"Woman, Behold Your Son" (John 19:25-27)
- Pastor James
[The 3rd meditation on the Seven Last Words, delivered at the ecumenical
walk, the Way of the Cross, on Good Friday, 2005]
On this third stop on the Way of the Cross, we come to the scene
on the hill of Golgotha. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and other women
have followed Jesus all the way to the cross. From the beginning
of Jesus' ministry, women have been among the faithful disciples.
And here at the foot of the cross, as their master is condemned to
death, it is they who remain with Him to the end.
With the hindsight of the resurrection and with the benefit of the
2000 years of theological reflections, we know that Jesus' crucifixion
was in God's plan of redemption - a cosmic drama that revealed such
a great salvation. But these women don't know that. To them, Jesus
is their family, their teacher, their rabbi, and their friend.
And to Mary, Jesus is the son of her own flesh. How can we ever understand
the excruciating pain of watching her own child die a slow death?
The natural instinct of any mother would be to substitute her life
in place of her child's. "If only I could die instead of my child.
If only I could suffer the pain. If only I could sacrifice my life
Jesus, suspended on the cross by nails, remembers His earthly mother.
He looks at her with infinite compassion. He knows her agonizing
pain, her lacerating heart, and her unbearable sorrow. And He says
to her, "Woman, behold your son!" Then He says to the beloved disciple, "Behold
your mother," entrusting His mother into the care of the beloved
Now, I want you to hold this scene in your mind, and at the same
time, extend your imagination to what is happening on a much larger
Behind the scene, on the cosmic stage, there is the grand epic of
salvation unfolding. On this little hill of Golgotha, the cosmic
battle from the dawn of age is converging with a mighty force. All
the prophecies of the Old Testament - the promise of redemption,
the promise of the new covenant, the promise of new life - are all
being fulfilled in this Man crucified, fully human and fully God.
At the same time, there is, what one theologian (Loren Wilkinson)
calls, a "home story" - a story of daily love, a story of home life,
and a story of a mother and her son. On the hill of Golgotha, there
is a home story of the mother, bearing the torment of her crucified
son, and the son, bearing the lacerating heart of his mother.
Here, in the Gospel of John, the grand story of salvation is united
with the home story. We cannot separate the two. They are happening
at the same time.
Today, as we walk on the Way of the Cross, each of us carries our
own home story - our most cherished relationships, our wounds from
those relationships, our need for forgiveness and healing, and our
shame and guilt. Each of us has a story that we ourselves must live
out, a story that no one else can live out for us. And we are invited
to bring our home story to the foot of the cross. The grand story
of salvation is for the sake of the home story so that we ourselves
and our family may become whole.
Yet, this home story goes beyond the bonds of flesh and blood. When
Jesus entrusts His mother to the care of the beloved disciple, He
is initiating a new family. He already
said during His earthly ministry, "Whoever does the will of God is
my brother and sister and mother" (Mark 3:35) - a scandalous statement
in a culture where the family bond is tight and lasts for generations
On the cross, Jesus has given us a new home
story. He has broken down every dividing wall that separates
us from one another. And He has given birth to a new family - a new
community that transcends flesh and blood boundaries, a new community
where there is no distinction between Black, White, Hispanic, and
Asian, a new community that is far bigger than denominational boundaries,
a new community born of the Holy Spirit. In this new community, we
are called to live out a new home story. Whoever does the will of
God is our family, my family and your family.