+ Lenten Midweek 2 – March 15th, 2017 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Jesus’ Third Word on the Cross
Text: John 19:17-27
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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 to his own home.
Jesus’ third word on the cross allows us to see the cross from Mary’s perspective.
Mary, who had heard the angel Gabriel say, “Do not be afraid Mary, for the Holy Spirit would conceive in your womb a son named Jesus who whose kingdom will have no end,” now sees her son and King enthroned on the cross, crowned with thorns.
Mary, who had seen the shepherds run to find Jesus lying in the manger just as the angels had said, now sees the Good Shepherd, her little lamb, laying down his life for his wayward sheep.
Mary, who had seen Jesus’ first miracle of water turned into wine, now sees his appointed hour when blood and water would flow from his side, to fulfill the Law and manifest his glory on the cross for us.
As she was witness every parent’s worst nightmare, perhaps she remembered Simeon’s words at Jesus’ presentation in the temple: “A sword will pierce your own soul also.”
The child she saw in Bethlehem’s manger is now on Jerusalem’s cross.
The sky that was once filled with angels and Glory to God in the highest is now filled with darkness and silence from heaven.
All the things that she pondered in her heart, all that Jesus has said, done, and promised lead to this cross on this day on this hill.
“Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”
From the cross, Jesus comforts John, his beloved disciple, even as he dies to make us all beloved children of God.
From the cross, Jesus provides someone to care for his mother, even as he is caring for her and you and me and all by his death on the cross.
From the cross, Jesus ensures that Mary, his mother will not be abandoned, even as he is abandoned and left to die alone for the sins of the world.
That is, after all, the deadly consequence of our sin: to be left utterly, completely, and forever alone. That is what hell is, not the fire and pitchforks we see in cartoons.
No wonder the fear of being alone, of being invisible, and unnoticed is one of our greatest fears.
Perhaps you’ve felt this kind of loneliness simply because you’re baptized and bear the cross of Jesus on your forehead and heart. You live, think, and act differently than those around you at work, in your family, at school, or with your friends. We’re like salmon swimming against the raging current around us.
Or perhaps our loneliness is more personal. Maybe you’ve noticed the irony that the more we engage in social media to connect with people, the more disconnected we actually become from real, face-to-face human relationships. We live in a world suffering from a famine of real relationships. People are starved for friendship, for human, personal care, for tangible compassion, for someone to understand and care for us. We may not think to call that loneliness, but that’s what it is.
Worse still is the loneliness of our guilt. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.” No one loves to remind us of this more than the devil himself. “You’re a damned dirty sinner” he says. “How could you call yourself a Christian? Christians don’t act, think, or behave the way you do”, he accuses. He leaves us with the devilish question ringing our ears: “How could God ever love you after all you’ve done?”
But Jesus will not let the devil have the last word. Jesus did not abandon John or Mary. And neither will he abandon you.
Maybe you’ve seen the famous statue known as the Pieta, one of Michelangelo’s most well-known sculptures. It depicts the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus. The word pieta means pity in Italian. This is why Jesus went to the cross for Mary, John, and for you: Jesus is moved by pity, love, and mercy for us in our sin and death.
Jesus’ third word from the cross is a word of compassion and pity, or the care of Mary and John: “Woman, behold, your son!” And to John, his beloved disciple, “Behold, your mother!”
As Mary bore the Savior of the world in her flesh, so now, Jesus bears the sin of the world in his flesh on the cross. As Mary looked after the well-being of infant Jesus, now the crucified Jesus looks after the well-being of his mother from the cross. And as Mary once cradled Jesus in her arms and gave him life, so now on the cross, Jesus draws us to the Father’s embrace by his death on the cross, our source of life eternal.
Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the children of God. And that is who you are.
Mary, John, and all of us, find the answer to our loneliness and sin and death in the words of Jesus from the cross, and in Jesus’ death on the cross for us.
For what Jesus says to Mary and John from the cross is a picture of what he does for each of us by his death on the cross.
Just as Jesus provides compassion from the cross for Mary and John, he provides compassion for you by dying on the cross.
Just as Jesus comforts Mary and John in their loneliness, he comforts us by promising never to leave nor forsake us.
Just as Jesus gives Mary and John a new family, he makes us a part of his family by his death on the cross.
For when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Jesus pays for all our sin that separates us from God and from one another. Jesus’ death brings us from the loneliness of sin and death into fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And there is no greater fellowship than Holy Communion. In the Lord’s Supper you are never alone. Jesus is with you in his body and blood to forgive your sin. And John and Mary, and all the saints are there too…with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. The Lord’s Supper is a meal of fellowship and reconciliation in Jesus’ death for us.
And by Jesus’ cross we are reconciled to one another as well. Though hidden from her sight, in the time after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus took care of his mother through his beloved disciple, John.
In the same way, he cares for us too. Though we don’t see Jesus, he is with us, hidden in our daily vocations, callings: our spouse and children, family and friends, neighbors, and the like. When you feed the homeless, teach your children, or go to work each day, Jesus is hidden in your vocation as behind a mask, serving others through you. And when you go to the doctor, buy groceries, or are getting your oil changed, Jesus is hidden in the vocation of others as behind a mask, serving you through others.
And know if you ever feel alone in this life, or don’t have a family of your own, or your family seems broken beyond repair, fear not. Jesus’ death on the cross gives you a fellowship, a communion, a family unlike any other.
Look around you in the pews. Behold, your brothers and sisters in Christ. Care for one another in body and soul. Be reconciled with those you are quarreling with. Forgive those who have hurt you. Love one another as God in Christ has loved you. Bear one another’s burdens. Grieve when someone grieves and rejoice when someone rejoices.
And above all, fix your eyes on Jesus.
Behold, your brother and your Savior, crucified for you.
Behold, our redeemer and friend.
For greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.