Tuesday, April 7, #3: John 19:26–27: “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother”
Written by Rev. Dr. Anna Petrin, Associate Professor of Worship and Chapel Elder, Wesley Theological Seminary (DC)
“The Goodness of Good Friday”
John 19:26-27: When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
From the time I was a small kid, I learned that I could handle almost any physical or psychological pain without crying. That is, until I saw my Mom. Broken ankles, failed tests, getting dumped, speeding tickets: you name it. In the face of disappointment, failure, or hurt, I wouldn’t cry … until I set eyes on my Mom’s face. Only then would I proceed to become the mushy puddle of sniffles and sadness that had been locked in my heart all along. This remains true even today, so much so that I will actively put off talking to my Mom after a hard day, until I know that I have the time to cry. It’s partly due to safety, I think, but mostly due to love: When it comes to my Mom, I know that of all the people in the world, this person cares unconditionally about every bump and bruise on my heart. She will undoubtedly bear my suffering with me. And within the community of love that we share, my wounds, big or small, will begin to heal.
In the Gospel of John, we see a beautiful portrait of Christ’s own mother as we receive a word of commission to be people who bear the suffering of our fellow human beings deeply, and on a gut level, the way that a mother bears the hurts of her child. First, the Gospel writer offers us the example of Jesus’ mother Mary, who is rightly depicted as “a woman who bore much she could not understand, and who stood fast” with Jesus as he suffered for the sake of love. She stands near the cross when almost all of the other disciples of Jesus flee from fear. The prophecy of Simeon that a sword would pierce her tender heart (Lk. 2:35) is fulfilled. And yet Mary remains at the foot of her Son’s cross. She bears his suffering with him. She continues to follow him with the unflinching hope that grows only from unconditional love.
We are also given the example of the beloved disciple: to whom Christ unites his own mother, creating a new family of faith. In a tender moment that sits at odds with the pressing crowds, the jeering voices, and the sneering soldiers, Jesus sees and provides for his mother and for his friends: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” With these simple words, the Christian family is born sharing together the love and suffering at the heart of the cross of Christ in the hope of the resurrection. Mary and the beloved disciple are, in a sense, the first Christians, as they together take up the cross and call of Christ and begin to “bear one another’s burdens” for the sake of the Gospel (Gal. 6:2).
In this profoundly good moment of Good Friday, we get a glimpse of the communion in which we have been joined as the body of Christ. In this moment, Mary becomes not only an example for us of motherly love, but more importantly she shows us how to follow her Son, Jesus. We learn about the love of a true disciple: the kind of love that is rooted at the foot of the cross in hope that grows from the deep and unconditional love of Christ Jesus. And we learn that we are not alone: when we suffer, we are united to our suffering Savior and to our family in the body of Christ. We learn together to imitate Mary’s tender but powerful love for our Lord as we receive the call to embrace others who suffer. We learn something of this fierce hope in the resurrection when we allow our brothers and sisters to bear our own burdens with us, and when we gladly shoulder the burdens others bear, the sorrows and wounds they cannot and should not have to bear alone. At their core, these short verses of Scripture offer us a portrait of the church, and they call us to imitate these good things in our own life.
If you’ve missed any of our previous daily readings, you can find them all archived here. We hope these readings are helping you encounter God this season!