“Woman, …”

John 19:26-27

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

John 19:26-27 “When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’  Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’  And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…  St. Luke informs us in his second chapter that after the shepherds “made known the saying which had been told them concerning this Child,” that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:17 & 19).  Likewise, when the twelve-year-old Jesus said to her, “How is it that you sought Me?  Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” that “His mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:49 & 51).

Also there is no doubt that, as the years passed, Mary kept in the back of her mind these prophetic words spoken to her by Simeon: “Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).  Certainly Mary thought for hours and days and years on her firstborn Son who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and who is the Son of the Most High.

So also our Lutheran Confessions proclaim the Divinity of Jesus, stating in the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, “He had this majesty immediately at His conception even in His mother’s womb.”  “Mary, the most blessed virgin, did not conceive a mere, ordinary human being, but a human being who is truly the Son of the most high God. … Therefore she is truly the mother of God.” (FC SD viii).

We now come to the cross of Jesus once again.  There are two criminals – one at Christ’s right hand and one at His left.  The centurion and the soldiers are on duty and are killing time.  The religious leaders are gloating, for they have opposed the Gospel from the beginning and had been trying to get rid of Jesus for many months. “There were also many women there, looking on from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee” (Matthew 27:55).  As for the number of spectators, well, only God knows.  There are two more there at Golgotha – two standing near the cross and near one another – Mary, the mother of Jesus, and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

Our text for tonight, recorded in John 19:26-27 reads, “When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’  Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’  And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

These words are some of the most compassionate, tender, and heart-moving words written in the history of the world or heard by the ears of man.  Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God and Redeemer of all, is crucified, and from His vantage point He beholds the world below Him.  Jesus looks down from the cursed cross and sees His mother.

While in her womb, her blood carried nutrients to His blood that would be shed for the remission of sin, her sin included.  While in her arms, her milk fed His body that would be broken for the life of the world, her life included.  Jesus, who has always known all things, learned what a mother’s love was.  Ah yes, there were those cherished days when the boy Jesus lifted up His eyes and looked into His mother’s eyes.

On the Friday before that one Passover, at The Place of the Skull, it is Mary who lifts up her tear-filled eyes and looks into her Son’s eyes.  “When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!'”

Woman!?  Upon first hearing it, the word “woman” seems not quite right.  Why did Jesus say “to His mother, ‘Woman'”?  One possibility, I suppose, is that Jesus might be sparing her further torment by calling her “mother.”  If that doesn’t seem reasonable, imagine what it would have done to her if Jesus had called out to her with the word “mama.”

A second idea is an extension of the first, namely that Jesus, in order to spare her any more anguish, distanced himself from His mother by calling her “woman.”  However, given the Biblical record regarding the conduct of our Lord and the context of these verses, it seems unlikely that this is the reason.

A third reason offered is that “woman” was a common manner of address that men in that culture used of mothers, grown sisters and adult daughters.  After all, according to this line of thought, when Mary came to her grown Son at the wedding in Cana with the report of the lack of wine, “Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, what have you to do with Me?’  My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).  Here in Cana in Galilee, with “this, the first of His signs,” (John 2:11) we have what appears to be the reason, but it is not the cultural reason.

It is something else for us to remember that “Jesus, when He began His ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23).  And from this we understand that Jesus is more noticeably His mother’s Savior and Lord and Redeemer.  Mary is now a disciple and member of the congregation in which her Son, Jesus, is the Head.  Therefore this Man left his foster-father and mother and cleaved to His Bride, the Church.

That is particularly true on the cross where we find Jesus about His Father’s business, not His mother’s business.  This is not a putdown in any way.  Jesus is doing the will of the One who sent Him; specifically to be and to open the Way to Paradise for the world which includes the woman named Mary, the woman who served as the temple of God for nine months, the mother of Jesus.

“When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!'”  “Woman, standing near you is John, the disciple whom I love.  Woman, he is your son.  He is family.  He is one of yours.  Consider him to be My brother.”

Earlier Jesus stretched out His hand toward His disciples and “said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers'” (Matthew 12:49).  Herein is the Church.  The LORD, says Martin Luther in the Large Catechism, “has a unique community in the world.  It is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God.”  Behold the Church at the foot of the cross!  With His hands stretched out in the offering of the ages, “Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!'”  “O woman, John is your son, he is My brother, and he is a member of our family.  He is one of My gifts to you, and he is there in My place.”

“Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!'”  “Dear brother, this woman is now your mother.  Take heed to yourself and to her, in which I have made you a guardian, to provide for Her all that she needs in body, soul and spirit.  Give her water and the Daily Bread.  She is in your care, and you are called to remind her of My Word in the up-coming days and then in those years when she is older.”  “And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

The meaning of this is not that John escorted Mary from the site of the crucifixion at that very instant, but rather, from that moment on he was to care for her, which meant being at her side, and encouraging her, caring for her, and supporting her.  Thus John stayed with her at the foot of the cross that she might behold Her Savior as they all looked forward to the Day of Resurrection even as Mary and her Son looked into each other’s eyes on Good Friday when Jesus said, “Woman, behold, thy son.”

With all these relational dynamics going on we are reminded that Christ, the Son of Mary, the Son of David, the Son of God, was on that cross suffering and dying for the sins of the world – your sins, my sins, His mother’s sins – and all those to whom He spoke the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

His suffering and death brings about the reality that you and I can indeed know in no uncertain terms that when Jesus says to the dying thief, “Today you will be with Me in paradise,” that those words are sure for you too.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.