Seven Words of the Cross: Affection

gawlerbapSeven Words

John 19:25-27—The Word of Affection

Jeff has looked at forgiveness and salvation. This morning we come to the third statement made from the cross, by Jesus.
John 19:25-27 25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home (NIV).
… and the word for today is Affection.
I want to acknowledge that there are some differences of opinion in some areas of this passage, such as was it three or four women at the cross and were Mary and John aunt and nephew. I think it will become apparent which way I have gone.  A quick look at some dictionary meanings for affection includes:

  • A gentle feeling of fondness or liking (Oxford);
  • A feeling of liking for a person or place (Cambridge);
  • A feeling of fondness or tenderness for a person or thing (Collins);
  • A settled goodwill, love, or attachment (Macquarie);
  • Feeling or emotion (Bible Study Tools).

We could say Jesus had any or all of these feelings, particularly for his mother, Mary.

John is the only person to record the words we are focusing on today.  The words give us an insight into how God actually loves us. Jesus could have arranged for his mother’s care well before this time, but he didn’t.  In this section is perhaps a chance for us to allow the Holy Spirit to let us see things through Jesus’ eyes.

What did Jesus see? Who did he see?

From his perspective Jesus sees:

  • Roman soldiers;
  • he sees the crowd and priests who are mocking him.
  • But, he also sees five people that are very special to him, close to his heart—his mother Mary, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and the disciple he loved.

Five people—what happened to the ones he called to follow him?  Where is Peter who said he would die with him?

Matthew 26:35: But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.
So, where were they?  Did Jesus look out from the cross looking to see if in the crowd he could see those he hoped would be there—his disciples?  Five people had the faith and courage to stand with Jesus at the cross. This could prove dangerous for them, because they could be arrested and this could result in their deaths too, yet they stood with him.  They knew the cost of going to the cross and yet they went anyway. They were bewildered, heart-broken, drenched in sorrow but they were there because they loved Jesus.  Surely their presence must have encouraged Jesus.

What do we know of these five?

We don’t know all that much about the woman mentioned as Mary’s sister, probably Salome, but we do know that in Matthew 20:20 she, together with her sons, received a reprimand from Jesus—they had asked for chief places in His new Kingdom: You don’t know what you are asking, Jesus said to them.  Perhaps now as she stands at the foot of the cross Salome understands the bitter cup Jesus was speaking of.  Although Mary Magdalene’s name might be familiar to us, again we don’t know that much about her but what we do know does tell us quite a bit.  We know she was a follower of Jesus, that she had been released from demons and that she was at the tomb well before the disciples on resurrection morning.
Mark 16:9 says:  When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.
It seems that the only time we hear about Mary the wife of Clopas is in this passage. So again, not much known but I think we can say she too was a follower of Jesus.  The disciple Jesus loved.  It is almost certain that this was John. John, who was close to Jesus at the Last Supper; who ran with Peter to the empty tomb.  These two men bore the brunt of the Jewish hostility to the early Christian church.  John spoke out boldly.  And that leads us to Jesus’ mother, Mary.

Can we have any idea of how Mary must have felt at this time?

A couple of weeks ago we witnessed, in part, the pain that accompanies the death of a child when David and Joy shared with us.  From the beginning Mary knew her son, God’s son, was the promised Messiah.  Luke 2 shares the stories of Jesus’ birth and his presentation at the temple. It is here that Mary hears Simeon prophecy about her child and that a sword would pierce her own heart. Verse 51 says that Mary … treasured all these things in her heart.  As time went on, did she long for the time when her son would declare himself the long-awaited Messiah?  She had been through so much—the gossip in Nazareth, the journey to Egypt, the loneliness experienced after Jesus left home to begin His ministry, telling out His message throughout Israel.  But now, she sees and feels her world unraveling.  Has she been wrong all this time?  If He is really the Son of God, then why is He hanging on a cross?  Surely this is not how it was supposed to be?  Did she remember when she held his little hands, now nailed to a cross; when she kissed his brow, now covered in thorns; understand that this was the hour He was speaking of when He said to her: “My hour has not yet come”.  Mary might have been confused, she might not have understood all that was happening but one thing she knew for certain—she loved Jesus, her son. Her presence at the cross is surely the most natural thing in the world.  The Jewish rulers may see Jesus as a criminal, but Jesus was Mary’s son and it is her mother love that we see at the cross.

Five people chose to be close enough to the cross to hear the ringing of the nails being hammered in, to hear the thud of the cross as it went in the ground, to hear the last words of Jesus.  How close to the cross are we willing to get?  Are we willing to stand close enough to the cross that we will face mockery and contempt?  The choice is ours—stand close, or far off.

It’s a grim picture I’ve just painted, but now, hear the powerful words Jesus says from the cross:  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”  When Jesus used the word “woman” He was showing loving respect. It might not be how we address our mother, but Jesus was using a term of affection.  These are words of comfort, spoken to Mary. Here is affection, love and care of a son for his mother, his tender consideration for her at the hour of his greatest trial.

But why now, why this time to speak these words?
John 19:23 tells of how the Roman soldiers divided His garments and gambled for His clothing. Mary would have heard them gambling for his tunic.  The tunic is special. It is made by a mother for her son. Mary would have made the tunic for Jesus. One scholar has said that:  … the moment they touched the tunic, they were touching His heart …  Could this moment have been when he looked at his mother and uttered those words?  I believe here Jesus is giving us an example of how we have a responsibility to our families. Is it not God’s design and purpose that we care for our family members?  But also hear the power of these words. As eternity hangs in the balance, Jesus takes this very moment to care for His mother. In effect Jesus said, “Mary, I love you, I care about your future. I’m going to make sure you’re taken care of”.  God knows that families are not perfect, let’s face it, not even Jesus own brothers were with him at this time. But if it was important for Jesus to care for His mother and family, surely it is so for us too.  Mary and John were not blood related, but they had one thing in common—they both believed in and loved Jesus. They were members of the same eternal family.  John was given a very high honour when Jesus entrusted His mother’s care to him. Perhaps this reminds us that Jesus knows our character.  John was, effectively, to care for Mary until Jesus returned.  Likewise, let us love one another and care for one another—those in our blood families and in the family of God—just as Jesus called John to care for Mary.  This is the will of God for us as believers in Christ. We are to care for each other until Jesus returns.  We love and serve a God who stops in the middle of paying the highest cost a person could pay to take care of His mum.  That is affection.  That is the deep, deep love of Jesus.

Carter, Matt, 2014. Woman, Behold, Your Son,
Guthrie, Donald 1994. New Bible Commentary; John. Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.
Hall, Mark, 2016. Famous Last Words: God’s Family Series,
Malcolm, Mclean, 2010. Third Saying of Jesus on the Cross,
Newland, Melvin, 2001. Palm Sunday – At the Foot of the Cross,
Wiersbe, Warren, W., 1986. Be Transformed. David C Cook, Colorado Springs, USA.

Study Guide

The audio for this sermon can be found here.