************ Sermon on John 19:25-27 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 23, 2014
"The Third Word from the Cross"
Third Message Lent 2014
This year for Lent we are looking at the seven words of Jesus from the cross. Seven words that He said as He was suffering and dying. Which made me ask, "What have other famous people said as they were dying?" This led me on a Google search. The results were mostly dismal and disappointing. Listen to some of them:
-Humphrey Bogart - "Goodbye Kid. Hurry back."
-Buddha - "Work hard to gain your own salvation."
-Kurt Cobain - "It's better to burn out than to fade away."
-Salvador Dali - "I do not believe in my death."
-Mother Teresa (one of the few good ones I found) - "Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you."
After spending an hour reading these mostly dismal and disappointing last words, I asked myself, "Okay, what will be my last words?" If my wife was there, I am sure I would say something about my love for her (we had our 38th wedding anniversary this week). If my sons and their wives and children were there, I think I would say something about serving Jesus. Or maybe, my last words would be just as dismal and disappointing as the ones I read this past week.
Jesus was not a victim on the Friday we call "Good." He was a participant. He knew what was happening. He thought through ahead of time what He was going to say. So, we have seven phrases or sentences recorded for us and our benefit as He suffered and died upon the cross.
Today, John tells us about four women who were near the cross: "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene" (Jn 19:25). We know nothing about "Mary the wife of Clopas"; but, the other three are well known to us.
These four women were not idle spectators, like were so many in Jerusalem that day. They were there because they loved Jesus. They risked their lives to be with Jesus as He hung upon the cross. They were bewildered, heart-broken, sorrowful, scared – but they were there near the cross because they wanted to be.
I want to look at the third word of the cross from the eyes of the three women who are known to us.
I Mary, the Mother of Jesus
A First of all, there was Mary, the mother of Jesus. What was she thinking as she stood there at the cross? There was a time when Mary treasured in her heart all the things about Jesus (Lk 2:51).
But suddenly her world came crashing down. Wasn't her boy, her son, supposed to be the Messiah, the Son of God? Why, then, was He hanging upon the cross? What is happening? This isn't the way she thought it would go.
I doubt if Mary was treasuring what was happening at the cross. Instead, I am sure her thoughts were going back to the prophecy of Simeon some thirty years earlier. Do you remember what Simeon said?
(Lk 2:34-35) ... This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.Yes, thought Mary, this is what is happening now. A sword is piercing my soul as I watch my boy, my son, suffer and die.
Treasure. Pierce. Those were the two things Mary experienced because of Jesus. She treasured what was said about Him at His birth. She treasured His teachings. She treasured His miracles. She treasured how calm He remained in the midst of storms. She treasured the cries of the Palm Sunday crowds. And, her soul was pierced by the gossip in Nazareth, the flight into Egypt, the dead babies of Bethlehem. Her soul was pierced when the people of her hometown rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Her soul was pierced when the spiritual leaders of the people attacked and criticized and tried to entrap Jesus. Her soul was pierced when the crowds yelled for His crucifixion. Her soul was pierced when she watched her son shoulder the cross and carry it up Golgotha Hill.
Treasure. Pierce. And now love. A fierce love. A mother's love. Her presence there at the cross was the most natural thing in the world. "Jesus, keep me near the cross ..." Jesus might be a criminal in the eyes of the law, but He was her son. So we see a mother's enduring love as we watch Mary standing near the cross.
B Jesus said to His mother, "Dear woman, here is your son." Jesus said to John, "Here is your mother" (Jn 19:26-27). Do you realize what these words tell us? It is clear that Mary's husband, Joseph, was long gone from the scene and that Mary was a widow. It is clear that Jesus, as the oldest, looked after His mother's welfare. When Joseph died, Jesus took over Joseph's carpentry business; no wonder He was known as the carpenter (Mk 6:3). Now we know why there is no mention of Joseph after the infancy stories.
Jesus said to His mother, "Dear woman, here is your son." Jesus said to John, "Here is your mother" (Jn 19:26-27). Jesus was suffering and dying. So what does He do? He appoints someone to look after His mother. He is in perfect and complete obedience to the fifth commandment – "Honor your father and mother." He fulfils the law even while hanging upon the cross. His is all righteousness. He is the perfect son.
C Jesus said to His mother, "Dear woman, here is your son." Jesus said to John, "Here is your mother" (Jn 19:26-27). We know Jesus has brothers and sisters (Mt 12:46-47; 13:55-56). How come one of them is not charged with the care of Mary? And, how come John is the one picked to take care of Mary?
As compared to Jesus' brothers and sisters, there is something special about Mary and John. Mary and John believe in Jesus, they accept Him as Savior and Lord, whereas Jesus' brothers – and presumably sisters – "did not believe in him" (Jn 7:5).
Now notice what happens. Jesus is on the cross. Below Him are two of those who believe in Him.
(Jn 19:26-27) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," (27) and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.Do you realize what was happening here? Beneath the cross of Jesus a new fellowship was created. The blood of Christ formed a new community. Through His redemptive work upon the cross Jesus forged a new fellowship of the redeemed. We know it as the Church!
Up to that time the community of God's people was based on physical descent. To be one of God's people meant to be a physical descendant of Abraham. Almost everyone in the family of God was a blood relative.
But now there is a new community, a new family, a new fellowship of God's people. This one is not based on physical descent but on spiritual descent. It isn't blood lines but a common belief in Christ that unites this new fellowship.
In His third word from the cross Jesus forged this new community:
(Jn 19:26-27) ... he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."Mary and John were joined together by the Lord because of their common belief. And, if we believe, we too are part of that new community, that new fellowship, of love and concern.
Now think about this. Mary was broken-hearted, crushed, devastated. The future suddenly looked so unsure and even a little scary. But Jesus tells her she is not alone, she is part of a family that will provide for her in her time of need.
Maybe you are in the same spot as Mary – alone, scared, afraid, anxious. Beneath the cross of Jesus you are not alone. You are not on your own. You are part of a family, the family of God.
Maybe you are in the same spot as John. The Lord puts people in your life that need your help, your support, your care, you love. In Christ they are your mother, your brother, your sister, your son, your daughter. In Christ they are your responsibility to love and help.
There is an old hymn we sing, "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross." But do we mean these words? If we were in Jerusalem back then would we have wanted to be near the cross? Would we have been brave enough to follow Jesus as He climbed Golgotha Hill and stand by Him as He died? Or, would we have been hiding and fearful like all the disciples except for John?
"Jesus keep me near the cross ..." Because it is there that we love and are loved.
II His Mother's Sister
A The second lady near the cross is a woman identified as "his mother's sister." John doesn't tell us her name. He simply tells us that she is the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Both Matthew and Mark make it clear that this woman was Salome, the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of James and John, the apostles of Jesus.
What do we know about Salome? Not much. But Scripture does tell us of one incident concerning her. When Jesus was near the height of His ministry, Salome came to Jesus with her sons. She wanted to ask Jesus a favor. Do you remember what she asked?
(Mt 20:21) "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." (22) "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?"When the other ten disciples heard about this they were indignant with the two brothers – and presumably – their mother (Mt 20:24). Telling us what? Telling us that Salome wants the best for her children. Telling us Salome can be a mama bear when it comes to her children. She was going to defend them and promote them and advance their careers.
Many parents, probably most parents, are like Salome. During the Winter Olympics a couple of weeks ago the TV cameras occasionally zoomed in on the parents of different athletes. They clapped and smiled with pride if things went well. They held their hand before their mouth if things went bad. They pulled a face if the judges gave a low score. But go to a little league game. Or a highschool game. Parents are the same there.
B Do you remember what Jesus asked James and John when Salome made her request? He asked, "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" "We can," they answered (Mt 20:22).
With this in mind, how do you think Salome was feeling as she was standing near the cross? Do you think she realized that if Jesus granted her request, it would have been James and John hanging with Jesus on the cross? Do you think she realized they would have been the ones crucified with the Lord? Do you think she realizes how foolish her request was? Does Salome realize the cup Jesus is drinking contains the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race?
We don't know the answer to any of these questions. But we do know she wanted to give her boys an advantage, a boost, in life. And, she wanted to do so at the expense of the other disciples. Like I said, a mama bear.
C Now, in this light, consider Jesus' third word from the cross. Jesus said to His mother, "Dear woman, here is your son." Jesus said to John, "Here is your mother" (Jn 19:26-27).
Salome wanted some advantage for her boys. And suddenly, just like that, Jesus made irrelevant all of her efforts. Because we are all one big family. Because we all look after one another. Because we all serve one another (cf Mt 21:25-28).
In my office I have a small book entitled, "God's One Another Plan." It highlights the "one another" passages of the Bible – passages that tell us what we are called to do for "one another" within the fellowship of believers:
-Love one another (Jn 13:34-35, Gal 5:14)
-Encourage one another (Heb 3:13; 10:24-25)
-Be devoted to one another (Rom 12:10)
-Build up one another (Rom 14:19; 1 Thess 5:11)
-Be kind to one another (1 Thess 5:15)
-Accept one another (Rom 15:7)
-Serve one another (Gal 5:13)
-Have concern for one another (1 Cor 12:25)
-Confess your sins to one another (Jm 5:16)
-Forgive one another (Eph 4:32)
-Pray for one another (Jm 5:16)
-Don't judge one another (Rom 14:13)
-Don't slander one another (Jm 4:11)
Beneath the cross of Jesus there is no position more important than any other. Beneath the cross of Jesus we all are responsible for one another. "Jesus keep me near the cross ..."
III Mary Magdalene
A The third lady standing near the cross is Mary Magdalene. This Mary came from Magdala, a prosperous fishing village on the Sea of Galilee.
What do we know about Mary Magdalene? She was one of a host of women who followed Jesus after being cured by Jesus. We are told Mary of Magdala had seven demons that Jesus cast out (Lk 8:2).
The life of Mary Magdalene must have been hellish. Seven evil spirits afflicted her. Seven workmen of Satan did their evil work within her. Consider what we are told about demon possession in the Bible:
-a man cried out in the synagogue (Mk 1:23)
-another man could not be tied down, even with chains, and cut himself with stones (Mk 5:3-5)
-a herd of pigs drowned themselves in the lake (Mk 5:13)
-a boy threw himself to the ground in a convulsion (Lk 9:42)
We don't know what happened to Mary Magdalene but we have to imagine it was something equally bad. People kept their distance from her. Parents warned their children about her. She was ostracized. She was an outcast in her own community.
Then one day Jesus came and commanded those demons to come out of her. Jesus redeemed her and saved her and freed her.
B Jesus said to His mother, "Dear woman, here is your son." Jesus said to John, "Here is your mother" (Jn 19:26-27). What did Mary of Magdala hear when Jesus said this third word from the cross?
Put yourself in her sandals. You have been an outcast. People have kept their distance from you. You frightened children. What do you hear as you stand near the cross? You hear, there is a place for me. You hear, I have a family. You hear, I am part of a loving group. You hear, someone loves me and cares for me and I belong. Beneath the cross of Jesus she found a home, a resting place.
Beneath the cross of Jesus we find a home, a place of rest and security. Beneath the cross of Jesus we find a family of believers who love us and care for us.
So our prayer is, "Jesus, keep me near the cross." We are going to sing this song. Is this your prayer? Is this your heart's desire?
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