John 19:26 – Woman, behold your son
In the Gospel of John, we have a unique record of a phrase that Jesus says to his mother as she stands at the foot of the cross along with some others there with her. I will now read from John 19:25-27:
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[b] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
In this moment Jesus is nailed to the cross. We know from the gospel of Mark that Jesus was crucified and alive on the cross from the 3rd to the 9th hour. During this time his clothes are being gambled for by the soldiers, he is being ridiculed and mocked, and he is slowly dying.
Nearby he spots 3 women, his mother, his mother’s sister and Mary Magdalene. Near to them is also a man who is called his dearly loved disciple. He addresses his mother first, saying to her, “Woman, here is your son.” As you consider this phrase from the cross and the few words that are uttered during Jesus’ hours long crucifixion, it is no small measure that Jesus is able to speak at all.
The first part of this saying is the address ‘Woman.’ This is the second time in recent weeks where I have come across Jesus speaking to his mother and he calls her ‘Woman’ – which is also recorded in John 2 at the wedding in Cana. For me it is such a jarring term that brings a harshness to my mind and it takes some time to discover the purpose and intent behind it. This address is actually quite respectful as in saying madam or lady.
The love and care Jesus has for his mother is shown in what follows for even during such suffering, he looks upon those gathered and draws the strength to make his desire known that his mother will be looked after once he dies.
There is not a lot recorded for us regarding Jesus and his earthly family during his ministry. What we do see is that he spoke with respect to Mary and in his words, he demonstrates a love that is expected of all God’s children. What we also see is that Jesus creates a model for caring as a Heavenly family that is echoed later in the New Testament.
The second part of this phrase states, “… here is your son.” It is clear from the context of the book and the passages in what I read at the beginning from John 19:25-27, Jesus is speaking about the disciple who was with her. We also know this disciple was John.
John’s whole gospel account is that of an eye witness and so it contains information that is not in the other 3 gospels. This is the only account of this conversation as John was the only disciple present with the women. The same phrase from John 19:26 – the disciple Jesus loved - is also used in John 20:2 at the discovery of the empty tomb. It seems to be a way that John referred to himself rather than by name. We know the resurrected Jesus appeared to the full 11 disciples as they gathered, but it was John alongside Peter who inspected the strips of linen and the empty tomb on the third day.
From this phrase of the cross, “Woman, here is your son”, we see that Mary is to consider John as though he is now her son. In turn John is to consider Mary as his mother. John is to care for Mary and look after her even though she has other children. We see in John 19:27 that he then took Mary into his home to care for her from that day forward.
This model of love and care is further echoed in Paul’s later New Testament writings. In 1 Timothy 5:4. Paul is writing to Timothy and amongst his instruction is for children and grandchildren to look after widows in particular. They are told that this is to be their first ministry to their own family “for this is pleasing to God.”
From the dying words of Jesus to ensure his mother is looked after, to the mentoring of Paul to young Timothy, we see the importance of looking after our family as a ministry. It is pleasing to God that we first look after our own and we see this shown in those last excruciating moments as Jesus hung on the cross. He spots his mother. He spots his dearly loved disciple John and he brings them together so that his mother will be cared for even after Jesus is gone.
This article is also available on the podcast, More Than a Cake Stall, Season 3.