Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.…
I. THE STATION OF MANY. This suggests thought of —
1. Her great love. A bird cleaves the storm to reach its nest; a mother walks through levelled lances to clasp her child.
2. Her great anguish. Once she had felt the most exquisite happiness that a mother could know.
3. Her strength. "She stood." Here are no violences, no hysterics. Such strength to stand was not from nature. Her nature was timid and retiring. Once, at one word from Jesus that sounded like a check, she vanished for a long time out of the story (John 2:4). We see the efficacy of Divine grace. Look around, and you may find many illustrations of this. There is a woman who stands dumb beside her young husband's grave; there is another who stands in tender agony over an empty cradle; there is another who night after night stands listening for the tipsy stumble of a thing that was once a man. Poor heart! she must make what she can of life. It is a real cross, and strength to stand by it must be of the kind that Mary had. Such strength is never given for fancy crosses.
4. Her public profession of faith. It was grand to see Luther take his station in the face of a frowning world; it was grander to see Mary take her station at the cross. It would have been much for man to do; it was more for the shrinking, tremulous delicacy of woman. It is easy to stand by Jesus when others stand.
II. THE SAYING OF JESUS. Note —
1. His tender considerateness. Suffering is proverbially selfish. While Jesus is Himself one flame of pain, His first cry is for the crucifiers; His second to sinful humanity; His third of love to His own.
2. Jesus providing for His own, and thus setting us an example. In treating John as if he were of nearer kin to Mary than her natural relatives were, He reminds us of the life which binds together all who axe one in Him. He leaves His people one to another.
3. The Saviour's poverty. He made no will but this in relation to what He had in this life, and only the name of John was in it. Looking at the things of this world, the "I am," not the "I have," is the standard of His valuation. His own choice was the poor man's lot (2 Corinthians 8:9). Silver and gold are not named among the things that come to us through the death of Christ. But if we are not down in His will for earthly property, we shall, through His Cross, have "the true riches."
4. The sentiments due to the Virgin Mary. Although they are not given in the form of law, they have the force of law. The offer of worship to Mary, on the ground that she is the mother of Jesus, is forbidden by this text.
(1) Attention is called to the text because it is one of the seven memorable sayings on the cross; on account of its publicity, for nothing ever can be so public as the cross; as the last of three recorded sayings spoken to Mary by our Lord in the course of His ministry. Look at this one in the light of the preceding two. In the first (Luke 2:41-50) we trace no regret or excuse; and the plain point of His language being that into the affairs of His Father in heaven, He repudiates her intrusion. In the second (John 2:3, 4), with an air the most imperative, He gives an indication that in His own high province she, as His mother, has no authority. Here, again, soften the word as you may from seeming hardness, it is remarkable that, in these three instances, He calls her, not "Mother," but "Woman."(2) You have heard His final words to her: what were His final words to John? "Behold the mother of God? the queen of heaven? the mediatrix?" Was John to make a shrine for her? No, but to make a home for her. The grandest honour a woman could have was that of being the medium through whom the Saviour came into the world. Yet I cannot forget that once, when a woman used words to that effect, He said, "Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it." Surely it must have put great constraint upon His loving heart to accost her in words so studied, so cautious. I can only account for them on the principle that in His foreknowledge He saw what a handle would be made of even the most ordinary epithet of honour and affection applied by Him to her, and was resolved to leave no datum, no vestige, no shadow of a shadow of excuse for Mariolatry. After all this, millions who wear the Christian name still worship Mary as a goddess. Poor woman! If a sword could pierce the heart of Mary in heaven, it would be this.
III. THE OBEDIENCE OF THE DISCIPLE. What Christ told him to do he did at once. What He tells you to do do it at once. Take your orders from Mary herself; she refers you to Him, and says, "Whatsoever He saith to you, do it." He is our Lawgiver. Why wait?
Parallel VersesKJV: Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.