The Third Word:
“Dear woman, here is your son.”
Copyright © 2007, Linda E. S. Roberts. For permission to use this picture, please contact Mark.
As Jesus was dying, his mother was among those who had remained with him. Most of the male disciples had fled, with the exception of one whom the Fourth Gospel calls “the disciple he loved.” We can’t be exactly sure of the identity of this beloved disciple, though most interpreters believe he is John, who is also the one behind the writing of this Gospel.
No matter who the beloved disciple was, it’s clear that Jesus was forging a relationship between this disciple and his mother, one in which the disciple would take care of Mary financially and in other ways. Jesus wanted to make sure she would be in good hands after his death.
The presence of Mary at the cross adds both humanity and horror to the scene. We are reminded that Jesus was a real human being, a man who had once been a boy who had once been a baby carried in the womb of his mother. Even as he was dying on the cross as the Savior of the world, Jesus was also a son, a role he didn’t neglect in his last moments.
When we think of the crucifixion of Jesus from the perspective of his mother, our horror increases dramatically. The death of a child is one of the most painful of all parental experiences. To watch one’s beloved child experience the extreme torture of crucifixion must have been unimaginably terrible. We’re reminded of the prophecy of Simeon shortly after Jesus’ birth, when he said to Mary: “And a sword will pierce your very soul” (Luke 2:35).
This scene helps us not to glorify or over-spiritualize the crucifixion of Jesus. He was a real man, true flesh and blood, a son of a mother, dying with unbearable agony. His suffering was altogether real, and he took it on for you and for me.
Questions for Reflection
What does Mary’s presence at the cross evoke in you? Why do you think was it necessary for Jesus to suffer physical pain as he died?
Lord Jesus, the presence of your mother at the cross engages my heart. You are no longer only the Savior dying for the sins of the world. You are also a fully human man, a son with a mother.
O Lord, how can I begin to thank you for what you suffered? My words fall short. My thoughts seem superficial and vague. Nevertheless, I offer my sincere gratitude for your suffering. Thank you for bearing my sin on the cross. I give you my praise, my love, my heart . . . all that I am, because you have given me all that you are.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, fully God and fully human, Savior of the world . . . my Savior! Amen.
Resources for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter
The Seven Last Words of Christ: Reflections for Holy Week
(the seven-part series, of which today’s post is part 3)