Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 8

“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ ” John 19:26

During the global pandemic, we have experienced the pain of separation from family and friends due to COVID restrictions. Many people are feeling alone, forgotten, and uncared for. But in today’s verses from John 19, we discover a very powerful lesson that speaks to this challenge in our lives.

For the past several days, we have been looking at lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. These lessons include the following:

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 17-18a).

– The two crosses teach that God gives each of us the freedom to choose (John 19:18b).

– There is no person or language God will not use to proclaim who Jesus is (John 19:19-22).

Jesus’ garments were removed so we could wear the garments of salvation (John 19:23-24).

Today we learn that THOUGH JESUS DIED FOR THE WORLD, HE ALSO CARES DEEPLY FOR ME (John 19:25-27). The apostle John is the only gospel writer who records this next scene at the cross. Even while dying on a cross Jesus thought of others. William Barclay writes, “There is something infinitely moving in the fact that Jesus in the agony of the cross, in the moment when the salvation of the world hung in the balance, thought of the loneliness of his mother in the days when he was taken away.” 1

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25). These four women who “stood by the cross of Jesus” contrast with the four Roman soldiers who divided Jesus’ garments (John 19:23-24). “While the soldiers behaved callously and profited immediately from Jesus’ death, the women waited faithfully and patiently for what God would do.” 2  

Might I also add that Jesus’ disciples were not present at the cross (Matthew 26:56, 75), except for the apostle John, “the disciple whom He loved” (John 19:26). Their promise to remain faithful to Christ even in death was soon abandoned when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:35) – which leads me to admire the faithfulness of these women all the more.

Exactly who were these women? John mentions Jesus’ “mother” first. None of the other gospel writers refer to Mary in their accounts of the cross. Imagine the ache in her heart as she watched her Son writhe in pain on the cross. No mother wants to see her child suffer such agony. “The anguish of Jesus’ mother fulfilled a prophecy of Simeon: ‘A sword will pierce your own soul too.’ (Luke 2:35).” 3

Erwin Lutzer has captured what Mary might have felt as she stood before the cross:

She who had planted kisses on the brow of that little Child now saw that brow crowned with thorns. She who had held those little hands as He learned to walk now saw those hands pierced with nails. She who had cradled Him in her arms now saw Him writhing alone on the garbage dump of Jerusalem. She who loved Him at birth came to love Him even more in death.” 4

John also tells us that the “sister” of Jesus’ mother is present as well. We learn from Mark that her name is “Salome,” the wife of Zebedee and the apostle John’s mother (Mark 15:40). So she would be Jesus’ maternal aunt.

Next is “Mary the wife of Clopas,” the “mother of James the Less and of Joses [Joseph] (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40), the husband of Jesus’ mother. 6  And finally there was “Mary Magdalene,” the woman from whom Jesus “had cast seven demons” (Mark 16:9). So we have biological and spiritual family grieving as they watch Jesus suffer. They had been with Jesus in the joys of life and now they desired to be with Him in the pain of death. These faithful friends remained with Jesus when He needed them the most. “We all need – and need to be – friends like this.” 7

What happens next is amazing considering how agonizing suffering usually causes the sufferer to draw within to preserve his own life. But Jesus is no ordinary Person. Even when He is in severe pain, He is still thinking of others. “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ ” (John 19:26). Why does Jesus wait until now to speak to His mother?

We saw in the previous picture that the Roman soldiers took Jesus’ seamless tunic undergarment and cast lots for it (John 19:23-24). Normally this tunic was given to the son by his mother. Some think that Mary gave Jesus this tunic when He left home. 8

Charles Swindoll observes that there seems to be a correlation between what the soldiers were doing (John 19:23-24) and the words of Jesus in the presence of Mary (John 19:25-27).  Swindoll writes, “Why now? She’s been there all along, watching and weeping. Why hasn’t He acknowledged or spoken to her? Could it be because of the seamless tunic? I think so. His outer garments were insignificant…. But when they touched the tunic, they touched something very near to His heart—the garment made for Him by His mother.” 9

When Jesus “saw His mother” He says to her, “Woman, behold your son!” This may be understood in the sense, “Consider him as your son to take care of you.” 10  It is interesting that Jesus never addresses Mary as His mother. He refers to her as “Woman” here and at the wedding feast in Cana (cf. John 2:4). Could it be that Jesus is reminding her that He is her Savior and not merely her Son?

Wonderful mother that she was, she nevertheless took her place with the other sinners at the foot of the cross. She was not there to aid in purchasing redemption, but she herself was being redeemed by her Son. In the lovely poem we call the Magnificat, composed after she discovered she was pregnant, she said, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior’ (Luke 1:46–47, emphasis added). She too needed the forgiveness her Son was now purchasing.” 11

Christ knew that “the disciple whom He loved” would faithfully provide for His mother. Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:27). So John took Mary to his home “that hour,” implying that he cared for her as his own mother. He brought the one – whose soul the sword would pierce – away from the terrible scene of her Son’s suffering to the shelter of his home. John’s temporary absence may explain the lack of all the details that are recorded in the other gospels prior to the closing scene. 12

Because Jesus assigned John to care for His mother, it is assumed that Joseph, Mary’s husband had already died. Even as Jesus hung dying on a cross, then, He fulfilled His obligation to care for His widowed mother (cf. Exodus 20:12; I Timothy 5:3-8). “Jesus entrusted the well-being of His mother to John rather than to one of her biological sons because they had not yet believed in Him (see 7:5). Spiritual relationships are to take precedence over biological and physical relationships (see Matt 12:46-50).” 13  

God wants the church to support widows who are in genuine need, who have no family support, and who serve God and His people with prayers and a life that is above reproach (I Timothy 5:3-8).

This scene at the cross teaches us that while Jesus dies for the world, He still remembers the individual. As He is dying on the cross, Jesus looks at the individuals killing Him and prays, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). While Jesus is dying for billions of people, He looks at the thief beside Him who was suffering and says, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43). As Christ hung dying an excruciatingly painful death, He looks at His mother and His beloved disciple and says, “John, you are the one to take care of My mother.”  

Christ is still the same today. He loves the world, but He also cares about me. He cares about my individual needs. He cares about my life. And He gives me the encouragement that I need.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we live in such an impersonal world where it is easy to feel all alone and forgotten. Thank You for reminding me today that You not only died for the world, but You also care about the individual. You are such an amazing Savior to show such great compassion to Your mother as You agonized on the cross. You knew You would be leaving her to return to heaven, so You provided another son to take care of her. Thank You for caring about every aspect of my life and those who are close to me. Use me, I pray, to be Your voice of compassion and love especially to those who are broken and all alone. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Erwin Lutzer, Cries from the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus (Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition, 2002), pg. 72 cites William Barclay, The Gospel of John, Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible (Edinburgh: St. Andrew, 1965), pg. 299.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pp. 354-356.

3. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 691-692.

4. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 76.

5. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 485, cites Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (New York: Longmans, Green, 1912), pp. 601-603.

6. Ibid.

7. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 347.

8. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pp. 72-73.

9. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 73 cites Charles Swindoll, The Darkness and the Dawn: Empowered by the Tragedy and Triumph of the Cross (Nashville: Word, 2001), pp. 153-154.

10. Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg.  348.  

11. Erwin W. Lutzer, Cries from the Cross, pg. 78.

12. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, pg. 485 cites Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (New York: Longmans, Green, 1912), pp. 601-603.

13. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1824.

Who is Jesus Christ? Part 4

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

In the first five verses of John we saw that the Word, Jesus Christ, is eternal, relational, and our Creator God (John 1:1-3). Jesus is the only source of eternal life and hope (John 1:4-5). So when we look at Jesus, we are looking at our Creator God in human flesh. Jesus Christ made you and me to have a relationship with Him. So what is God like?

In John 1:14, we are going to see that God became a man in order to show us what He is like (John 1:18). The apostle John writes, “And the Word became flesh…” (John 1:14a). The most amazing fact of history is that the Word, God Himself, became a human being without ceasing to be God. Religions seek to know how we as humans can get to God. Yet the Bible tells us that God came to us. The Word, Jesus Christ, became a human being.

The word “dwelt” (skēnóō) means “to tabernacle” (John 1:14). Just as God’s presence dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 25:8-9; 33:7, 11), so He lived among people in the Person of Jesus Christ. King Solomon thought it incredible that God would dwell on the earth (1 Kings 8:27), but that is precisely what He did in Jesus.

Why did God become a man? So, we could approach Him and trust Him. For example, a construction company was once building a road through some mountainous country, using dynamite to build a roadbed. Steve, who worked for the company, was placing the dynamite charges. One day as he was getting ready to detonate a charge, he noticed that several little chipmunks had come out of the underbrush, playing around the hole where he had installed the explosives. Steve, being a tenderhearted guy, didn’t want to see those little chipmunks blown to bits, so he began trying to drive the chipmunks away. Each time however, they just came right back to the location. His supervisor, Charlie, came out to see what was holding up the blasting. Steve, exasperated, explained that those chipmunks would not get out of the danger area. Charlie chuckled, and then used the incident to talk about Jesus Christ.

He explained to Steve that the only way one of them could communicate with those chipmunks, was if one of them became a chipmunk, and yet at the same time, kept all the characteristics of a man. Chipmunks are afraid of humans because we are twenty times their size. But if you become a chipmunk, they would be able to trust you and relate to you, because you would be able communicate the great danger caused by the dynamite (from Eight Vital Relationships for the Growing Christian (Dallas: EvanTell, Inc., 1982), Chapter 2, p. 6). 

This is exactly what God had to do – He became a man in order to communicate with the human race what God is really like and to warn them of the incredible danger facing them if they rejected Christ (Matthew 23:14; 25:41, 46a; Mark 9:42-47; 12:40; Luke 20:47; John 1:1, 14-18; 3:18, 36; Revelation 20:15). If God came to us in the fullness of His glory, we would be too frightened of Him to trust Him (cf. Exodus 33:20; Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 1:17) just like a chipmunk would be too scared to trust us.

The reason John could say he and the other disciples “beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14b) without overwhelming fear was because Jesus’ humanity veiled (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 10:20) the fullness of the glory He possesses in heaven (cf. Revelation 1:12-18).

Jesus became a human being so that you and I could relate to Him and Him to us. Therefore, we are to trust Him at all times because He understands us. Hebrews 4:15-16 says of Jesus, “Since we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin; Therefore, let us boldly come to the throne of grace.” He voluntarily became one of us so that you and I would believe that our Savior knows how we feel.

Perhaps you have viewed God as some distant impersonal force who does not care about you or your circumstances. You may say to yourself, “How could God let COVID-19 happen? I have lost my income, my health, and my friends! What kind of God is this?” Please understand that the God of the Bible is not some distant dictator who delights in punishing people.

Listen to what Christian author Max Lucado says, “From the funeral to the factory to the frustration of a demanding schedule, Jesus Christ understands [bold lettering is mine]. When you tell God that you’ve reached your limit, He knows what you mean. When you shake your head at impossible deadlines, He shakes his, too. When your plans are interrupted by people who have other plans, He nods in empathy. He has been there. He knows how you feel. … Rejection? He felt it. Temptation? He knew it. Loneliness? He experienced it. Death? He tasted it. And stress? He could write a best-selling book about it. Why did He do it? One reason. So that when you hurt, you will go to Him… and let Him heal you” (Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm: A Day in the Life of Jesus, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1991), pp. 16-18).

The glory of Jesus that the disciples beheld was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14c). Christ maintained a perfect balance between these two attributes. Of all the phrases that God could have used to describe Jesus Christ, He chose “grace and truth.” “Grace” refers to the unmerited kindness of God or getting what we do not deserve. We do not deserve eternal life, forgiveness, or salvation from hell, but Jesus Christ can freely offer this to us apart from any of our works because of His “grace” (John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 4:4-5; 6:23b; 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).

“Truth” refers to the perfect standard of God’s holiness. Truth says there is a right way, a best way. In life, some things are true which makes other things false. We do reap what we sow. There are consequences to our actions. Truth is true. It is unbendable and unbreakable and unyielding. Jesus came full of truth. Every word that He spoke was truth. Christ never told a lie. Every action and every thought were true. When Satan came against Jesus tempting Him by perverting the Word of God just a little (Matthew 4:1-11), how did Jesus respond? “It is written in God’s Word. Here’s the truth.” He always countered falsehood with truth. Near the end of His life before Pilate, Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Pilate said to Him, “What is truth” (John 18:37-38)? Then Pilate walked away. That was a big mistake, because the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) was right in front of him. The One who is and knows all truth is there. So, truth must be included in grace or grace is merely tolerance.

Truth without grace is just as destructive as grace without truth. Truth without grace is unbearable. Only the arrogant, proud hypocrite thinks all he needs is truth, because he thinks he has it all together. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus outlines the perfect life. In the middle of that sermon Jesus says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  Jesus means what He says here. When I read the expectations of God on my life and I hear His call to be perfect, I say, “Lord I can’t do it. Have mercy on me a sinner, because I fall way too short. The bar is too high.” That’s the demand of truth all by itself and it overwhelms us. God says, “I didn’t just come in truth, I came in grace.”

Why is grace and truth so important? As humans, we tend to err on one side or the other of grace and truth. Grace without truth is wishy washy. It is a farce. It is called tolerance. There are no absolutes… no right or wrong… no consequences for our actions. Anything goes, resulting in lives without direction. There is nothing we can know for sure which is tolerance. For grace to be real, it must be based on truth.

For example, grace without truth is like taking your car to the body shop to get rid of the rust. You get the car back and it looks great. But a year later the rust appears again. The mechanic didn’t remove the rust, he just covered it up to make it look good. Eventually, the rust keeps coming back. That’s how it is when you try to ignore truth. You can ignore truth for a while, but it keeps coming back. I can ignore the law of gravity and step off a cliff – and the law of gravity still applies to me. It doesn’t matter what you believe in that case. If you ignore it, it bites you.

Do you remember the woman in John 8? The religious leaders were ready to stone her because the law (the truth) said you should (cf. Leviticus 20:10). She was caught in the act of adultery and they came to Jesus saying, “The law says she should die. What do you say, Jesus?” For a few moments, Jesus wrote on the ground, while they pestered Jesus. Then Jesus stood up and looked them in the eye and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).One by one, starting with the oldest, they all walked away. Jesus kept writing on the ground.

After a while there was no one left except Jesus and the woman. Jesus looked up at her and said, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10). She said, “No one, Lord” (John 8:11a). Here’s the thing. On that day, there was somebody there who could condemn her…who could have thrown the first stone… there was someone who was sinless – Jesus (cf. John 18:38b; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). He could have done it. Instead Christ said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11b). That is grace and truth.

Truth expresses God’s righteous character and demands punishment for all of our sins (Romans 3:9-23). Jesus Christ was a perfect display of God’s truth. He is “the truth” (John 14:6). He was perfect and sinless (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Even the political leaders could “find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38; cf. Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22; John 19:4, 6). God’s judgment of sin fell on Jesus instead of us when He died on the cross in our place  (Isaiah 53:5-6; Matthew 27:45-56; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). That is truth.

But grace is seen while Jesus was hanging on the cross. After His enemies physically and verbally abused Him, and nailed Him to a cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Did they deserve Christ’s forgiveness. No, none of us do. But grace offers forgiveness freely. Jesus also said to the thief hanging next to Him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Without grace, the thief on that cross dies in his sin and goes to hell.

Christ is full of grace and truth. He has the perfect ability to tell us the awful truth about ourselves, while holding us up by His grace. Because He is full of truth He was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). Because He is full of grace, you can come to Him just as you are, without having to clean up your life first. And because He is full of truth, you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

That’s grace and that’s truth. Jesus was full of both. Therefore, we are to seek to be gracious and truthful with one another (Ephesians 4:15). We are called to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Is there someone in your life that needs not just truth, but grace? Something has come between you and your relationship? They need to hear from you that the past is gone. It’s been wiped out. That’s the power of grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are totally amazing! You are the perfect balance of grace and truth. Thank You for telling me the truth about myself. I have sinned against You with my thoughts, words, and actions which makes me deserving of eternal separation from You in the lake of fire. But Your grace led You to take my punishment when You died in my place on the cross and rose from the dead. Because You are the truth without any sin, Your perfect sacrifice for my sins satisfied God’s holy demand to punish all my sins. Your grace invites me to come to You just as I am to freely receive Your forgiveness and everlasting life by believing in You. I can know with confidence that I have everlasting life the moment I believe in You because as the truth, You can never lie. You always keep Your promises. Please, my Lord and my God, change me so I can show grace and truth to others as You have shown to me. Lead me to those who not only need Your truth, but also need Your grace. They need to know that their past is gone. It has been erased because of Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.