“Behold your mother”

“Behold your mother”


While Jesus hung on the cross, we’re told that his mother, Mary, a few other women, and “the disciple whom he loved,” presumably John, were all standing nearby. Upon seeing them, “he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” (John 19:26-27). Why did Jesus appoint someone to care for His mother?

One reason Jesus asked John to care for His mother may be because Mary’s husband, Joseph, had already passed away. The last time Joseph is mentioned in the Gospels was when Jesus was 12 years old. Joseph’s absence from the gospel narratives after his childhood leads many to conclude that by the time Jesus’ public ministry began, he had passed away, and Mary was a widow. Thus, it is likely that Mary had no husband to care for her after Jesus was gone, and, in that day and age, a widow without a child to care for her was destined for poverty. So, it’s quite likely that part of the reason Jesus assigned Mary’s care to John was to ensure that she would be taken care of and, therefore, not face poverty.

Another reason Jesus asked John to care for His mother may be because his siblings were not disciples yet. After the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had at least four additional sons, who are identified in Matthew 13:55. However, we’re told in John 7:5 that His brothers did not believe He was the Son of God. The fact that they are not identified as being present at the cross seems to underscore their disbelief. So, at the time of Jesus’ death, it is more likely than not that His brothers weren’t believers. Knowing that being associated with Him as a disciple was not going to be easy in the aftermath of what was about to happen, Jesus may have wanted His mother to be cared for by someone who, like her, believed in Him. Thus, His decision to enlist one of His closest disciples to care for her may have been made because He did not want to entrust her care to those who were not yet willing to follow Him.

While we can only speculate why Jesus chose John to be Mary’s “son,” we can be certain as to why He was concerned about Mary. It’s because He understood the expectation of honoring HIs parents. The fifth commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). In His dying moments, that’s exactly what Jesus was attempting to do. We must not overlook the example He set at this moment. It’s a reminder to us that honoring our fathers and mothers is part of God’s plan for the home.

Paul would later quote the fifth command as part of his household codes. In Ephesians 5:22-6:9, he gave instructions regarding how Christians are expected to treat one another in the context of the home. He gave instructions to husbands and wives, parents and children, and masters and servants. His instructions for children included these words in Ephesians 6:1-3: 

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Interestingly, Paul emphasized the fact that the fifth command included the promise of long life if observed. And yet, Jesus fulfilled this command while dying. He would not reap the benefits of the promise, but that did not keep Him from fulfilling the command. That speaks volumes about how important it is in the eyes of God for us to honor those who raise us. So, on this Mother’s Day, we look to the cross and are reminded of the responsibility that children and parents have to one another because Jesus took the time to assign the care of His mother to John.

  • Is there a difference between obeying your parents and honoring your parents? Why or why not?
  • How might honoring your parents change during different phases of life? In other words, is the way you honor your parents as a child different from the way you honor your parents when you are an adult?
  • How should one who has experienced a harmful or painful relationship with his or her parents understand and/or fulfill this command?
  • Ephesians 6:4 provides instructions to fathers, but it is certainly applicable to mothers as well. Based on that instruction, what is the parent’s responsibility to children? How are Paul’s instructions to children and parents related?
  • What are some practical ways you can better honor those who raise you?

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