John 19:23-30. "Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also His coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did."
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost."
We come again to Calvary -- Calvary, where all the rivers of prophecy come together in a sea of fulfillment; Calvary, where the blood for our cleansing was drawn from Immanuel's veins; Calvary, where sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains; Calvary, where all the ransomed church of God is saved to sin no more; Calvary, about which in a nobler, sweeter song we'll sing through the endless ages; Calvary, where a dying Saviour invites all men to come and find the life that never ends.
Our Lord spoke seven times from the cross. Seven in the Bible is the number of perfection. What great things He said! The first word was a prayer. He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." The second word was an answer to the penitent thief when He said, "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise," as He gave forgiveness to that thief who so greatly needed it. The third word today is a word to His beloved. There were a few around the cross that loved Him and that wanted to give empathy and sympathy to Him. Would you see Him for a moment at the cross? See Him with a sign over the cross that said, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." See Him as He has that crown upon His head that had been beaten down with cane reeds. See Him as He hangs there, and when He lifts His brow, the blood trickles down a little more from His head. See His face, Isaiah prophesied seven hundred years before, that His face would be beyond recognition. Have you ever seen a face that has been in a fight, swollen, cut, scraped, bruised? Such was the face of Jesus. His visage was marred more than any man, Isaiah said. See Him there, after having been up all night, after the agonizing time in Gethesemane, in prayer. See Him as He went through six trials, (three religious trials, and three civil trials) that day. See Him as they lashed His back with a Roman scourge until there was scarcely any solid meat left. There He was, most uncomfortable, hanging on the cross. There were nails in His hands and in His feet. Those nails driven into His hands and into His feet were there to keep Him on the cross. Notice the crowd. The thieves were reviling Him along with the crowd, ridiculing Him, and rebuking Him. There are the scribes and the Pharisees. There are the Sadducees and the crowd that is gleeful about His crucifixion. There are the multitudes that are going by; thousands of people saw Him hanging there. Hear them as they say, "If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. He saved others, Himself He cannot save." And the Bible says, "And the thieves cast the same in His teeth." He had been crucified at 9:00 AM. He had been saying when He was crucified, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Then some time elapsed as the reviling and the ridiculing of Him had gone on, before the one thief finally came to his senses and said, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." and Jesus said, "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise." How long? It was a span of time, probably over two hours Jesus had been hanging there. We recall the scripture in Galatians that reads, "In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law." So there He is, hanging there for us, shedding His precious blood. "Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin." (Hebrews 9:22). "It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."( Leviticus 17:11). So there He is shedding God's blood. The blood that coursed through the veins of Jesus Christ was the blood of God, (Acts 20:28). That blood was shed for us. The only blood that could atone for our sin was the blood that was coming forth from our Savior.
There at the cross was Mary His mother. There at the cross was Mary's sister, John's mother. There at the cross was Mary, the wife, or perhaps the widow, of Cleophas, who was the brother of Jesus' foster Father, Joseph. Many believed that Joseph was already dead. Mary Magdalene, of whom Jesus had cast out seven demons, was there loving Him. These were there to let Him know they cared; they were concerned.
John, the beloved disciple, was there. The one that the scripture says in verse 26, "And the disciple standing by whom He loved." I do not think the Lord loved John any more than He loved any of the other disciples. But John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, had a greater capacity to appreciate that love. Is it not wonderful that God loves all of us? John 3:16 states, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Jesus Christ is God. Jesus Christ was God. Jesus Christ always was and always will be God. God loved John, and God loves us and died for us.
Well, does He have a word for these? Yes, He does, and He speaks as the Lord, and He speaks as King, and He makes assignments, and gives responsibility, as one in authority. And the scripture says in verse 25 a phrase that grips your heart, "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother." Would you think on that a moment? "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother." If anybody has anybody in the world that is going to stand by them, it is his mother. There in this hour of great need, this hour of dire need, there was not an hour when He needed His mother more than this. "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother." There is one we can always count on, its Mother. She would not let Jesus down. This mother of His, she would not let the Lord Jesus down now. She is not hysterical and she is not fainting; she is there equal to the task. As virtually every mother is, with sympathy and eyes of love to help. And so she is there to give whatever solace she can to this son whom she had raised, who she knew to be God. There she is, there to help. Mary had suffered much in her life. Luke chapter 1 has recorded about the angel who came speaking to her saying she was going to conceive and bear a child and it was going to be of the Holy Spirit. Would you remember those gracious words that Mary spoke, as she was so willing to do what the Lord wanted her to do. She said, "Be it unto me according to Thy word." She knew it was going to be costly. She knew she would be misunderstood. She knew there would be the gossip mongers who would be around, cruelly saying things about her. But Mary said, I care not what the cost, I care not what the consequence, I am willing to bear the Christ child. Then sometime later after Jesus had been born, they took Him into the Temple for His dedication. You will recall there was one Simeon, that met her there, and he spoke to her about a sword. You may turn over to the Gospel of Luke chapter 2:34 which says, "And Simeon blessed them and said unto Mary, His mother, behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also." Now that sword is piercing through Mary's heart as she hears all the taunts, the reviling, the accusations, the laughter, the scorning, and the deriding from the crowd. She sees this One whom she had never seen sin, had never seen Him do a wrong. She sees Him hated, and despised, hanging on a cross, convicted as a common criminal, and dying in such a horrible way. We read to you about the time when Jesus went into the Synagogue in Nazareth. I think Mary and Joseph were so proud as Jesus spoke right out of Isaiah. But Jesus did not stop there. Then He started preaching. And when He preached, He preached what many preachers do so often. They preach things people do not want to hear. And so the people were filled with unbelief, and they spoke against Him; and once again, that sword pierced her heart. Mary had suffered much, but Mary loved Him. "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother."
HIS FAITHFUL MOTHER
Let us look at these two sayings that Jesus said. What we call the third word from the cross. He said, "Woman, behold thy son." Strange He did not say, "Mother." Think of any mother at the bedside of a dying son. The word that would comfort her and be most helpful to her in such a moment, such an hour, would be for that son to say, "Mother." But Jesus did not say "Mother." Jesus said "Woman." Once again, that sword pierced through her heart. As again, something was going on, something was taking place, that had to be. One of the things taking place was that Jesus was breaking off that mother-son relationship. He would not go into Hell carrying that. He said, "Woman, behold thy son," speaking of John, the beloved disciple.
I confess unto you, when we talk about Jesus leaving His glory, leaving the form of God, whatever that is, leaving Heaven with all of its beauty and emptying Himself of His glory, coming down to earth, tabernacling Himself in the womb of a human being, I do not fully understand that. I still look at that with eyes that are clouded. One day I will see clearly, but until then I see through a glass darkly. Neither do I understand or fathom that close relationship that there was with the Father and the Son, God the Father and God the Son. But I do know that on the cross, it is very evident that the relationship was broken as Jesus cried out and said, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" People in Hell are forsaken of God and Jesus took our Hell for us so that we would not have to take Hell. But before that happens, Jesus is breaking this mother-son relationship. In the omniscience of God (God knowing all things), He would know what our Roman Catholic friends would do in their exaltation of Mary in future times. In the scriptures, does Jesus ever call Mary, AMother?" It is always "woman." Our Roman Catholic friends have no leg to stand on when they put Mary on a plain with Jesus as one that we are to worship. The Bible says in I Timothy 2:5, "There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." Though Mary had a very prominent position and was greatly blessed of God, as God selected her to bear the Christ child and to bring Him into being, nevertheless, she is not to be in competition with Jesus Christ for worship. She had no special place in Heaven whatsoever. Mary was a sinner just like you and me. In Luke chapter one, Mary cried out that she rejoiced in God, her Savior, as she exalted the one that was in her womb. She called Him God, and said He was her Savior. Now He is dying for her and that relationship is being broken, that mother-son relationship. So that now she is just like all others. She is a believer; we are all on the same plain. Some may have higher positions in this life, but we are all on the same plain before God. We are sinners saved by the grace of God. She had to go through this cross experience of Jesus, just as we did.
Jesus could not save anybody without going to the cross. Jesus could not save anybody without dying on Calvary. Jesus could not save anybody without His precious blood being shed. Oh, as they were reviling and ridiculing Jesus and saying, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save," and "If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross," I think the angels were looking over the battlements of Heaven and looking to see what the Savior was going to do. I think that Isaiah, Moses, Abraham, Adam, and Noah were looking over the battlements of Heaven observing that scene. They were so interested to see what would happen, and when that thief cried out saying, "Remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom," Jesus said, "Today, shalt thou be with me in Paradise." I think they rejoiced in the glory world because they knew that He was going to stay on the cross. There was not any way for Him to come down from the cross. No one could pull Him down from the cross. He was determined to stay on the cross, and He would stay there until He died. He died for all. He is the propitiation (the satisfaction)the Bible says for our sins, and not only ours, but for the sins of the whole world. Jesus died for you and He died for me and He died for Mary. And yet, Jesus saw her needs, He knew that one of those needs was that someone needed to take care of Mary in her old age. So He looked to John, the beloved disciple, and He said to Mary, "Woman, behold thy Son, I am not your Son anymore." Do not you know that broke Jesus' heart? He loved His mother dearly just as He loves us all. He was going to see that her needs were met, "Woman, behold thy son."
HIS BELOVED DISCIPLE
He then turned to the son and said, "Behold, thy mother." He was saying, "John, the responsibilities I have had while I was here on earth, the things I have done, now it is your responsibility. I want you to take care of my mother. I want you to do the things that I did. In an earthly way, the things that need to be taken care of, I want you to take care of them." Jesus was saying these words to John. The first time I heard them, I was so shocked and yet, they had such great meaning. "Substitute for the substitute, John." You see, Jesus was our substitute, was He not? When He hung on Calvary's cross, we deserved that. We deserved to die; we deserved to go to Hell. We have rebelled against God; we have gone our way and not God's way. We are sinners! We have grieved a holy and righteous God and that holiness of God cannot allow sin in His presence in eternity. So Jesus came, lived sinlessly, went to the Old Rugged Cross, died as my substitute and as your substitute. He took my place, and now, He is saying to John, "John, it is your responsibility, to now substitute for the substitute." Each one of us is John. We have been saved. We are a disciple; we are a follower. We must do what He would do were He here in the flesh. We must go to the places He would go. Someone penned this little poem:
Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today; He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way; He has no tongues but our tongues to tell men how He died He has no help; but our help to bring them to His side.
And so His story must be told by us. We are His "Johns," and we need to represent Him. We are the beloved.
Myconias was a devoted follower of Martin Luther, and when Martin Luther decided to leave the monastery and get out into the world and to tell people about Christ and the Gospel, Myconias said, "I will stay behind here in the monastery, and I will pray for you everyday, Martin Luther, as you go." So Martin Luther went out and Myconias stayed behind. In a few months, he started to be most restless as he laid on that straw palette every night; and then one night he had a dream. In that dream the Savior appeared to him and showed him His hands and His scars and His feet and His side. Then He led Myconias out to a high mountain, and He said, "I want you to look there to the East." And as he looked, he saw thousands upon thousands of sheep, and he saw one lone shepherd among all those thousands trying to tend those sheep. And then the Savior let him "zero in" on the face of that one shepherd and he saw it was Martin Luther. The Savior then took him out another way to a vast plain. He looked out over that plain as far as his eyes could see. There were thousands of acres of corn. And there was one person out there trying to reap that field of corn. And the Lord let him "zero in" on the face of that reaper and it was Martin Luther. And when he awoke, he realized he had no right to stay in that monastery, just praying. The fields were white unto harvest and the laborers were few. There was only one out there. He said, "I must go too." So out he went from the monastery and joined Martin Luther. Beloved friend of mine, the fields are white unto harvest, people are lost in their sin, going on their road to Hell, and there is only way to be saved and that is through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me." You talk about something being narrow. That is narrow. Baptism does not save anybody, and joining a church does not save anybody, and tithing does not save anybody. My beloved friend, the only thing that will save anybody is for a person to come in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ and trust Him for his soul's salvation. There is only one way to be saved. There is only one door. Jesus said, "I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." Christ is the only Way.
THE SAVIOUR HIMSELF
We must always remember that Jesus is the central one on the cross. We have looked at Mary and we have looked at John, but Jesus is the central person. When we look at the cross, He is the One to behold. And we see Him here even in His dying hour, fulfilling the law. What was the law? Note in Exodus 20: 12-15. "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord, thy God giveth thee." And there is a similar verse in Ephesians chapter 6, "Obey your parents in the Lord." With honor, honor means more than just obedience. Honor means giving affection, giving respect, showing gratitude, being appreciative; and children ought to honor their parents and be obedient to them. But wait a minute, what about us that are older? We are to honor our parents, also. So often we want to turn their care over to somebody else. They took care of us when we were little; they diapered us, and burped us, and fed us. "Honor thy father and thy mother." Jesus was seeing that His mother was taken care of in those dying moments. "Son, behold thy mother." You know, the Bible teaches that Jesus fulfilled the law, never broke any law. The Bible says in James 2:10, "If we keep the whole law," if we try to keep all the ten commandments and yet simply break one of them, we are guilty of breaking all of them. But Jesus never broke one. The only one who ever lived that never sinned was Jesus Christ. And he forsook the best that earth had to offer in cutting Himself off from His mother.
Francis D. Assisi, the story is told of him, that one time he decided that he would go into the monastery and there be a monk all the days of his life. Yet, there was a young lady he loved dearly and wanted to marry, but he said, "No, I need to go into the monastery. For my life, this is what I need to do." And so he did. And one night, one cold night, when the snow was on the ground, it is said that he went out of the monastery and went out in the field and he took the snow and fashioned some chairs and then he fashioned the form of that girl that he loved so much. He had her sitting in a chair and then he fashioned the form of children of varying ages and he had them sitting around in chairs. He then fashioned a chair for himself and he sat there for an hour. They said he just talked to different ones. He talked to those children and that dear wife as if he were at home one evening talking to them and having an enjoyable time with his family. And then he got up and he went to each of the children, put his arms around them, kissed them, and went to the next and did the same, and the next and did the same. Then he went to his wife and put his arms around her and hugged her and kissed her and turned around and walked back into the monastery never to think of that again. He cut himself off from worldly and earthly attachments. That is what Jesus was doing when He said, "Woman, behold thy son. Son, behold thy mother." Oh, how He loved you and me. He loved us and died for us so that we could be in Heaven with Him forever. Have you given your heart to Him?