We will be posting a series of devotionals for the 7 days of Holy Week, leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Each is a reflection on one of the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross.
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. (John 19:26–27).
There have been times in my life when I’ve had to endure physical pain that felt all-consuming. I’ve had many days where I could barely function, much less do laundry, make meals, or even play with my son. Those trials were humbling, because they confronted me with the reality of my limitations. I’m not nearly as independent and self-sufficient as I would like to believe. But my weakness was also an opportunity for God’s love to be displayed through the kindness of the family of God.
My brothers and sisters in the faith have served me through many trials by providing meals, sharing words of encouragement, and offering up many prayers on my behalf. In the church, I’ve often experienced the love of God through the generosity of people I’m not related to, and with whom I have almost nothing in common besides our love for Jesus. We do this because Christ did it first. From the cross, Jesus ensured that his own mother would have a new, spiritual family to be a part of. He told his mother, Mary, and his beloved disciple, John, to become like mother and son to one another. In this way, he provided for his mother’s needs while also giving us an example of the new kind of spiritual family the church would become.
Because Mary was a widow, Jesus’ death was about to put her in a very vulnerable situation. In the Ancient Near East, being a widow meant that Mary would have no financial means without a son to care for her. Jesus’ impending death was devastating, not just emotionally, but also financially. It meant that Mary was facing destitution. As Mary’s eldest son, it was essential for Jesus to make certain that she would be provided for after he died.
Though Jesus had at least four brothers that we know of (Matthew 13:55), he chose John to care for his mother instead. Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in him until sometime after his resurrection (John 7:5, 1 Cor. 9:5). It’s possible they may have treated Mary badly because she believed that Jesus was the Messiah. But Jesus had an especially close relationship with John, so he trusted him to care for Mary like his own mother. In John’s home, Mary would be surrounded by a family of fellow believers. We can’t say for sure, but it’s possible that Jesus purposely chose John because he knew his beloved disciple would ensure that Mary’s spiritual needs would be met along with her material ones.
Jesus provides those things for us too. He places us in a family of believers, and uses our brothers and sisters in Christ to meet our needs. For some, following Jesus may mean losing our earthly families, as was the case for Mary. But Jesus promised that even those who lose their biological family will gain a spiritual one: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30). Whatever family background you may come from, God says that you became a member of his family when you put your faith in Jesus.
And, as members of God’s family, we’re meant to live as brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers to one another. We’re meant to serve one another in love, whether that means praying for them in their grief, bringing a meal when they’re sick, going for a walk together when they need someone to listen, or picking up their kids when they have to work late. By our faith in Jesus, the Spirit is at work in us, uniting us in spite of our differences, and enabling us to love God in the ways that we love one another.
As you contemplate these words of Jesus from the cross, praise God, who “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6, NIV). Give thanks for the ways that the family of God has ministered to you in the past. Pray about how the Spirit might be prompting you to reach out to another with words of encouragement or to meet a material need this week.