April 6, 2020 • Life for Leaders
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”
Today is Monday of Holy Week, the week in which we prepare for a deeper understanding and experience of Jesus’s death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter. As you may know already, last Thursday I began a seven-part series of devotions called: “Holy Week Devotions on the Seven Last Words of Christ.” I started early so I could get in all seven devotions by Good Friday (since I do not write the Life for Leaders weekend devotions). This series on the seven last words is meant to help you prepare for a deeper experience of God’s grace in this truly “holy” week. Each devotion will focus on one of the seven statements of Christ from the cross. If you missed the first two devotions, you can find them here: The First Word; The Second Word.
Today we focus on the third word of Jesus from the cross: “Woman, here is your son” (John 19:26). As Jesus was dying, his mother was among those who had remained with him. Most of his male disciples had fled, with the exception of one whom the Fourth Gospel calls “the disciple whom he loved.” We can’t be exactly sure of the identity of this beloved disciple, though most interpreters believe he is John, who is also the disciple behind the writing of the Fourth Gospel.
No matter who the beloved disciple was, however, it’s clear that Jesus was forging a relationship between this disciple and his mother, one in which the disciple would take care of Mary financially and in other ways. Jesus wanted to make sure she would be in good hands after his death.
The presence of Mary at the cross is deeply moving. It adds both humanity and horror to the scene. It reminds us that Jesus was a real human being, a man who had once been a baby, who had once been carried in the womb of his mother. Christians confess that Jesus was fully human even as we also believe he was fully divine. Thus, as he was dying on the cross as the Savior of the world, Jesus remained a son with a mother, a role he didn’t neglect in his last moments.
When we think of the crucifixion of Jesus from the perspective of his mother, our horror increases dramatically. The death of a child is one of the most painful of all parental experiences. As a pastor, I have been with parents who have gone through this trauma. I have seen their suffering and anguish. Yet, to watch one’s beloved child experience the extreme torture of crucifixion must have even more terrible. We’re reminded of the prophecy of Simeon shortly after Jesus’s birth, when he said to Mary: “[A]nd a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35).
The third word of Christ from the cross helps us not to spiritualize the crucifixion of Jesus, thus losing touch with his actual physical suffering. He was a real man, true flesh and blood, a son of a mother, dying with unbearable agony. His suffering was altogether real, and he took it on for you and for me. In a time of history when thousands of people are suffering physically with COVID-19, it’s good to remember that Jesus was also “a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity” (Isaiah 53:3).
At the same time, the physical suffering of Jesus wasn’t all that he endured. In tomorrow’s devotion we’ll examine another aspect of what Jesus suffered on the cross. For now, let me encourage you to reflect on the presence of Mary, and the third word of Jesus, and how they draw you more deeply into the full reality of the cross.
Something to Think About:
Why do you think was it necessary for Jesus to suffer physical pain as he died?
In what way does the physical suffering of Jesus matter to you?
Something to Do:
Spend several minutes of quiet, reflecting on the scene in John. You may wish to read all of John 19:25-27, or even more. Pay attention to what you think and feel as you meditate on this passage and the “third word” of Jesus from the cross.
Lord Jesus, the presence of your mother at the cross engages my heart. You are no longer just the Savior dying for the sins of the world. You are also a fully human man, a son with a mother, a person enduring unspeakable suffering.
O Lord, how can I begin to thank you for what you suffered? My words fall short. My thoughts seem superficial and vague. Nevertheless, I offer my sincere gratitude for your suffering. Thank you for bearing my sin on the cross. I give you my praise, my love, my heart . . . all that I am, because you have given me all that you are.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, fully God and fully human, Savior of the world . . . my Savior! Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.