229. Women at the Cross (John 19:25-27)*
Apart from John's very indirect allusion to himself as present
at the crucifixion, the gospels give no hint of the other apostles being there.
Yet Peter was at Golgotha-"a witness of the sufferings of Christ" (1 Pet. 5 :1).
Now, as he beheld his Master suffering alone, with what pangs of self-reproach
he would think of the harrowing experiences of the previous night.
Possibly others of the apostolic band were there also,
mingling as obscurely as possible with the crowd. But if they were there, the
reference to them is veiled. Luke records that "all his acquaintance stood afar
off beholding these things." That phrase seems to include the apostles. Is it
then because of their desertion of him that they are not named as
This loneliness in suffering is another of the aspects of the
Lord's sacrifice which is dwelt upon more than once in the prophecies of his
rejection. "My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen
stand afar off" (Ps.38 ill). "Thou hast put mine acquaintance far from me; Lover
and friend hast thou put far from me; mine acquaintance is darkness" (88:8,18).
"Because of all mine adversaries I am become a reproach, yea, unto my neighbours
exceedingly, and a fear to mine acquaintances: they that did see me without fled
from me" (31 :11RV; note that verse 5 here was quoted by Jesus on the
Some of the women seem to have taken courage to come right up
to the cross. "Perfect love casteth out fear." Possibly, after a while, they
were given permission by the centurion in charge. The expression: "when Jesus
saw his mother," implies that they were not there close to the cross all the
time. Along with Mary was her sister Salome (Mk.15 :40), the wife of Zebedee and
mother of James and John, and also Mary Magdalene and the other Mary the wife of
Cleophas (Alphaeus), the mother of at least one of the Twelve (Study
These were a few out of a larger group of women who had made
it their special concern to see that Jesus was suitably and properly cared for
as he travelled up to Jerusalem from Galilee. Probably from the earliest days of
his ministry there were some who had devoted themselves to serving the Lord in
this way. It is eloquent of their attachment to him that they were now prepared
to stand by him in sympathy and grief, even though the horror of the scene
harrowed their souls.
But this was no place for the Lord's mother—she had not
only borne him, she had reared him, taught him, cooked and sewed and scrubbed
for him. She had given him good counsel and been counselled by him. She had
known his friendship and rejoiced in his love. From his earliest days it was
foretold that because of him "a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also."
That bitter experience had been Mary's already when she had found herself
disowned by her best Son (Study 77).
As time passed., her faith in him had been reborn. But now, in
a different sense, a sword pierced her soul as she found herself witnessing and
sharing his agony. It was an experience from which he fain would save
So with moving economy of phrase, he said to her: "Behold thy
son." The ambiguity of the words was immediately removed by the instruction to
John: "Behold thy mother." This was the Lord's last will and testament. To his
mother he bequeathed his beloved disciple as a son in his stead. To his disciple
he bequeathed the care of his mother. And who more fitted to receive and care
for Mary than he? Up to this time the rest of the Lord's family did not believe
on him. But John understood and loved him more than almost any; and he was
Jesus' cousin. So it was right that Mary should be in his care.
Here for all time the principle was enunciated, and given
practical expression by the Lord himself, that the father or mother or brother
or sister in Christ is a far closer relation than those of the same blood
or the same roof who do not know the Lord. Mary was not left to the care of
James or Joses or Simon or Judas or any of the sisters in that Nazareth
This trust: "Behold thy mother," involved a change of status
for John. He was now accepted as brother of Jesus. Hitherto Jesus had
referred to his followers as servants (Jn. 15 :15) and disciples, and at last as
friends. But now here was the first hint of a higher relationship, brought into
being through his own death. His word on the morning of resurrection: "Go. tell
my brethren. . ." appropriately marked, by his first use of that
word, the coming to birth of a New Family.
Rightly interpreting his instructions, John took Mary to his
own home "from that hour." Doubtless accompanied by his own mother also, he
promptly lead her away from Golgotha. All attempts at consolation would be
ineffective by comparison with her own cherished memory of how once, years
before, in Jerusalem at another Passover she had lost her Son, only to find him
again "among his Father's men" on the third day!
When John knew that Mary was in good hands and comforted, he
returned without loss of time to Golgotha. His love for his Lord would not allow
him to stay away. And thus in later days he was able to write out of his own
personal experience: "He that saw it bear record, and his record is