Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Shunoyo (Soonoyo), Assumption of St. Mary, The Third Word of the Cross - Family

"The Third Word of the Cross: Family"

by: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

Gospel: St. John 19: 25-27

I. A Mother's Suffering

A "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother," says Scripture (vs 25). Like her son, Mary was not unacquainted with grief. Not at all! What sorrow it must have caused her when she had to lay her new-born son in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. What anguish must have been hers when she learned of Herod's plan to destroy her child. What hardship she faced when she was forced to flee to Egypt and stay there for several years. How her soul must have been pierced when she saw her son despised and rejected of men. What grief must have filled her heart when she saw him hated and persecuted by his own people. No words are adequate to describe how she felt as she stood there at the cross.

B Do you remember how some thirty years earlier Simeon had warned Mary about the grief that would be hers because of her son? Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus to the temple "to present him to the Lord" (Lk 2:22). There they were met by Simeon who "was waiting for the consolation of Israel" (Lk 2:25). Filled with the Spirit, and taking the child in his hands, Simeon sang a song of praise to God. Then Simeon turned his attention to Mary and said, (Lk 2:34-35) "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, (35) so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

What strange words, especially those last ones: "and a sword will pierce your own soul too." We are not told whether Mary remembered those words while she stood there by the cross, agonizing and suffering for and with her crucified son. But this much we do know: it was especially at the cross that Simeon's tragic words became a reality for Mary; a sword pierced her soul as she stood there and witnessed the execution of her first-born son.

C Aside from the nativity, we see and hear so little of Mary. She stayed in the background. But now, in her son's supreme hour of agony, she stands by the cross. What a sword pierced her soul then!

Those of you who are parents especially those of you who have lost a child can fully understand Mary's suffering and grief, can't you? Consider that the One Who agonizes there on the cross is her child. It was she who first kissed the brow now crowned with thorns. It was she who first guided the hands and feet now nailed to the cross. What agony she must have suffered there by the cross.

"Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother" (vs 25). The crowds are mocking, the thieves are taunting, the priests are jeering, the soldiers are callous and indifferent, Jesus is bleeding and dying. Mary sees all this. How this must have pierced her soul!

D Jesus is suffering and dying. Yet He thinks of His mother. He knows how she is suffering and grieving for and with Him. So He addresses a word of the cross to her, a word of comfort to a sorrowing mother:
(Jn 19:26-27) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," (27) and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."

Jesus knew Mary's agony. He knew her pain as a parent and mother. So He, in His moment of supreme and unspeakable anguish, speaks to her. Amazing, isn't it, that even upon the cross Jesus could demonstrate love and concern for those around Him?

II. The Perfect Example

A You all know that with His very own finger God engraved the Ten Commandments on the two tablets of stone. These laws are still in force today and will continue to be in force until that day when there is a new heaven and new earth. Even Jesus had to obey the law of God.

It is the fifth commandment which interests us today. It is the commandment specifically addressed to children. You know what it says: "Honor your father and your mother." This fifth commandment is restated in Ephesians 6:1,2:
(Eph 6:1-3) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (2) "Honor your father and mother"--which is the first commandment with a promise-- (3) "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."

The commandment for children to honor their parents goes far beyond bare obedience. It also includes love and affection, gratitude and respect. Children and young people, God wants you to honor, love, obey, and respect your parents. He wants you to show them affection and gratitude.

It is too often assumed that this fifth commandment is addressed to children and young people only. Nothing can be further from the truth. Yes, it is addressed to the young first. But to conclude that this commandment only applies to the young, that it loses its force when childhood is finished, is to miss at least half of its deep significance. Scripture is clear: children of all ages are to honor their parents, to hold them in high esteem, to reverence them.

Permit me just a brief word here. Many grownups present this morning have parents who are still alive. Let me ask you, how are you treating them? There are two shocking trends in how many people in today's society treat their elderly parents. The first is that many grownup children abuse their parents. The second, just as bad as the first, is that many grownup children neglect their parents. In Proverbs 23:22 the Spirit of the Lord says,
Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.
It may be that your elderly parents are poor and you are rich; then do not fail to help them out. It may be that they live within driving range; then do not neglect to visit. It may be they live in a distant place; then do not fail to write them or e-mail them or call them by telephone. It may be that they are in a nursing home, crippled with age; then make sure you give them words of appreciation and cheer as their constant diet. These are sacred duties.

B As a boy, Jesus clearly honored and obeyed His parents. I think of the words of Scripture in Luke 2 where we are told that Jesus "went down to Nazareth with ... (his parents) and was obedient to them" (vs 51).

But that is not all. Even on the cross Jesus shows Himself to be perfectly obedient to the fifth commandment. In His third word from the cross we see Jesus as the perfect example of how children of all ages are to treat their parents. He is in His moment of supreme anguish and suffering. Yet, He still honors His mother by thinking of her needs and committing her to the care of John, the disciple He loved. Listen again to the words of our text:
(Jn 19:26-27) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," (27) and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Jesus provided for His mother's present and future needs here. To take someone into your home is to give them shelter, food, clothing, protection, love all that they need in life, in fact. Jesus here arranges to have all that provided for His mother.

C This third word of the cross is better understood when we realize Mary was a widow. Though the Gospels do not specifically record his death, there is little doubt that Joseph died sometime before Jesus began His public ministry. Nothing is seen of Mary's husband after a twelve year old Jesus is found by His parents at the Temple in Jerusalem (cf Luke 2). At the wedding in Cana, for instance, we see Mary but no hint is given that Joseph was present. It was because Mary was widowed with no husband to support and care for her that Jesus had to charge someone with her care. Furthermore, Jesus would no longer be a comfort to her by His bodily presence, so He commanded the Beloved Disciple to care for her.
(Jn 19:26-27) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," (27) and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

What a beautiful picture we are given here of a Child honoring, respecting, and loving His mother truly an example for children of all ages to do likewise to their parent or parents.

III. A New Family

A This third word of the cross can not merely be a word to a suffering Mary, it can not merely be an example of a Son Who perfectly honors His mother. Something deeper must be in mind. All the other words from the cross have deep religious significance; it would be most unusual if this one did not too.

That there must be a deeper meaning is suggested by the verse that follows our text: "Later, knowing that all was now completed ..." (vs 28a). The words and actions of Jesus in His third saying from the cross completes the work that the Father has given Him to do. Making Mary the mother of the Beloved Disciple and making the Beloved Disciple the son of Mary somehow and in someway completes the work that the Father has sent Jesus to do.

That there must be a deeper meaning is also suggested when you consider that Jesus commended Mary to the care of the Beloved Disciple rather than to the care of one of her other sons, His brothers. Scripture records for us that Jesus had four brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. There were also some sisters (cf Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3). How come it was not one of them given the responsibility of looking after Mary? The Spirit of God wants to teach us that something deeper and more significant is taking place here.

B As compared to Jesus' brothers and sisters, there is something special about Mary and the Beloved Disciple. Mary and John believe in Jesus, they accept Him as Savior and Lord, whereas Jesus' brothers and sisters, says Scripture, "did not believe in him" (Jn 7:5).

Now notice what happens. Jesus is on the cross. Below Him are two of those who still believe in Him.
(Jn 19:26-27) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," (27) and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Do you realize what is happening here? Beneath the cross of Jesus a new family is created. The blood of Christ forms a new home. Through His redemptive work upon the cross Jesus forges a new family of the redeemed. We know it as the Church!

Up to that time the community of God's people Israel was based on physical descent. To be Jewish meant to be a physical descendant of Abraham. And families, of course, were all blood relatives.

But now there is a new community, a new family, a new fellowship of God's people. This one is not based on physical descent but on spiritual descent. It isn't blood lines but a common belief in Christ that unites this new family.

In His third word from the cross Jesus forges this new family, this new community:
(Jn 19:26-27) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," (27) and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."
Mary and John are joined together by the Lord because of their common belief.

C We see here the fulfillment of Christ's words of prophecy in Mark 10:
(Mk 10:29-30) "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel (30) will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

We must realize that the Beloved Disciple and Mary both lost something on the cross. They lost the physical presence of a friend and a son. But what they lost they more than gained in that new fellowship forged under the cross: Mary gained another son; the Beloved Disciple gained a mother.

Beneath the cross of Jesus Christian fellowship is born not just for Mary and John but also for you and me and everyone who believes. Beneath the cross of Jesus all true believers become family. Beneath the cross of Jesus we all become brothers and sisters in the Lord. Beneath the cross of Jesus we all become part of a new family a new family made up of thousands upon tens of thousands of true believers.

I have something I want to show the boys and girls. Can any of you tell me what this is? (HOLD UP A FAMILY PICTURE). What about this? (HOLD UP A PICTURE OF RUTH'S FAMILY). These are both family pictures.

Now here are some more pictures. Who can tell me what these are? (HOLD UP PICTURES OF THE TRINITY CONGREGATION). Do you know what these actually are? These are all family pictures. These are all pictures of the family of God. These are all pictures of your family and my family. These are all pictures of the family of everyone who is a true member of Trinity United Reformed Church.

D The Beloved Disciple and Mary were at the foot of the cross. They were grieving, mourning, weeping. But Jesus drew them together into a fellowship of believers, into a communion of saints, into a family. Jesus drew them together so that in this and every hour of tragedy and affliction they could comfort, strengthen, encourage, and support each other.

Many here, I know, can testify that they, like John and Mary, receive and have received comfort, strength, encouragement, and support from this family the church formed beneath the cross. In my many visits throughout the congregation I keep hearing the same things from those who have walked through some dark valleys. They all express how good, how wonderful, how loving, how supportive, and how encouraging they find our church family to be.

This, of course, is what Jesus had in mind in His third word from the cross: that we be joined with true believers into a loving, caring family.

Now you and I should do two things. First, we must praise God for the blessed family of believers formed beneath the cross of Jesus! Second, we must do whatever we can to make the church into more of what Jesus wants her to be: a family of true believers who loves, cares for, and supports each and every one of us.

Conclusion

Listen again to the words of our text for today:

(Jn 19:26-27) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," (27) and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

This third word from the cross is a word of love to a suffering mother; it is a word of example to children of all ages; and, it is a word establishing a new family of the redeemed.

See Also:

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