The Third WordsRead Now
“Here is your son…here is your mother” – 03-12-2023 – Rev. Tony Romaine
Of all the words that Christ utters at the end of his life on the Cross, these are perhaps the ones most often forgotten. And to be completely honest with you all, are the most difficult to unpack and explain in a sermon. But we are going to walk through this, because Christ is actually using these few last utterances, these third words today to remind us of a great responsibility and need.
The difficulty laid before us today can be assuaged partly if we look first at the humanity that these words convey. Christ in all the pain and agony of dying a terrible death, sees his mother there weeping and wants to take care of her. I cannot even begin to imagine the thoughts that Mary must have been experiencing in that moment. To see her son who just a few decades earlier had been born in such majesty and splendor, there hanging on the cross could only bring unspeakable pain. Her son who had changed her life forever from one of shame and public disgrace to one of marvel and magnificence, now hanging on a cross he did nothing to deserve, abandoned by the very people He came to save, and she could do nothing. Yet, even this pain was foretold by Simeon in the temple when the baby Jesus was presented, in Luke 2:34-35, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
How could Mary possibly have known that Simeon’s prophecy would be so true? In her motherly joy with her husband Joseph with her there, presenting Jesus in the temple, to receive this news which she herself had some foreknowledge of, but only what the angels had told her; how could she possibly know that this was the end of the pathway set before Jesus. Everything Mary had learned or grew to learn about her son, our Savior Jesus, would have led her to believe that as the Messiah he would do great things just like were foretold by prophets of old. And as the angels proclaimed His glory at His birth and Mary herself magnified in praise, Jesus would indeed grow to become the light which shone upon our darkness.
But that darkness had now overtaken the human light that was Jesus and Mary was left to mourn at the foot of the cross her son Jesus. As a parent, I struggle to even try to empathize with what she would be experiencing, and frankly, the thoughts of that very thing happening keep me up at night. Those who have lost children know the pain Mary felt in this moment and know that it never leaves you. And Jesus upon the Cross can see and feel and know everything his mother is going through and in a moment of humanity looks at his Mom and says to her, “Woman, here is your son,” as he looks to the disciple John and says to him, “Here is your mother.” The humanity of that moment is one that in the wise words of James Stalker presents us with this part of Jesus’ life where we get to see the “blending of the majestic and the lowly.” Jesus being born in a manger, while angels break forth in song from heaven above, Jesus asleep in a boat while storms toss and rage only to awake and still everything, Jesus crying at the death of Lazarus, while in the next moment raising him from death; fully human and fully divine, and so it was to his dying day.
But why these third words, "Here is your son…here is your mother…"are so important takes us also from a very emotional place to a very practical place, and the discussion that I hope will open our eyes to the fulfillment of part of Jesus’ ministry. For Jesus Himself chose this moment to teach us once more an important lesson; care for the widows, care for the forgotten, care for family.
You heard me say earlier that Mary had a husband Joseph, but he is no longer around at the time of Jesus’ death. No one really knows what happens to Joseph, but after we hear mention of him at the Passover feast celebration when Jesus was about twelve or so, we do not hear of him again. Not to mention, that whenever we hear of Mary, Joseph is not mentioned, and since this society was such a patriarchal one, certainly if Joseph were alive we would have known. This is all to say that at the time of Jesus’ death Mary was a widow.
Therefore, what Jesus is doing at the time of his death is not only providing Mary a pathway to healing through the acceptance of the disciple John as her son, and subsequently all the disciples as her surrogate children; Jesus is also tasking John with taking care of Mary. Jesus is once more using this time to teach a nation that had forgotten its true course that He was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. We know this because the law says in Exodus 22:22-23, “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry,” and from Isaiah, the prophet says in chapter 1:17, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” This is not to mention the many examples during Jesus’ life of his own ministry to widows.
Moreover, we do not know why Jesus’ own brothers were not there at his death to be charged with the looking after and care of their mother Mary. Not to mention that certain scholarship argues that Jesus did not have brothers, but that his brothers and sisters were those in faith. Either way, we do not have the time to fully examine this here, but what we do know is that Jesus charges John with this honorable task, one that the self-proclaimed, “most loved of all the disciples” most gladly would have accepted.
What this connection that Jesus is creating between Mary and John, mother and son, also presents us with is an example that Jesus longs for us to fully understand by teaching us once more what family truly means. That looking after family is so vitally important and our family is more than blood, it is more than lineage, it is the people who are united with us in faith. It can be those we are related to, but it is also those whom we unite in faith with and who we are willing to go to the Cross to protect, preserve, serve, and love.
After all, here we have our Savior on the Cross who is shedding his blood for all of us, and in this moment, he longs for us to understand that this blood which is being shed is the very unifying grace that should connect all of those who will come to believe in just what Jesus’ life and ministry meant.
Not to say that we won’t struggle with family, friend, stranger, or foe; after all, Jesus Himself had his own difficulties with his family and the disciples and those who sought to persecute Him. But what matters in the end is that we look upon our sister and brothers, mothers and fathers, family and strangers, and we see not a mixture of difference and disunity; but that we see those whom Christ died for just like us, and we could love them as we were so loved by our Christ who shed blood and tear for Mother and brother, sister and father.
We hear this again in 1 Timothy 5, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” And our “household” is this church, this community, this state, this nation, this world!
Here is your son…Here is your mother.
Lastly, I must mention something else that we all too often paint over in these last words of Christ. The people who were present at the Cross, the ones who were there listening, watching, waiting, crying at the foot of Jesus were not all of the disciples, but Mary Jesus’s mother, Mary’s sister Mary, Mary Magdalene, and John. Where was Peter the rock on which the church was to be built? Where was Mark the first one to write a Gospel, or Matthew whom Jesus loved despite being a tax collector? The ministry of Jesus is done by those who show up. Not just in the meeting places where we feel most comfortable, but at the foot of the Cross, where we face the peril of persecution, at the chance of losing all we have or are or the comforts of our existence, out in the world and right where we are at. During Lent when it is fresh on our mind and the rest of the year too; not just on Sunday, but everywhere the love of Christ is met with fear, doubt, hate, violence, greed, envy, jealousy, or anything else our world would use to get in the way of the love of Christ for all his brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers.
Here is your son…here is your mother. See the in the world this week, call them and let them know they are yours and they are God’s. See Christ in the stranger and the forgotten and the widow and the fatherless and the motherless and the childless and all those our world would rather have you turn away from. That the love of our Savior which He bled for our sins upon the Cross would not be a mark of heaviness or despair; but that we could take this moment when the Light of the World gave everything over so we would know and just maybe learn one more time, take that hope of His as he died for us and love our world.
Here is your son…here is your mother…Here is Christ upon the Cross in one another, Amen!
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