Witnesses: Mary and John
Jesus is being crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem. The place is called Calvary or Gogaltha.
Mary, in the midst of her heart ache and sorrow looks up to her son while John hold and embraces her. Listen to their story.
John: I walked with Him through crowds with him, hundreds pressing in from all sides. Everybody wanted to be near Jesus. There was no way that He could see them all, but He felt…He felt their hurts and their needs. And so many times He would stop and right there in the midst of the masses He ministered to the individual.
We were always trying to rush Him. We thought we were protecting Him. (chuckles) We just didn’t understand.
And then…on that day…as He hung there…He looked at me and He just caught me off guard. He suffered so much…I can’t describe it.
And He looked down at me and in the midst of His pain, He had to take care of one more person. He said, “Take care of my mom.”
He called me “brother”. I loved Him like a brother. And for that moment, that’s where we were.
Mary buried her head in my chest. And she just wept. I looked up at Him and I nodded.
A little later, He breathed His last…to open the door so that everyone could be a part of the family.
Mary the Mother of Jesus: I don’t know why, but this time…when we came to Jerusalem for Passover, I brought this with me. (she holds up the blanket) Something tugged at my heart as we walked out that day to travel here. Something told me that this little piece of cloth would comfort me. So I ran back inside, and opened the tiny basket I had it hidden away in. And I tucked it under my clothes, close to my heart, so I would not lose it. To you, it’s just an old cloth. A rag for cleaning up spills or scouring pots. But to me, it’s a reminder. A reminder that my Lord had a plan for my son. His son.
You see, this is the cloth I wrapped him in the night he was born. That night when we stumbled into that stable. That night when a star stopped over where I laid him in a manger. Where the shepherds came and the angels sang. That night my heart fell in love with a baby, and broke at the same time.
Because I always knew I could never keep him. I kept a lock of his hair, a picture of his footprints and hands, I saved this cloth I wrapped him in the night he was born, I kept all these things…but I couldn’t keep him. At least, not in the way I wanted to.
My son died today. They killed him on a cross. All these years, I was afraid I would lose him. All these years I was afraid of today. But now I realize, if I had not lost my son today, I would not have been found by my Lord. My son died today. But my Lord was born today. And I miss my son. But I will see him soon.
And I will keep this until then.
In the Gospel of John, as Christ was crucified, only a few people actually remained there. This is what we read: “Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25) If you turn to the other gospels, you’ll see some differences in who was there specifically. Some list additional figures like Salome, or the mother of the sons of Zebedee, and then one Gospel lists simply that the women of Galilee were there.
All of the gospels show that there was an abundance of faithful women (and not men) who attended to Jesus at his death. This points, once more, to the important role women played within the Jesus movement. They were strong, faithful and leaders in a way that paved the way for what it looks like to love God with everything we have…but this isn’t the sole focus of John 19… As we continue reading through John 19, our attention shifts from the gathered women, solely to Jesus hanging on the cross, as he looks at two of these witnesses, Mary (his mother) and John ‘the disciple whom He loved,’ standing beside her. As Jesus looks at these two witnesses, his mom and one of his disciples, he offers up his last will and testament.
Jesus with his life all but over, does this great thing. He gives Mary and John (and all of us) clear instructions. From the cross, with his words, Jesus offers up his last will and testament, his parting instructions for life after his death. I’ve always considered this to be Jesus’ estate plan. He shares instructions for executing his family trust. So, he offers his last will and testament, and it is unlike any will or estates we might put together or inherit. Jesus’ last will and testament has nothing to do with his investments, assets, property or family heirlooms…it has everything to do with our relationships. Instead of leaving something for them, he leaves them with each other. They are to inherit each other. He says, “’Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’” (John 19:26-27)
In his dying breath Jesus gives his mother a new son, and to John he entrusts a new mother to care for and support. As he dies on the cross, Jesus entrusts the life and welfare of one another to his followers, and what’s more is that he places upon these new relationships the value we reserve only for our closest family….No longer do we depend solely upon our own flesh and blood to define our family, because we are all to be family for one another by the grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus creates within the world a new understanding of family. No longer will our first loyalty be to our own tribe, nation or clan, because whoever does the will of God’ will become our mothers, sisters, brothers, and fathers.
From the cross, with Mary and John, Jesus creates this new community that would become family to the widow and orphan, the outcast and stranger. That would do the things he did all throughout his earthly ministry, and Jesus entrusts this responsibility to us, thus fulfilling the promise He made at the beginning of John’s gospel, where we read, “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) Through Christ, we become one family. As Mary and John turn toward each other, this family promise is realized, and we inherit our new way forward in light of the Cross.