Sermon preached on John 19:25-27 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Good Friday Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 3/29/2013 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
John 19 25-27
“Behold Your Son… Behold Your Mother”
On this Good Friday we get a chance to think not only about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, but also about the fifth commandment. The fifth commandment, of course, is to honor your father and your mother. This we see Jesus doing here. He is living that perfect life of righteousness, even while suffering on the cross. We needed Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. That he is doing in this passage. But we also needed Jesus to satisfy all righteous obedience in our place — he did that all his life. And he did it even to the end. Even while he hung there dying for us. He still lived righteously, looking to honor as commanded in the fifth commandment.
And so let’s begin first by thinking about how Jesus honored his mother here. Start by putting yourself in Mary’s shoes. Think of all her sorrows. Surely being the mother of Jesus had been quite a “ride” up to that point. On the one hand she had the honor to the bear the Messiah through the virgin birth. On the other hand, surely most people would have thought Jesus’ conception and birth was a result of some indiscretion on Mary’s part. Jesus had created quite an uproar throughout Israel, and surely that would have been a cause of great concern and maybe worry for a mother about her son. And now for her to have to watch her son condemned to death and hanging there dying on the cross. Surely this must have pierced Mary’s heart. Of course, I say that because that’s what was prophesied. You might recall back to Jesus’ birth. When Mary and Joseph presented the newborn Jesus at the temple, there they met a man named Simeon. Simeon prophesied to Mary and said this in Luke 2:34-35, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” And so Simeon had told Mary that Jesus’ destiny included a sword piercing through her soul. Well, surely that was coming to pass as she had to watch her firstborn son die on the cross. Given that in the next chapter, we see that the disciples John and Peter still hadn’t realized from the Scriptures that Jesus must rise again (John 20:9), it would be hard to think that Mary had any certain hope of Jesus’ resurrection either. Instead, she stood there watching him die, surely full of the most intense grief and sorrow.
And yet amidst the sorrow of a mother losing her son, Jesus honors her. Jesus lives out the physical obligations that belong to a son. What I mean is this. A few weeks back we studied 1 Timothy 5. That was the Sunday that we ordained David Young as a deacon in the church. In 1 Timothy 5 we saw that children of widows have an obligation to care for their mothers who are in need. 1 Timothy 5 called this piety. That such care for your mother who is a widow is good and acceptable before God. This of course, is all an expression of living out the fifth commandment. It’s a way you show honor to your mother who is in need. Especially to one who cared for you growing up when you couldn’t care for yourself. This is righteousness 101, to honor your mother like this.
Well, this is essentially what is going on in our passage. All evidence would suggest that at this point Mary is a widow. The gospel accounts stop talking about Jesus’ earthly father Joseph after the early birth narratives. All later accounts talk only of Mary with Jesus’ siblings. The silence of Joseph at that point is surely because Joseph was no longer alive. That’s been the consensus understanding. And so here, Jesus is basically calling his disciple John to take Mary as his own mother. By the way, John the author of this gospel, is understood to be the disciple mentioned here in verse 26, the disciple whom Jesus loved. That seems John’s way to describe himself in this gospel. And so Mary and John are both standing there. And so, Jesus turns to his mother Mary and says, “Behold your son.” And he turns to John and says, “Behold your mother.” This is basically adoption. Jesus is telling them that they are now adopted family. Mary is John’s new mother. John is Mary’s new son. This was to be a blessing to both. And it certainly came with responsibilities as well. John particularly was being obligated by Jesus to care for Mary as his mother in Jesus’ absence. The care we just talked about from 1 Timothy 5, that children are to care for their widow mothers — this is what Jesus is calling upon John now to do in his place. It’s an act of responsibility on Jesus’ part to make sure that someone will fill his role in his absence. And we know that this is what is going on by John’s immediate response. Verse 27, “And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”
We’re not told if John verbally replied to Jesus at that point. He probably did. But we’re told of something more important. That John really took on the responsibility that Jesus was entrusting to him. He took his new adopted Mom into his home. That very hour! Surely, it was at that hour she especially needed to be with John. To mourn together with him as they both loved Jesus so much.
And so don’t miss how Jesus still has concerns to do the righteous, godly, thing, even while hanging on the cross. Even while hanging there, undergoing God’s wrath for sinners, he still does what righteousness demands of him. Even then he is still concerned for others. I mean, he’s even then concerned for other’s physical, temporal, needs. I mean think about it. Jesus is hanging there on the cross for people’s needs. For their spiritual needs. So that people would be forgiven of their sins. But Jesus didn’t use that as a reason to stop being concerned also for people’s immediate earthly needs. You know he could have said something like, “Hey guys, I know all this is hard for you, but I am the one actually hanging up here.” He didn’t tell his mom in her grief, “Sorry Mom, I’m a little busy right now paying for the sins of the world to take care of you.” We might expect something like that from someone else. But not Jesus. Jesus always shows concern for the whole of his people. All their needs. And so even while he hung there bearing the wrath of sin, he took the energy to yet do a further act of righteousness. He took the energy to address and physical, earthly, needs, even while handling the spiritual, eternal, needs. What a wonderful picture of how both are important to God. There is certainly application there to us as well! Of how we are to see the importance of both. Certainly that is why the church has elders and deacons. That is why Christians need to be concerned for all sorts of needs that one another has!
And so Jesus honored his mother. But we mentioned that he did this while dying on the cross for sin. And so we realize that not only did he honor his mother on the cross, he also honored his father. His heavenly father, that is. 2 chapters before in this book, in John 17, we see Jesus praying to his heavenly father. What comes out so clearly is that all that Jesus came to do on earth here to save humanity is what his heavenly father gave him to do. We see the difficulty of the weight of the cross when the other gospels record him praying beforehand in the Garden of Gethsemane asking that if there be any other way that this cup would be lifted from him. But in the end he submit to honor his father’s will, saying, “Not as I will, but as you will!” We recognize the difficulty of this when we read of Jesus crying out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God’s wrath was poured out upon him on the cross. Isaiah 53:10 says that it was God’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, that his life would be a guilt offering for sin. Surely we see this wrath expressed even in John’s gospel when he who claimed to be able to quench thirst eternally, cries out, “I thirst”, verse 28. Enduring the shame of the cross was no easy task. But Jesus honored his heavenly father through his obedience in giving up his life.
And of course, Jesus was fulfilling a spiritual mission when he did this. As much as we saw Jesus caring for this physical need of Mary, we know the cross is especially about caring for the spiritual needs of God’s people. The problem of sin had to be dealt with. Otherwise, God’s chosen ones would not have eternal life; they would have eternal condemnation and death. And so the irony here is that as Jesus kept the fifth commandment, in one immediate sense he gets the opposite of what is promised with the fifth commandment. The fifth commandment is the first commandment with a promise, Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” As Jesus honors father and mother here, he will not have long days before his death. But he doesn’t, in a sense, receive that promise here, so that we all could receive it instead. We receive the long days that are awarded to those who honor father and mother, because of Jesus’ obedience. Through his honoring of his heavenly father and mother, even to the point of death on the cross, we have had our lives prolonged eternally, of which we’ll ultimately spend all that in the Promised Land of the New Heavens and the New Earth! And yet, in light of the all surpassing quality of Christ’s righteousness, he would ultimately experience this too. Yes, he would die that day he hung on the cross. But death could not hold him. On the third day he did rise again. The result will be that he and us will live together in that Promised Land forever.
And so even as we think about this passage today and how it shows Jesus honoring his mother in this physical way, we see the even greater act of his honoring his father. And the results are awesome and mighty and wonderful. Think of some examples that come immediately to mind here. Think of how his honoring of his father to go to the cross applies to Mary. It was Jesus’ death on the cross that was his greatest ministry to his mother. It’s his sacrifice which ultimately addresses her grief and sorrow. Surely John would be a good son in Jesus’ place. But he could never replace Jesus. But because Jesus died on the cross even for Mary, she can now spend eternity with her son Jesus. Otherwise, Mary would have been damned along with the rest of humanity. Otherwise, Mary would have been eternally lost from Jesus. But through Christ’s death on the cross, she will be with him forever.
Or take the example of the disciple John here. Think of how Jesus’ honoring his father applies to him. Remember what John had just done before he was standing here. He abandoned Jesus. He forsook him. Matthew 26:56 records that all Jesus disciples forsook him and fled when Jesus was arrested. Yes, of all the disciples, John seems to be the quickest to regain courage and now is doing what he should be doing. He is standing there with his beloved Jesus. But this was after a great betrayal. Again, you might imagine how someone else might have responded to John’s reappearance. They might have had some snide remark, “Oh, now you come back. Some friend you were last night.” But not Jesus. He doesn’t say that. In fact, it would betray all that Jesus was doing at that very moment. Jesus hung there on the cross, because of sins such as what John had just done. Jesus’ honoring of his father, was to save John from all such sins, past, present, and future.
And so our passage actually exemplifies the spiritual significance of why Jesus hung on the cross. For Jesus to entrust his mother to John’s care, is a token of how Jesus redeems his disciples. He forgives them. But he forgives them in such a way as to restore them to usefulness. Jesus’ forgiveness of his disciples includes putting them into positions of privileged service. This is all a part of what it means to be redeemed by Jesus. Redemption is more than just forgiveness. What Jesus does with John here exemplifies that. All this is made possible because of the cross. Because Jesus honored his father in going to the cross.
You know something else is shown here of spiritual significance when you think of the examples of Mary and John. What we see here is that part of Jesus’ honoring his father to the cross means that God’s people are now all family. We see that elsewhere in Scripture, but it comes out beautifully here as well. You know, Jesus had other brothers according to the flesh at this time. We know that at least James and Jude of his brothers were still alive, because they both go on to write letters in the New Testament after this. And yet Jesus doesn’t call for either of them to take Mary into their home. We don’t know why. But a likely possibility is that they weren’t believers yet. It’s earlier in John’s gospel, John 7:5, that we see that at least at that time Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him. Presumably it was the resurrection that finally brought conversion to his earthly brothers James and Jude. But at this point, we don’t see them standing there with Jesus or Mary. Mary’s sister was standing there to comfort Jesus’ mother. But not James and Jude. Again, I don’t want to give too bad of wrap about James and Jude since Scripture is really silent about them at this point. But the silence does speak some. That Jesus called for John to care for Mary as his mother. That from that day Mary lived with John! They had become in an outward earthly sense what was already the spiritual reality. Christians are spiritually one family. This too made possible because of Christ’s death on the cross.
And so Christ’s honoring of his father by going to the cross meant eternal life, and redemption from sin. We’ve seen that exemplified in the lives of Mary and John. But this is also the case for us. Jesus’ honoring of his heavenly father by dying on the cross means our salvation — if we put our faith in him. If we repent of our sins and turn to Jesus in faith, we are redeemed. We are saved by grace through faith. This because of the cross. Because of the cross we are saved. Because of the cross we have our sorrow turned to joy. Because of the cross we have redemption from sin and even how we’ve forsaken Jesus. Because of the cross we are now set in positions to serve Christ. And so on the cross, Jesus gave Mary a new son. And on the cross, Jesus gave John a new mother. And on the cross, Jesus gave us a new father. If we are in Christ, we are adopted as sons of God, Ephesians 1:5. Because of the cross, Jesus has done away with our sin that turned God away from us. In turn, God now adopts us as his children.
And so today, behold Christ. Behold the Son hanging on the cross. Behold him as your Savior and Lord! And if you behold him as such, then behold your Father! Behold your heavenly father who has loved you with such love. Behold then that you are his son and daughter. And behold one another; our fellow Christians, behold them then as your fathers and mothers, and sisters and brothers. Behold all this in Christ who died on the cross. Behold all this in Christ who honored his father and mother that this would all be realized. This is what we behold again this evening on Good Friday.
And so, Trinity Presbyterian Church, let us who are one family in Christ, honor our father and mother and especially our heavenly father. These need not be in conflict. In light of the truth of this passage, let us seek to do both by the grace of God. Jesus shows us here how to both honor our earthly parents and our heavenly parent. By extension, we can and should honor both our earthly commitments and our spiritual ones. We can and should help people with their physical needs and their spiritual ones, particularly those who are family in Christ. Let us look to do all things well. Let us look by God’s grace to be faithful in all the ways God calls us to serve. Some will be difficult. They will all involve effort and labor. But God gives us the grace in Christ and by his Spirit. Trust that as you serve him in all things, he will provide the strength and the gifting needed to accomplish the work he gives you to do. Amen.
Copyright © 2013 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.