THE FAMILY REDEFINED
Scripture John 19:26, 27,

(c) Copyright 2003 Rev. Bill Versteeg


John 19:25-27

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 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."

Usually the last things a person says and does in his life, knowing that he is going to die, are very important things and sayings. They reflect the values, beliefs and and actions with regard to others that still need to be done and are worth the exherted effort to do. Jesus in these last hours of his life also demonstrated his highest values and his greatest concerns in life. He did that by forgiving those who betrayed him and crucified him. He did it by demonstrating the very nature of grace by forgiving an unworthy thief. And in this third saying from the cross Jesus did it by showing his deep respect and care for his mother.

"Dear woman, here is your son,"
and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."

Take a look at this picture for a few minutes.

Though Mary was blessed among women, that blessing was not without its great price and pain. As Simeon had prophesied, not only would this son Jesus be the cause of the rise of fall of many in Israel, to her he said that "a sword would pierce her soul too." (Luke 2:35) A son who wounds his mother, that's who Jesus was. It came in unexpected ways. Mary would remember the pain of experiencing the terror and the guilt of having a son that would incite Herod's murderous envy that would take the lives of many of the young boys in Bethlehem while they fled to Egypt. Certainly Mary remembered the fear of fleeing, being uprooted and living in Egypt. But even more, Mary carried survivor guilt because she was able to keep her son Jesus, while so many other sons died just because of him.

She had invested so much of herself to form his character; she taught him how to pray, she taught him the scriptures, the very themes of the song she sang to Elizabeth after his conception are themes that were interwoven through Jesus entire ministry.  But her investments of love brought tears. At the age of 12 Jesus disappeared on a trip to Jerusalem to debate philosophy and theology with the know-it-alls in the temple, without telling her where he had gone!  After three days of searching they finally found him, and when they found him, he seemed to think nothing of it!  "I'm going about my father's business" was his line. Here heart was bound up in this her first child, she had received promises concerning him, their was mystery wrapped around his conception, she had already carried shame of pregnancy outside of marriage for him, now it was as if she did not matter. Luke tells us in our NIV translation that she treasured these things in her heart, litterally the word means "to keep" or "to store," there was something painful and wonderful happening at the same time. Like painful memories, it was stored in her heart.

And then of course there were family dynamics, the brothers, Joseph's sons, who just did not get along with Jesus. We are not told about the dynamics, but what we know is that if families experience conflictual dynamics when they have matured, these same dynamics grew out of their earlier years. Part of Mary's pain was a history of conflict in her family and it all seemed, they were because of Jesus. As close as Jesus was to her heart, he was also the son who wounded his mother.

On this day, there she was standing, watching her son die.  She was standing near the cross - the mother who nursed her son, who picked him up and carried him when he hurt, who taught him the very basic skills of life. Of all the people in this world, she had invested the very most in him and again, now the sword was piercing her heart also, the very one she had given herself for, the very one she had hoped would be the promise of God, there on a tree crucified. As Mary watched, we can only imagine the memories that went through her heart, the history, the dynamics, the pain, and now this...

With respect to his mother who he loved dearly, there was still one thing for Jesus to do to fulfill the law, to obey his father, honor his mother according to the 5th commandment.

For the Jewish people that meant not only that when they were young they were to obey their parents, it meant that as grown up children, especially the eldest son, they were to take care of their parent's well being in their old age. We suspect that Jesus father, Joseph,  passed away sometime between his 12th birthday and the beginning of his ministry (no record of Joseph alive after Jesus as a little boy in the temple.) So it was Jesus responsibility to take care of his mother. And so Jesus did just that by saying

"Dear woman, here is your son,"
and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."

To many of us, what Jesus did seems very unlogical, even disrespectful. Jesus did have other brothers according to John 7:5 - why didn't he hand over the responsibility of caring for Mary to them? Why did he give that responsibility to the disciple John?

Scriptures give us a number of hints

First of all it tells us that up to that time his brothers did not believe in Jesus.  They wanted signs that Jesus was not willing to give. The implication of John 7 is that Jesus' brothers, like so many others, were filled with an envious hatred toward Jesus, the kind of hatred that burned from Cain to Able, the kind of hatred that easily degrades into murder. Jesus was without honor in his own country and his own home! Jesus enemies were members of his own household!   And because it is very clear that Mary herself was one of Jesus disciples, handing over a vulnerable widow to his unbelieving brothers with their dysfunction family history may have been feeding Mary to the Lions.

But there is another reason, a bigger reason.  Jesus redefined the family. We read in Matthew 12:46f

"While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."  He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my bothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

Again, these must have been very painful words to Mary who certainly wanted her sons to get along, these words sounded like Jesus was disowning her and her sons. It is no wonder that there was no love lost in this family.

In saying those words, Jesus did not disown his family. Rather, Jesus told them and us that there is a higher allegiance, there are higher ties than even family ties.  The highest, most important allegiance we have is to the family of God that is characterized by doing his the Father's will. And just as it is so often said:  "If there is anybody you can depend on its family," Jesus was telling us that if there is anyone we can depend on it ought to be the family of God, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers that do the God's will.

"Dear woman, here is your son,"
and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."

Jesus redefined the family as brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers who do the will of God. And if there is anyone we can depend on, its this family.

We live in a world where families as we normally define them, the nuclear families of our culture, have been and are falling apart. At no time in our history as a culture has the family been more a source of pain, of dysfunction, of unreliability, of brokenness than it is today. To us today, to those who experience family brokenness, Jesus said

"Dear woman, here is your son,"
and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."

How many of us have found that to be true? We ourselves get very ill, or times of intense struggle come to us - and we discover that our families don't have the resources or aren't safe enough to run too, and we run to the body of Christ, the family of God for help.  Through their prayers, their encouragement, their love, their resources we make it through one of the most difficult times in our lives. We discover mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters all over again. We discover family that is safe, safe enough for us to hurt and experience our woundedness, to be loved, and to be healed because the love, grace, truth and power of God are at work in this family called the church.

You might be here today wondering how to deal with your wounds. Maybe they are wounds from a father, or a mother or siblings, or wounds that have arisen from the circumstances of life, from the choices you have made, from the way you have reacted to broken people.  Whatever the source, you know that these wounds shape who you are, limit you capacity for joy and fullness, cripple you as a person today. If there is someone you can count on it's the family of God! As we come to the table of the Lord this morning, understand that we come as family; mothers, brothers, fathers, sisters, and this family is characterized by love and safety because Jesus says to all of us:

"Dear woman, here is your son,"
and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."

As you join, acknowledging your faith in Jesus, come with your wounds and your confusion.  Come to your brother, Jesus, whose body was whipped and bruised so that you might be healed, with your doubts and struggles, come to the one who has scars in his hands and in his side, not his scars, rather your scars for he is a friend who is closer than any brother. Come to the table and drink, do this in remembrance of Jesus, for his blood washes us clean and brings us into a family where we can become new people.

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."

Like the bread that we break, he experienced our brokenness that we might be healed.

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."

Love and family have to do with covenants.  We experience our wounds when covenants of love are broken, betrayed, forgotten, neglected. We pour out this juice seeing that the family of God has been started with a new covenant, of blood that secures the forgiveness of our sins.

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

God, because of Christ, has given to us the resources of the family of God so that things may go well with us. God has given us the resources of the family so that we might be cared for. God has given us this whole new family so that through it we might be nurtured in our faith, so that through it we might be discipled or disciplined to righteousness, so that we might be strengthened and healed.

"Dear woman, here is your son,"
and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."

We know from the scriptures that Jesus continued to care for his mother through his disciple John, through the family of God. From that time on John took her into his own home. Tradition has it that John remained there to take care of her for twelve years until Mary to passed away, then finally after that, he began his work in missions leading the church with the message of love and the impending return of Christ.


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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