotha was at the base of a sixty foot vertical cliff of dark mud and clay. On the face of that cliff was carved out holes so that when a person looked at that cliff from a distance, you could see two eyes and a mouth. It looked like a skull and it was called the “place of the skull.”
Who was there? The enemies against Jesus. The soldiers, the Pharisees, the crowd of gawkers. Also the two thieves on the cross were there.
Jesus’ family was also there: his mother, his aunt, his cousin. Students: please write that down. Jesus’ mother, aunt, and cousin were at the cross. Let me explain. We know there the three Marys were present at the foot of the cross: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Clopas. Interesting, other gospels tell us that a fourth woman, the sister Jesus’ mother, was also there. Her name was Salome and her sons were John and James. If that is true, then Mary’s sister was there, Salome, and her son, John, was also there. That makes Salome the aunt of Jesus and that makes John at the cross Jesus’ first cousin, Salome’s son. So Mary had her sister there, and her sister was the mother of John the disciple who was also there.
So the only disciple who remained loyal to Jesus and was with him when he was being crucified was John, the beloved disciple, who appears to be Jesus’ first cousin.
Let us focus for a moment: first on Mary, then on John, and then on the words of Jesus to them.
Point 3 of the sermon: Mary the Mother of Jesus. Let us briefly look at the “Mary the mother of Jesus stories” and see what we can learn from them. Mary was the only person in the Bible who was with Jesus from beginning to end, from birth to death. She was with Jesus throughout his whole life.
I would like to briefly review with you the signs that Mary received about Jesus. We all get signs, little evidences about other people or ourselves and these signs are clues that reveal the truth.
Mary’s first sign was this. We remember the first story about Mary when the angel Gabriel came and told her that she would get pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the savior of the world. And what was young Mary’s reaction, as a fifteen year old girl? “With God, nothing is impossible. I am a servant of the Lord. I believe.” And so we are reminded that Mary was a devout young Jewish woman who deeply believed in God, that nothing was impossible with God, even that she could become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. I personally believe that she was the first human being on earth who believed in Jesus as the Son of God.
And then there is that second sign when she was in the temple, dedicating Jesus to God, and an old man by the name of Simeon came up to her, “a sword will pierce your soul and the hearts of many people will be revealed.” Mary pondered these things. She always would have thought: “what does it mean that a sword will pierce my heart?” Like so many things deeply buried in the recesses of her mind, she remembered the warning by the old man Simeon that a sword would pierce her heart before it was all over. This was the first sign, an omen, to her that her son would die a murderous death, but I do not believe that she fully grasped what this meant.
The third sign. Mary was with Jesus when he was in the temple at age twelve and he said, “I must be about my Father’s business. I must be in my Father’s house.” The Bible said that she pondered and remembered these things, that Jesus knew that his real father was not Joseph but the Holy Spirit.
A fourth sign or clue. Mary was with Jesus when Jesus did his first miracle, turning the water into wine at a wedding feast. Mary seemed to push Jesus into his first miracle, and he seemed hesitant. It seems, by reading this story in John 2, that Mary had a glimmer of Jesus’ true identity. After this miracle, the disciples first believed in him; and the disciples and Mary went down together with Jesus to a little town of Capernaum. I am simply suggesting to you that according to John 2 and the water into wine, Mary believed in Jesus even before the disciples.
A fifth clue. Mary and her children came to see Jesus and someone reported to Jesus that his mother and brothers were there. Jesus replied, “Those who do the will of God are my true brothers, sisters and mother.” Mary would have nodded in agreement. The true family was Jesus are those who do the will of God.
A sixth sign is the clue today. Mary was with Jesus at the foot of the cross. This would have been the most awful and gut wrenching experience of her life, to see and experience his crucifixion on the cross. The nails that sent through his wrists could have just as well gone through her wrists. The sword that pieced his side could have just as well been thrust through her side. Jesus’ pain was her pain. That is the way it is with mothers. I have known and watched many mothers during my life as a pastor, and I have watched such mothers when their children are deathly sick and suffering. It is always the same: the mother totally feels the pain of her child, and Mary totally felt the excruciating pain of Jesus. … Mary’s best friends and sister were there with her, but their love and compassion did not diminish the sadness and agony she was feeling. Her friends and sisters shared her grief, but her grief was not diminished.
So for me, Mary is a model of mothering for all of us. Every child needs a great mother. There is no other occupation in the world that compares to quality mothering from birth to death. I personally had such a great mother, and I sometimes believe the greatest human gift that God ever gave to me was a fine mother. As the book of Proverbs says, a fine mother is more valuable than jewels.
One of the last acts of Jesus was to care for his mother by entrusting her future to his best friend and cousin, John, the faithful disciple.
Point 4 of the sermon: John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. You are blessed if you have a very best friend, a person whom you are closer to than any other. Jesus had such a best friend and that friend’s name was John. In the fourth Gospel, we hear that John was “the beloved.” That is, John was the person to whom Jesus was the closest. John was Jesus’ best friend.
We also know other things about John. We know his mother was Salome, the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. So Jesus and John were cousins. Not all cousins are close but Jesus was first close to John. We also discover that John had a brother, James, and that they were in the fishing business. We discover that two sets of brothers, Peter and Andrew, James and John, were all fishermen on the Sea of Galilee and they were Jesus’ first disciples. We also hear that James and John had hot tempers; that they were called the “sons of thunder” because they had thunderous tempers and personalities. We also know that John and his temper wanted a Samaritan village destroyed by God because this village didn’t react more favorably to Jesus. John also requested of Jesus (through his mother) that he be the number one person in the kingdom of God. It is amazing to me that such a hot tempered personality as John who wanted to arrange to be first in the future Kingdom of God wrote the Gospel of John and I John, the two most beautiful books about the love of God in the whole Bible. That proves that Jesus works miracles and can change people. Jesus changed John from a hot tempered, I wanna be number one, into a loving person, and God can work that miracle in your life as well.
So we find this John at the foot of the cross. All the other disciples have run away. That means that John was more courageous than all the other disciples. Or it means that he loved Jesus more than all the other disciples. I tend to believe the latter: that is, John was there at the foot of the cross, not because he was more courageous, but because his love for Jesus was deeper and more authentic than the other disciples.
And Jesus said to his best friend, John, who was with him at the end, “take care of my mother.” John did. John tells us in his Gospel of John, in his account of the story of Jesus, that he John took Mary into his own home and cared for him from that day on.
What can we learn from the best friend of Jesus, John? We learn that best friends love through thick and thin, from the highest to the lowest points of life. And when life is the lowest, best friends are there, and John was there. I see that very often in my word. Life is at the lowest and the most painful and the best friends are there to share the grief. That is the way it is with best friends. In fact, you count the best friends by counting those who are with you at the worst and lowest moments of life.
Point five of the sermon: Jesus. In the midst of excruciating pain, Jesus was thinking of the two people who loved him most during his earthly life: his mother and his best friend. He asked them to care for each other in the future, and they did that. We find that Mary and John were together in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit was given to the church in Acts 1 and 2. We also discover that Mary and John traveled to live in Ephesus. Temples were built in Ephesus to both Mary and John, indicating their shared lives there in that city. I am suggesting to you that Mary and John, the two people who loved Jesus most here on earth, took care of each other until their dying day, just as Jesus had asked them to.
What do we learn from Jesus through these words from the cross, “Here is your son. Here is your mother?”
First, Jesus taught us to love even when we are dying. Jesus could have been so overwhelmed by his own pain and suffering that he would not have thought of others. Not so for Jesus. In the midst of dying, he was still thinking of others.
I have many such people in my life as a pastor. I visited a dear friend of mine in the hospital years ago who was dying of cancer. He was one of my best friends who had this million dollar smile. I have never met anyone who has had the electric smile that Ray had. When I called on Ray and his cancer was causing great pain, he always asked about my life, me, my wife, my kids, even when in enormous pain. That is just the way Ray was. And so many other people I have known through life. Jesus was like that.
Second, Jesus and my friends have taught me how to die. Yes, we learn things from so many people as we walk through life. We learn how to garden from others; we learn how to fish from others; we learn how to have a baby from others; we learn how to cook from others; we learn about the details of life from others. That is just the way it is. One generation passes its knowledge on to another generation. And one important thing we learn in life is how to die. Yes, how to die. We learn how to die from other friends and loved ones. You don’t learn this from books or television. Jesus and his people today teach us how to die, how to handle our death.
Third, Jesus didn’t choose the way he was going to die and we won’t either. That is, there are a lot of things in life we don’t have choices about and most of us don’t have the choice as the way we are going to die. Very few people have that ideal and idyllic death where the person is ninety-five years old, rocking in a rocking chair in the front lawn, a grandchild comes by and says “hi Grandma” and Grandma nods. The grandchild comes back from the story and the rocker is silent and Grandma has died peacefully in her rocking chair in the middle of a Montana summer day with the warmth of sun. No, most of us don’t die like that. Sometimes the death comes suddenly; sometimes slowly. Sometimes younger; sometimes older. Sometimes peacefully; sometimes painfully. And most of us don’t have a choice. Neither did Jesus. It was God’s mysterious design that Jesus die on the cross. I personally believe that there is evil in this world and we can’t figure most of life out; but in the midst of evil, I believe that God has a design and plan for our lives. Jesus’ death was plan of the plan of God. God used evil for good. I believe that my own death will be part of the plan of God and God will use evil for good.
Hanging from the cross at Golgotha, with two thieves at his either side, with hecklers below the cross, Jesus was also surrounded by the love of two people who loved him most here on earth. His mother and his best friend. In his last act of compassion, Jesus focused on their needs and asked them to take care of each other in the future. They did. Amen.
Biblical Responsive Reading
Litany (read responsively)
Leader: In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. Luke 1:26-27, 30
Congregation: "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. Luke 2:49-51
L: On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." … This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. John 2:1-4; 11-12
C: Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you." "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:31-35
L: When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." … For even his own brothers did not believe in him. Mark 6:2-4; John 7:5
C: Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:25-27