In Jesus’ final moments on the cross, the apostle John tells us of a tender moment shared between Jesus and His mother, who’d watched as her son suffered and died for the sins of the world.

How much Mary understood about this moment, what it meant, and what was to come with the resurrection is uncertain. Surely, if anyone had reason to be divinely hopeful, it was the mother of Jesus.

That being said, though many believers are fully aware of the eternal reality (and glory) that awaits those who have departed from this earth and joined with the Lord in heaven, the sadness of passing and horrors of Christ’s own suffering and death are reason enough for anyone to mourn.

One can only imagine the affliction and grief that would have filled Mary’s heart as she helplessly watched her only son be beaten, flogged, ridiculed, and crucified before her teary eyes. As the renowned preacher and author Matthew Henry wrote, “His torments were her tortures; she was upon the rack, while He was upon the cross; and her heart bled with His wounds.”

Who Was Present at Jesus’ Crucifixion (and Who Was Not)?

There is plenty to admire about the composure, silent grace, and courage of Mary and the other women who had followed the procession and “watched from a distance” as the events of Jesus’ horrific execution unfolded (Matthew 27:55-56Mark 15:40-41Luke 23:49).

John, of course, is the only gospel writer who writes of Mary and others being close enough to hear Jesus’ final words. Not to contradict his fellow writers, it is probable that their proximity at the foot of the cross was only for a moment, as the Roman soldiers would have likely forced onlookers to stand back or watch from a distance as they carried on their duties.

Noticeably absent from the scene, however, were many of Christ’s closest friends and followers, namely His disciples, who had fled when Jesus was arrested and had gone into hiding.

Peter, who had previously insisted that he would never deny Jesus and would follow Him to imprisonment and even death (Matthew 26:33-35Mark 14:29-31Luke 22:33), followed Jesus from a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest (Matthew 26:58). However, when faced with the possibility of being outed as a disciple of Jesus, Peter denied even knowing Jesus and withdrew.

This was a fulfillment of what Jesus had prophesied at the Last Supper, “you will all fall away because of Me this night” (Matthew 26:31Mark 14:27). That night, Jesus would go on to quote the prophet Zechariah in saying, “strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (Zechariah 13:7).

Though the twelve disciples initially scoffed at the notion that they would abandon their shepherd and lord, later that same night, when the chief priests, elders, and crowd came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew writes that “all the disciples left Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

However, where His closest friends and followers had forsaken Him, there was one who remained. We know this was John, the son of Zebedee, brother of James, and later author of the gospel of John, the book of Revelation, and three letters that bear his name.

Naturally, as the only member of the Twelve to directly witness the events of the crucifixion, by his own admission, there are details included in John’s gospel that are not mentioned in the others.

Why Does Jesus Give His Mother to John?

The most personal of these, however, came when Jesus looked down from the cross and saw His mother standing next to John.

John writes, “so when Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household” (John 19:26-27).

Thus, we see that, even in His suffering, Jesus looked upon His mother with compassion and sought to care for her well-being and provision.

Why was this so important to Jesus?

For one thing, it’s probable that Joseph, Mary’s husband, had been dead for quite some time. As the oldest son, the care of His mother (a widow) would have fallen to Jesus.

That being said, Jesus had no gold, no earthly treasure, and no real estate to give to Mary after His passing. In fact, everything He had owned was seized and divvied up amongst the Roman soldiers at the foot of the cross (Matthew 27:35).

With Jesus gone, who then would be responsible for Mary’s financial and physical well-being?

Did Mary have any children other than Jesus? If so, how can she be the eternal virgin?

Mary had four other sons, Joseph, James, Jude, and Simon. Because of the virgin birth, Joseph was not the father of Jesus so these were the half brothers of Jesus. The last three mentioned are not to be confused with those who were disciples of Jesus by the same name. Here are some passages where the other sons of Mary by Joseph are mentioned (Matt. 12:46; 13:55Mark 6:3John 2:12; 7:3, 5, 10Acts 1:141 Cor. 9:5Gal. 1:19).

What about Jesus’ Brothers?

In Mark 6:3, the “brothers” of Jesus are named; they are James and Joses and Judas and Simon. Two of the names, James and Joses, appear again in Mark 15:40, where they are said to be the sons of a Mary, one of the women watching the crucifixion.

We are shared with in The Word that Mary and Joseph had additional children, who would have been Jesus’ younger half-siblings. Wouldn’t they have inherited the responsibility of their mother’s care in their oldest brother’s absence?

While it is true that Jesus’ half-brothers would have had a legal responsibility to care for their mother, Jesus’ brothers had not been supportive or sympathetic to His ministry (John 7:3-5). Though they would later come to believe in their brother as the Christ and go on to become leaders in the early church, in the moment of Christ’s crucifixion, Jesus’ siblings weren’t there. They were back at home in Capernaum.

John, however, was present, looking affectionately to his lord and maybe even holding Mary’s hand and comforting her in what was understandably her moment of greatest sadness.

Furthermore, earlier in His ministry, someone had told Jesus that His mother and brothers had arrived to speak to Him. To this Jesus asked, “who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to His disciples, He then 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” (Matthew 12:46-50).

There’s no question Jesus saw John as this type of brother.

Why Does Jesus Choose John?

Entrusting a friend and spiritual brother with the care of His own mother was an act of immense trust, favor, and love on the part of Jesus.

Of course, John was not the only disciple entrusted with responsibility.

Later, Jesus would commission His disciples to share the gospel, make future disciples, and teach others to obey all Christ had commanded (Matthew 28:16-20).

After His resurrection, Jesus would tell Peter to, “feed My sheep” (John 21:17).

To John, however, Jesus entrusted the care of the woman who’d cared for, raised, and given birth to Him.

To put it in perspective, it’s one thing to ask a friend or business partner to finish the work you’ve started. It’s something else entirely to ask a friend to take care of arguably the most important woman in your life when you are gone. This is no small request.

But why John?

As mentioned before, John was there. Where the rest of the disciples had fled and Jesus’ own brothers had remained at home, John was faithful to the end.

Naturally, criticism of the Twelve is warranted in this moment; condemnation, however, is not.

It’s true that fear had gotten the better of the disciples, who abandoned their lord in His greatest hour. However, even though they had forsaken Jesus or denied knowing Him outright, Jesus nonetheless forgave and redeemed His chosen disciples after His resurrection.

The fidelity of John, however, to remain, is worth noting. Furthermore, as John remained to tend to His master, there’s no reason to assume he also wouldn’t have been there to comfort Mary and the other women as they wept.

Even in these moments, the one formerly nicknamed the “Son of Thunder” revealed the extent of how deeply Christ had begun to transform and tenderize his heart.

Jesus, knowing all things, knew that John would be the best candidate to care for His mother and knew that John would be faithful in this role and receive it with gladness.

Christ also knew the extent of John’s ministry, where he would go, and even how long it would last. Not coincidentally, John would outlive the rest of the Twelve and be the last one to die. It is believed that John remained faithful to His lord and the task He had given him at the foot of cross, remaining in Jerusalem to care for Mary until she died years later.

In any case, the disciple whom Jesus loved is also a disciple who loved Jesus with a quiet fidelity and courage evident in his willingness to follow his master to the cross and for the rest of his life.

Love was at the center of Jesus and John’s relationship, and as a sign of the love and trust they shared, Jesus asked John to care for His own mother, whom He also Loved.

In doing so, John would become Mary’s son, but in more ways than one, John would also prove to be a true a brother of Christ. A friend, a follower, and a fisher of men to the very end, John served his lord by serving those entrusted to his care. 

Published by Fellowship of Praise: ALL praise to God our Reason, Hallelujah!!!

To God be The glory. Let us praise God together for His ALL in our lives, Amen.

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