"Behold thy mother."
ST. JOHN XIX.26, 27.
In this Word we see the Son of God revealed as human son, and human friend, all the more truly and genuinely human in both relations, because in each and every relation of life, Divine.
1. The first lesson in the Divine Life for us to learn here is the simple, almost vulgarly commonplace one, yet so greatly needing to be learnt, that "charity," which is but a synonym of the Divine Life, "begins at home."
Home life is the real test of a person's Christianity. There the barriers with which society elsewhere hedges round and cramps the free expression of our individuality, no longer exist. We are at liberty to be ourselves. What sort of use do we make of it? What manner of self do we disclose? Would our best friends recognise that self to be the person whom they admire? If we are to be Christians at all, we must begin by being Christians at home.
At home, and beyond the limits of home, one great Christian virtue stands out as the supreme law of social behaviour -- that is, for a disciple -- the virtue of consideration for others.
In the midst of torturing physical pain, in the extreme form of that experience, of which the slightest degree makes us fretful, irritable, self-absorbed, our Lord calmly provides for the future of His mother and the disciple whom He loved.
What is required of us is not high-flown sentiment, but the practical proof of consideration, that we have really learnt the first lesson of the Christ-life, to put others, not self, in the first place. The proof, the test, is our willingness to put ourselves to inconvenience, to go without things, for the sake of others. If in such a little matter as so ordering our Sunday meals as to give our servants rest, as far as may be, and opportunity for worship, our practical, home Christianity breaks down, then we must not shirk the plain truth, there is in us nothing of the Spirit of Him Who spoke the Third Word. On the other hand, the readiness with which we do yield up our comforts is a proof -- nothing short of that -- a proof of the indwelling of God in us. "In this we know that He abideth in us, from the Spirit" -- the Spirit of the Christ -- "which He hath given to us."
2. We notice, in the second place, that Christ's proof of friendship is the assignment of a task, the giving of some work to do for Him. "Behold thy mother." We are His friends, as He Himself has told us. "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave is one who knows not what his master is doing; but you I have called friends." St. John had forsaken his Friend:
a torchlight and a noise,
had been too much for the disciple's courage and the friend's devotion.
And it is written, I forsook and fled:
But St. John had returned. There he is, in his true place, beside his Master and Friend.
We too have forsaken, sometimes denied, the same Master and Friend. We too with true repentance have returned, and are struggling to take up the old allegiance. What is the proof, where is the assurance for which we long more, perhaps, than for anything else in the world, that our repentance has been accepted, that we are once more in the number of those whom He calls His friends?
There is one decisive test. Upon all His friends He lays some task. If we have anything to do for Jesus Christ, then we may assure our hearts. Our desertion has been forgiven. He has spoken to us the words of peace, "Behold thy mother, thy brother, thy son." For, let us not forget, all work for others, for the bodies, the minds, the souls of our brethren in the family of God, is capable of being raised from the level of professional drudgery, and of becoming the direct service of Jesus Christ.
To work for Christ is the real foretaste of heaven, far removed from the sensuous imagery of some modern hymns. "Be thou ruler," there is the supreme reward, "over ten cities."
If we are doing any work for Christ, i.e. for others for Christ's sake, and as part of our service to Him, willingly and cheerfully, then we have the final and convincing proof that we are indeed forgiven, that the offer of renewed allegiance has been accepted, that we have been restored to His Friendship.