March 25, 2005

Jesus and Mary

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Good Friday Scripture: John 19:23–27


Jesus and Mary

John 19:23-27
Good Friday, March 25, 2005 (First Baptist, Asbury Park, NJ)
Pastor Randy Smith

In 1 Corinthians 2, the Apostle Paul said, "I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). Two thousand years later, we still live in a world where: Bigger is better, power is pre-eminence, self is supreme and humility is helplessness. To the modern mind, like it was to the ancient world, knowing Christ and Him crucified is a joke! What good can ever come from a Messiah dying on a cross? What good can ever come with a God who has wounds? Paul was an educated man. Why would he choose to boast in nothing, "Except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

Well, as ironic as it may sound, Christians know the cross represents God at His finest. We see a majestic heavenly Father who would rather punish His Son than give us the just wrath that we deserve. We see a God who is uncompromising in His character, displaying perfect justice against sin and yet perfect love for those who still sin. We see a God who humbly became man and willingly became not only our substitute, but also our example in doing the Father's will over His own. We see a God who identified with us and experienced real temptation, real suffering and real abandonment. Yes, the cross reveals the greatness of our God!

Along these lines, the Apostle John in his gospel recorded the dramatic hours of Christ's crucifixion. Here we have an x-ray into the heart of Jesus. The physical agony as He gasped for air and the spiritual torment as He bore the Father's wrath, uncover and prove, in their silence, His mission of mercy.

However, our Savior was not without words. A close look at our Lord's final words reveals that heart of mercy in His final and most desperate hours. He had seven saying altogether; three of them are recorded in the gospel of John. In John 19:26-27 we see one of those final sayings from our Lord. We see Christ's mercy for His mother.

Verse 25 records four women who followed Jesus to His point of crucifixion. In contrast to the soldiers who abused Jesus and the many disciples who forsook Jesus, these women faithfully (as they could not be apart from Jesus) and courageously (as it was dangerous to be associated with a criminal of Rome) kept vigil at the foot of the cross. John tells us that one of these ladies in verse 25 was Mary, the mother of Jesus. In verse 26-27 he adds, the "beloved disciple," most likely the Apostle John himself was also in the company of these four women.

Even in the midst of limitless pain, Jesus' heart went out to the hearts that were breaking around Him. Primarily, He could feel His mother's agony.

I'm sure every mother can identify with her sorrow. The infant she nursed, the boy she held was now losing His life before her very eyes as a young man. The mother watched with that unnatural feeling of helplessness. Erwin Lutzer said, "She sees the crown of thorns but cannot remove it; she sees the nails but is not allowed to pull them out; she sees the lacerations but is not able to soothe her Son's pain with salve; she hears the mockery but is not able to quiet the crowd" (Lutzer, Erwin. Cries from the Cross, p. 77). Mary saw the soldiers gambling for Christ's tunic (Jn. 19:23-24), most likely a gift (according to historians) that she made for her Son. That eerie prophecy was being fulfilled before her eyes. Remember Simeon? "A sword will pierce [your]…soul, [Mary]" (Lk. 2:35a). One commentator said, "If Christ was the Man of Sorrows, was she not the woman of sorrows" (Pink, A.W. The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross, p. 48)? Every mother can most definitely identify with her pain.

How much more could Jesus, the omniscient One identify with Mary's pain?

As the eldest son of a single parent home was departing from this world, Mary would need another to protect and provide for her needs. So as a demonstration of His mercy, Jesus made arrangements in His most desperate hour to care for His mother. Turning to John, He said, "Behold, your mother" (Jn. 19:27)! And to Mary He said, "Woman, behold, your son" (Jn. 19:26)! Verse 27 adds, "From that hour the disciple took her into his own household." And contrary to Catholic teaching, we see Mary coming in under the headship of John, not John ("the ideal disciple") coming under Mary, the so-called mother of the church.

As Jesus spoke these words, there is no doubt in this account that we see a son's mercy for His mother. But at a higher level we see a Savior's mercy for His sheep. Especially throughout this Gospel we learn that Jesus came to purchase a new family, not a physical family, but a spiritual family (Mt. 25:40; Mk. 3:33-35). Maybe that is why He first asked the Apostle John and by-passed His four unbelieving physical brothers as potential caretakers for Mary. 

One author wrote, "Our Lord brings into being the brotherhood of believers.  He fashions the fellowship of the household of faith.  This is the new society, which is not segregated according to race or nationality.  It is not predicated upon social standing or economic power.  It consists of those whose faith meets at the cross, and whose experience of forgiveness flows from the cross" (DiGangi, Mariano. Words from the Cross, p. 21-22).

Proof for this new spiritual family may be found in the fact that we have no biblical evidence that Jesus ever called Mary His mother. Even in this intimate account He calls her "woman." The mother had to realize that she was actually created and adopted by the Son. The mother of Jesus had to realize that she was first a disciple of Jesus also in need of the very salvation Christ came to purchase.  And that's where we find her, with other sinners gathered at the foot of the cross. In Luke 1:47 she said at His birth, "My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior." Now at His death He was purchasing that salvation. Ultimately, this was not just the caring heart of her son. This was the caring heart of her Savior and Lord - a heart of mercy that Jesus demonstrates not only to Mary, but also to all who belong to His spiritual family.

Yet before we close this saying, there is possibly the highest theological point that still needs to be considered. Jesus Christ came to be our substitute. He received all our sin and took our place on the cross. As our substitute, He also gave us His perfect righteousness so that we might be declared "not guilty" before the tribunal of God (Dt. 27:26).

However, to give us this perfect righteousness as our substitute, He had to live a perfectly righteous life under the Law Himself (Gal. 4:4). To qualify as our substitute, Christ had to do what we could not do for ourselves. He had to be sinless. He had to follow the Law perfectly. He had to "fulfill all righteousness" (Mt. 3:15; cf. Jn. 4:34; 8:29).

Part of the Law (as you know) is the commandment to honor our mother and father (Ex. 20:12; Mk. 10:19). We all fail to fulfill the Law perfectly in this area. Hence, we sin. But here we see Jesus Christ in His final moments before death honoring His mother, and perfectly fulfilling the law until the end. Consider this: Had Jesus ignored the needs of Mary He would have disqualified Himself from being our substitute and thus our Savior. Of course Jesus cared for Mary, but in dying as our substitute He had a higher motive in mind.

So in this third saying we praise the Lord for perfectly fulfilling the law and then driven by unspeakable mercy, purchasing forgiveness for Mary and all those in His spiritual family. 

What a beauty of the cross! May we be determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified today and every day!

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