Woman, behold your son.

A meditation offered at the annual Seven Last Words of Jesus Good Friday Service (East Bay Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance)

The Third Word

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” And then he said to his disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (John 19:26-27)

How did we get here? How did we get to this place? How is it that we come here to stand at the foot of the cross with Mary and John and hear these words: “Woman, behold your son.”

What earthly good is it for us to experience this moment? Isn’t there enough pain in our world already? Don’t we struggle enough in our lives? Isn’t there already more than enough suffering?Haven’t we already seen too many sons and daughters, brothers and sisters go to their deaths too soon? Violence, disease, hopelessness – don’t we all know too many friends whose lives are weighed down by too many griefs? Some days it seems like all we do is live Good Friday lives. None of us here wants to hear these words, to see this cross, to once again be part of this suffering.

Woman, behold your son.

Well I’m sorry, but I don’t want to behold. I don’t want to because I know that if I look up to behold, I know what I’ll see. I know that I’ll see what Mary did when she looked up to behold her son. When she looked up, she looked into the eyes of death; the eyes of failure. What she saw were the eyes of hopelessness and loss.

Woman, behold your son.

The truth is, though none of wants to admit it, we need this moment between mother and son. We need to see Mary for the radical leader that she is. We need to see because as she leads us to the foot of the cross where none of us ever wants to go, we know she doesn’t want to go either. What mother would?

Surely she remembers the angelic visions that invited her to take up mothering before she was ready – when she said: If that’s what God wants.. then here I am, servant of the Lord.” Surely she must have remembered when she and Joseph took Jesus to the temple and the prophets stood there and said amazing things about his future… and also hard things. Surely she was remembering a wedding where they ran out of wine. And she pushed him a little bit and said – “You can take care of this and make it an even better party.”

No. I can’t imagine that Mary or any mother or father would want to be there. And yet, as Jesus’ mother, it’s exactly where she needs to be – and it’s exactly where we need to be. As Mary leads us to the cross, she is telling us that why we need to go.

Because it’s there in the midst of rejection we will find love;
it’s there in the midst of suffering we will find healing;
it’s there in the midst of violence and pain we can find peace;
it’s there in the midst of fear and grief where the seeds of faith are planted deeply.
It’s there that her faith and ours becomes real.

But maybe most importantly of all, we need this moment between Jesus and his mother because Jesus needs it too. He needs to know that his mother will be cared for. He needs to know that although he didn’t always do right by her, here in his last moments, he’s got to try to make it right.

I’m sure he was remembering too – remembering that not too long ago, when his mother came looking for him, like many adult children, busy with their own lives, he brushed her off. I’m sure he remembered when he said: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” when he told her that the world had a greater claim on him – that all men were his brothers, all women were his sisters, his mother. And while we can thank God for that because Jesus includes us, too, how much that must have hurt her mother’s heart. And surely Jesus remembered in that moment on the cross.

“Woman, behold your son.”
He said to his disciple: “Here is your mother.”

We need this moment at the foot of the cross because we need to hear these words – because these are the only words in these seven that force us to look at the cross and to look beyond it.

We need these words because as mothers and fathers watch their beloved children grow and change, as grandparents celebrate the possibilities of their grandbabies, we know there will be suffering. We know there will be pain. We know there will be mistakes made, consequences paid. But when we stand with Mary at the foot of the cross we know we don’t stand alone.

“Woman, behold your son.”
He said to his disciple: “Here is your mother.”

So yes, we will go with Mary to the foot of the cross. Because there will find our strength, and our hope and there we will find what it means to be called by God and to answer that call with a resounding YES!

2 thoughts on “Woman, behold your son.

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