Jesus’ Third Words 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!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. John 19:26–27
Jesus’ Hour Had Finally Come
If you begin with John’s report of Jesus’ first miracle, you can see that every word of his Gospel leads to this very moment. Finally, Jesus’ “hour” has come. As if one last effort was to cleanse Himself from guilt, Pilate had the title “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” fastened onto the cross where Jesus was crucified in Latin, Aramaic, and Greek (19:19). Not one stone is left unturned regarding the prophecies of the Messiah. Jesus fulfilled even the smallest details of this event, the gambling for the seamless robe (Ps. 22:18),
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
the giving of the vinegar
They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.
and the piercing of His side without breaking any bones.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
What Are We to Learn from the Third Word?
In commending his mother Mary to John’s care, he was ultimately breaking the earthly connections of family. This was Jesus adhering to a time-venerated tradition. “The traditional role of the oldest son in a Jewish family was to provide for the care of the mother when the husband or father of the house was no longer around to care for the mother. Jesus here fulfilled his family responsibility as a dutiful son.”1
1. Love for our Family
For us, the message is unmistakable: we must love our parents, no matter what. Parents are flawed human beings. There will be moments when they misinterpret us or dislike our decisions or our life choices. There are times they will cause us deep hurt and disappointment. We are not alone in that. Jesus had that happen with His family. In Mark 3:20-21, “20 Then Jesus went home. Another crowd gathered so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. 21 When his family heard about it, they went to get him. They said, “He’s out of his mind!”
At the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11), Mary pushed Jesus to change the water into wine, even though he tells her, “My time has not yet come.”
“Even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:5)
But whether they understand or even approve of us -- whether we can even trust them at this point in our lives -- we are told: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). The love of Jesus can help heal the hurts of our families as we see them through the forgiving eyes of the savior.
2. Responsibility for our family
We also have family obligations. Jesus was clear that his disciples must put commitment to him above family relationships — sometimes even using what seemed like extreme scenarios to drive this point home.
For example, in Luke, Jesus talks about what it takes to follow him.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57–62). (2016).
Our obedience to Christ must become primary and obedience to our parents must become secondary.
Just because we are Christians does not mean that it absolved us of family obligations. The Apostle Paul is adamant:
“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
When we are immature believers, periodically we take irrational actions towards our families that, in retrospect, were not filled with Christ’s love. Our priorities, however, are clear: (1) God himself, (2) our families, and (3) our work for God.
How do we resolve our primary commitment to Jesus with responsibility for our families? Sometimes with great difficulty. But to put Christ first does not mean that we are free to neglect our other priorities -- it means only that we get our priorities in proper relation to each other. God will give us the wisdom to work this out.
2 Borchert, G. L. (2002). John 12–21 (Vol. 25B, p. 269). Broadman & Holman Publishers.