Compounding the agonies of dying by crucifixion, was the sorrow Jesus felt for his sorrowing mother. The tenderness of his care for her contrasts with the savage brutality of the scene. The gospel of John gives us our Lord’s third statement from the cross. “He said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother'” (John 19:27).
Think of the bravery of Mary, following the mob to Calvary, standing at the foot of the cross, watching her son being shamed and tortured. We can only imagine the depth of her anguish as she endured the mockery and hatred directed at Jesus. Surely this was a fulfillment of the prophecy of the aged Simeon, who, in Jesus’ infancy, had said to Mary, “A sword will pierce your own soul” (Luke 2:35).
The unnamed disciple is “the disciple whom he loved,” universally understood to be the writer of this story. The apostle John was a son of Zebedee, who owned a fishing business in Galilee. His mother may have been Salome, a sister of Mary. If this is true, then John was Jesus’ cousin. (See Mark 1:20, 15:40; Matthew 27:46; John 19:25.) This may help explain why the Lord entrusted the care of his mother to her nephew. John was familiar to her, staying with her now, supporting her in her grief. It is clear that the Lord Jesus was asking John to care for her as he would his own mother.
John 19:27 says John “took her to his own home.” The inference is that he took her away immediately to a dwelling he maintained in Jerusalem. We know Mary stayed in Jerusalem for many weeks after this because later we find her in the upper room praying with the other disciples (Acts 1:14). The scriptures are silent about her remaining years. Did she return to Galilee? Did she accompany the apostle John to Ephesus, where tradition tells us he concluded his ministry?
The fact that Jesus did not entrust her to other family members is probably due to the fact that his half-brothers did not believe in him at this time. Yes, Jesus had brothers and sisters who were born to Joseph and Mary after he, the “firstborn son,” was born (Luke 2:7; Matthew 1:25). The scripture says that at first his natural brothers did not believe in him (Mark 6:3-4; John 7:5). After his resurrection, however, they became believers and joined the other disciples (Acts 1:14).
Jesus addressed her as “woman.” The expression may be close to the British “my lady,” or the common American “ma’am.” This is not the only time our Lord spoke to his mother this way (John 2:4). Devout Bible students have come to the conclusion that when Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit to begin his public ministry, something changed in his formal relationship to his mother. He was now committed to the work his Father in heaven had given him to do (Matthew 12:46). He was carrying out his role as Messiah.
The emotional distance implied in this form of address meant that she must hereafter be subservient to him as Savior and Lord. This implies no disrespect toward his mother. But it indicates his recognition that she is now to be numbered among his followers. The mother/son relationship is now woman/Lord.
It was a great honor to John that Jesus trusted him for this sacred duty. It is a testimony to his loyal love. No doubt John considered it a privilege to serve his Lord by caring for his mother for the rest of her life.
Pastor Randy Faulkner