Final Words of a Family Man

John 19:25-27

March 15, 2014 | Brian Bill

When we were on vacation about 10 years ago, we decided to see Princess Diaries II.  Actually, the women in my family decided to see this chick flick.  Being the secure, sensitive, and confident man that I am, I asked my 6-year-old nephew Brian to join us (I didn’t want to be the only guy in the theater).  Brian wasn’t busy so he said, “why not?”  I didn’t tell him the name of the movie until we were in the van because I didn’t want him to bail on me.  I was just glad he agreed to be a substitute son for a few hours.

When we got to the theater, Beth and our four daughters raced to their seats so they wouldn’t miss anything.  I gladly offered to buy the popcorn and pop, thinking I could at least postpone the pain.  I looked around the lobby and found my substitute son mesmerized by posters and displays for more manly movies like Spiderman II.  I escorted him back to the snack counter and told him we’d take our time so we could miss the beginning.  That made him smile.  I then leaned over to him and said, “Here’s the deal.  I won’t tell your buddies that you went to this movie if you promise to not tell mine.”  He high-fived me.

When we couldn’t delay any longer, we slowly made our way to our seats, sympathetically nodding to a couple other guys who were also dragged to girls’ night out.  We understood each other perfectly.  I sat next to Brian and we started snarfing down the snacks.  About ten minutes into the film, my nephew started to get restless and began sighing loudly.  Every time the movie got mushy, he would make a blowing sound with his mouth to register his revulsion for romance.  After suffering through this interminable agony, as soon as the credits started to roll, Brian and I raced out of the theater.

When we all got back into the van the girls were replaying their favorite parts of the movie and thanking me profusely for taking them.  Brian was in the back seat and after all the females were done expressing their appreciation to me for being such a family man, he exclaimed in a loud voice, “Thanks for nothin’!”  We just roared.  This became a refrain for the rest of our vacation: “Thanks for nothin’!”

This morning we’re focusing on the ultimate family man as we listen to the third cry from the Cross recorded in John 19:25-27: “Now there stood 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 by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”

As we’ve been learning in our series called, “Seven Shouts From the Savior,” its no coincidence that Jesus spoke the words that He did.  These anguished expressions perfectly reflect His person and purpose.  It’s like He’s issuing commands as a king upon His throne.

  • Forgiveness (Luke 23:32-34)
  • Salvation (Luke 23:39-43)
  • Family (John 19:25-27)
  • Abandonment (Matthew 27:45-46)
  • Suffering (John 19:28-29)
  • Triumph (John 19:30)
  • Reunion (Luke 23:44-46)

Four Apathetic Soldiers

Let’s set the scene by focusing on four apathetic soldiers.  Please turn in your Bible to John 19:23-24: “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.  They said therefore among themselves, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,’ that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: ‘They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.’  Therefore the soldiers did these things.

Have you seen the commercial about the tourist on a cruise ship who is sightseeing for whales?  As he looks down, fumbling with his camera, everyone else sees a great white whale fly out of the water.  As the amateur photographer looks up, he sees the excited look on everyone’s faces and says, “What?  Did I miss something?

In a similar way, a whole group of guys missed something that Good Friday morning.  Jesus had been placed under the supervision of four Roman soldiers who had beaten Him, marched Him to Golgotha, crucified Him and were ultimately responsible to make sure He was dead.  They were so close to the foot of the cross and had somehow missed it.  It’s as if they said, “Thanks for nothin’.”

Roman law granted the soldiers the right to the clothes the executed man was wearing so they took the wardrobe of Jesus and divided it into four equal shares – his sandals, his headgear, his outer garment, and a belt.  It was fairly easy to divide these items up.  But there was one more piece of clothing left.  It was called the tunic and it was worth more than anything else Jesus owned.  It was most likely made out of linen or wool and was woven in one piece from top to bottom. 

Friend, don’t gamble your life away on things that won’t last.

Verse 24 tells us that the soldiers did not want to tear the tunic into four pieces because it would have destroyed its value.  And so they rolled the dice to see who would end up with it.  They were so busy looking down at the ground, thinking of material things that they never looked up to see the Savior of the world.  They heard the first two shouts from the Savior offering forgiveness and salvation, but were too locked in to their loot to pay any attention to Him.  Is it possible that you’re focused more on material things than on eternal realities?  Friend, don’t gamble your life away on things that won’t last.

No Coincidences

Everything that happened that day happened on purpose.  Consider a couple things:

1. Fulfilled prophecy. 

When the soldiers divided up His belongings and gambled for his clothes, they unknowingly fullfilled Psalm 22:18, which is quoted in John 19:24: “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”  According to Biblical scholars, there are 332 distinct prophecies in the Old Testament that have been literally fulfilled in Christ! (J.P. Free, “Archaeology and Bible History,” Page 284).

2. The tunic. 

According to history and Exodus 39:22, the high priest wore something very similar to the tunic Jesus was wearing.  Leviticus 21:10 specifies that the high priest could never have his clothes torn.  This reminds us that Jesus fits the role of the Old Testament priest, to be our go-between, our intercessor with the Father.  While we can’t prove this from the Bible, it’s quite possible that Mary gave this tunic to Jesus because this was something that mothers normally gave their sons when they left home. 

4 Hurting Women

The harsh brutality of the crucifixion, the humiliation of Jesus, and the extreme apathy of the soldiers is softened by His words of comfort in the third cry from the cross.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m in pain, I want other people to notice.  I got a cold this week and I moaned and complained about the possibility of having a fever and coughed on cue when I thought someone would give me some sympathy.

It’s also tough to think about someone else when we go through tough times.  Jesus, in His dying moments, thought not of Himself, but others.  Look at verse 25: “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

These women were among Jesus’ most loyal followers.  These four women were “by the cross,” not far away.  This literally means, “near, in the immediate vicinity, as close as they could get.”  They also “stood” strong instead of shutting down in their indescribable grief.  It took courage for them to stand near the one who had been crucified.  Let’s take a closer look at who these women were.

  • His mother.  The first time Mary is mentioned in the Gospel of John she is attending a wedding at Cana.  Now she is preparing for a burial at Calvary. 
  • His aunt.  Mary’s sister was the mother who asked Jesus for special thrones for her two sons, James and John in Matthew 20:20.  According to Mark her name was Salome.  I’m sure the crucifixion scene provided another rebuke to her misplaced priorities.
  • Mary, the wife of Clopas.  We don’t know much about this woman except that she was married to Clopas.  She was obviously a faithful follower.
  • Mary Magdalene.  This Mary was radically changed by Jesus, having had seven demons driven out of her.  After her healing she traveled with Jesus and shared her material resources with His band of followers.  After Jesus died, she was present when Joseph of Aramithea laid Jesus in the grave and on Easter Sunday she was the first one at the empty tomb.  Part of our Epic Easter message will focus on how the resurrected Christ met Mary right where she was.  We have special invites available for our four Easter services in the lobby today.  Make plans to invite some people to join you.

Let me say that of the entire band of 11 devoted disciples, only one male follower showed up at the cross.  And that was after bailing on Jesus earlier.  But there were four women!  The majority of these same women show up at the resurrection site and become key players in the launch of the church.  Men, don’t ever underestimate the courageous work and wisdom of a woman!

Doesn’t it seem that the daughters of Eve do a much better job of being faithful followers than do the sons of Adam?  I know I’ve greatly benefited from Beth’s vibrant faith as it splashes into my life and I also delight in the devotion of our daughters to Christ.  You go, girls!  Just don’t take me to any more mushy movie sequels!

Concern For a Mother

I love the care, concern, and compassion that flow from verse 26.  This cry from the Cross, just like the first two, is totally unexpected: “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’”  

The word “behold” means “lo and behold!”  It’s used to grab our attention for what’s coming next.  

I wonder if Mary had a flashback to the time in the temple when Simeon took Jesus in his arms and spoke these troubling words in Luke 2:34-35: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  Having a Son who was the Savior would bring great sorrows.

I came across this statement from an unknown source: “There her son hung before her eyes, but she was helpless.  His wounds bled, but she dared not staunch them.  His mouth was parched, hot like an oven, but she cannot moisten it.  His body ached from the pain of the scourging, the tearing of the thorns, the piercing of the nails, but she cannot soothe Him; now the nails pierced her as well as him.  The thorns around his brow were a circle of flame about her head.  The taunts flung at Him wounded her likewise.  To add to her agony, Jesus was dying the death of a criminal.”

Let’s take a closer look at John 19:26.  Jesus saw and then He spoke.

  • He saw.  As Jesus looks at his mother, he sees the sword slicing through her soul.  He can feel her agony and pain.  He sees the look on her face as the soldiers roll the dice for his clothes.  She flinches as one of them holds up the tunic she had lovingly made for him.  As Jesus looked at the woman who had given birth to Him, His eyes turned to the disciple whom He loved.
  • He spoke.  Jesus then said, “Woman, behold your son.”  In that culture, instructions given by a dying man were like writing them on a piece of paper.  It’s as if Jesus was preparing His will and executing it right on the spot.  This oral testament, made in front of witnesses, was now binding.  He knew he couldn’t take care of her any longer and so he entrusts her to John, her subsititute son.  In those days there was no Social Security or pension plans.  She was a widow and since Jesus is the oldest son He was responsible to take care of his mother in her old age.  

Jesus is fulfilling the most basic and sacred obligation that any son ever had by living out the 5th Commandment found in Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and mother…”  Even while performing redemption, Jesus was faithful to His responsibilities as a son.  That reminds me of what David did for his parents when he was in distress in 1 Samuel 22:3-4.  Enlisting the help of the king of Moab, David made arrangements for his mom and dad while his own life was in peril.

Notice that Jesus does not refer to Mary as “mother.”  In fact, Jesus never called her “mother” in the Gospels.  I can think of several reasons why He may have done this.

1. To reinforce separation. 

He referred to her as “woman” at the beginning of his public ministry at the wedding in Cana to initiate the separation process from his mother.  Now, in John 19, He purposefully calls her “woman” in order to complete the leaving process.  To call someone “woman” was a term of great respect and affection but it’s as if He purposely avoided calling her His “mother.” 

2. To prepare her for a “mother-son” relationship with John.

3. To protect Mary. 

Using the word “mother” would have driven the sharp and painful sword predicted by Simeon even deeper into her soul.  In addition, by calling her “mother” the enemies of Christ may have inflicted ridicule and scorn on her.  Jesus loved Mary too much to bring her more sorrow and grief.

4. To establish His role as Savior. 

Mary must now relate to Jesus not as her son, but as her Savior and Lord.   The mother must become a fully devoted follower.   She is not a co-redeemer, the Queen of Heaven, or contributor to salvation; she is one in need of redemption, just like we are.  There is no biblical basis that she lived a sinless life, for her perpetual virginity (we know she had other children after Jesus was born), or for her bodily assumption into heaven.  Let’s not give to Mary what only belongs to Jesus and that which she never asked for herself.  Jesus never gave her a special position or privilege – you have to go outside the Bible to find this teaching that developed several hundred years later.

At the cross Mary discovered she had a greater need for a spiritual union with the Savior than for a natural union with her son.  We could say it like this: It’s better to have Him as Savior than as her son.

5. To initiate adoption into family of God. 

The fellowship of family is forged under the Cross.  Just ask the criminal who was converted or the centurion who was saved.  You and I have the privilege of becoming members of His family, His brothers and sisters, if you will, when we determine to do what He asks of us.  Mary was not in the family of God just because she carried and cared for Jesus.  She was adopted into God’s family when she put her faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins and salvation. 

Salvation is not determined by bloodline, but by the application of His shed blood on the Cross. 

Jesus went out of his way to make this point in Luke 8 when Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see Him but couldn’t get close enough because of the crowd.  Someone told Jesus that his mothers and brothers were outside and that they wanted to see Him.  His response is instructive in Luke 8:21: “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”  Jesus is exalting the response of faith, not putting down his mother and brothers.  As He steadfastly marched toward His appointment with death, He redefined His family in spiritual terms.  Salvation is not determined by bloodline, but by the application of His shed blood on the Cross. 

Response of John

Look at John 19:27.  After telling his mother to look to John for support, Jesus now turns to the disciple whom He loved, “Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”  Here John is given the responsibility and privilege to care for Mary.  This is amazing because we know that Mary had other children, but we also know that they were very suspicious and unkind toward Jesus.  That is, until after the resurrection when we find them with the other followers of Christ in the upper room in Acts 1:14: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”\

The disciple John models two cool qualities.  First, he came back to Jesus.  Even though he had bailed like the others when Jesus was arrested, he returned.  And, when he came back, he found grace at the Cross.  Second, he was willing to do whatever he was asked: “And from that hour that disciple took her to his home.”  He models obedience that was no doubt costly.  He immediately took her home to Jerusalem and according to legend, took her with him when he later moved to Ephesus.  John did not question Jesus by saying, “What about your brothers and sisters?  Can’t they take care of your mother?”  His obedience was immediate, joyful and sacrificial and is a good example for us to follow.  It reminds me of what the workers at Chick-fil-A say after they complete your order: “My pleasure.”

Let me just add that because Mary and and John’s mom were sisters, he is being asked to care for his aunt.  We’re all called to care for our family, aren’t we?  I’m struck by 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Caring For Others

While others were indifferent to Christ’s final act of sacrificial love, Jesus was not indifferent to the needs of those present.  The same is true today.  He knows all about your needs.  When He hung on the Cross, He thought of others.  He forgave the unforgivable, He saved a terrorist, and He cared for His mother.  And His care continues today in at least five ways.

1. By restoring those who have drifted away.  

John bolted and bailed when things got tough.  But, he didn’t stay away.  He returned to Jesus and wasn’t scolded or shamed.  In fact, He was given grace and recomissioned for ministry.   Friend, have you walked away?  Have you backslidden?  It’s time to come back to the cross.  Allow His divine grace to melt your heart!

2. By giving us the opportunity to take His place. 

John was asked to care for Jesus’ mother in his place, as his substitute.  In a real sense, we are called to be His hands and feet for widows and children, for refugees, for the preborn and the persecuted.  We get to substitute for the Substitute!  If the work of Jesus is to continue, it must be done by subsitutes.  Jesus prayed to His father in John 17:18, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”  

We are His brothers, sisters and parents today.  Widows sometimes need someone else’s son to take care of them.  Single mothers benefit from surrogate fathers for their children.  Single dads need women in the lives of their kids.  One practical way to live this out is by serving in the nursery or children’s ministry, especially for one of our Easter services.

Author Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge.  The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child.  The winner was a four-year-old whose next-door neighbor was an elderly man who had recently lost his wife.  When the little boy saw the man cry, the boy went into the man’s yard, climbed up on his lap, and just sat there.  When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing.  I just helped him cry.”   Is there anyone you can help cry?  

I like what Annie Johnson Flint wrote:

Christ has no hands but our hands to do his work today

He has no feet but our feet to lead men in his way

He has no tongue but our tongues to tell men how he died

He has no help but our help to being them to his side

3. By launching a caring community called the church. 

It’s important to remember that the church was founded by a family man.  The church is not a building, but a group of people who have been redeemed and given entirely new relationships.  We’re called to relate to each other as “brother” and “sister,” doing whatever we can to care for one another.  For those of you who are single, I want to repeat something I said in a sermon this past fall: Your status with the Master is more important than your marital status.  God doesn’t categorizes us as married or single but as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters in Christ.  

By the way, if I call you “brother” or “sister” it could be because I’ve forgotten your name.  Some of you use these titles all the time and I really like it because it reminds me of our relationships in the family of God.

Acts 2:42 says that the first followers were “devoted to the fellowship.”  Are you devoted to this body of believers?  Are you transparent and vulnerable with others?  Are you looking for ways to care for your brothers and sisters?  Some of you have disengaged or unplugged from people.  If you unplug you will unravel.  The church is here to help you connect with God and with others. 

I read a blog post this week by David Mathis that really challenged me: 

It’s a shame the word “fellowship” has fallen on hard times in some circles, and is dying the death of domestication and triviality. It is an electric reality in the New Testament, an indispensable ingredient in the Christian faith, and one of God’s chief means of grace in our lives.  The koinonia — the commonality, partnership, fellowship — which the first Christians shared wasn’t a common love for pizza, pop, and a nice clean evening of fun among the fellow churchified.  It was their common Christ, and their common life-or-death mission together in his summons to take the faith worldwide in the face of impending persecution.

4. By modeling how to honor our parents. 

Jesus fully discharged the obligation of every relationship that He sustained, either to God or man.  When He honored his mother, he gave us an example to do the same.  Here are some ways you can live out the 5th Commandment:

  • Tell your parents you love them.  Make a phone call.  Send an email.  Write a note.  Or make a visit and say, “I love you.”  Someone has said, “If you’re too busy to love your parents, you’re too busy.”
  • Ask God to help you think of ways to honor them.  Do your parents have a need right now?  Is there something practical you can do for them?  When God nudges you, then do what He’s asking you to do before it’s too late.  According to recent statistics, 25% of grown adults are providing some kind of care for aging parents.  Gerry and Nancy Novak, our missionaries to Kenya, are caring for Gerry’s mom right now in Tennessee.
  • If your parents are deceased, you can still honor them.  The best way to honor someone is to never forget him or her.  Talk about them.  Live out their legacy.
  • If you’re unable to speak well about your parents, you can honor them by refusing to speak ill of them.  Some of you have not had very good parents.  Maybe you’ve never met your dad or your mom.  Maybe they didn’t do their job very well.  You can still honor them by forgiving them.  Silence can be a form of honor for those who deserve nothing else.

5. By adopting people into His family today. 

If you have never put your faith in Christ, don’t gamble your life away in the shadow of the cross.  No one gets in automatically by birth. The only way to be adopted is by the second birth.  When we’re born the first time we enter our human family.  When we’re born again we become adopted members of God’s family.  Have you done that?  

As I reflected on this passage I wrote down these phrases that bring the message together.

  • John became a subsititute son for Mary
  • Jesus became Mary’s sin substitute
  • Because Jesus died as a substitute in our place; we are now Jesus’ substitutes as we serve in His place!

How can we say, “Thanks for nothin” when He’s done so much for us?  All we can do is say…

I need you, Jesus

No one else will do

I will take hold of you

There’s no other name by which I am saved

I will follow you

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?