He stands there at the foot of the cross, this man whom Jesus loved. He has left everything to follow Him: his parents, his livelihood, his circle of friends, his hometown. He is so filled with fear and grief and abandonment that he feels numb with it. And his Friend, the One who is dying in agony, uses up nearly His last lungful of air to give him a gift.
“Here is your mother,” He says.
She was losing her firstborn son. Her pain was the pain of every mother who watches a child die, and more. But truly, had she not lost Him already? When He “had to be about His Father’s business” and disappeared for three days, he was only twelve years old. She’d pondered Him in her heart hundreds of times over the years, and she knew she’d never understand Him completely. She’d seen the look in His eyes, time and again, and so she’d expected His departure long before it happened. He hadn’t lived at home for three long years now.
It wasn’t that she had no place to go. There were other sons and daughters who would care for her, companion her–hadn’t they been there when He was wandering the length of the land? When people said He was crazy or had a demon, when He disappeared for a month at a time, when all those strange reports came home to her…the others were there, to shake their heads and give her hugs of sympathy.
It wasn’t that she needed a “replacement” son. But John…he loved her son so much. And he’d surely miss Him just as much as she would, maybe more. It would be a comfort to him to have some job to do, an assignment from Jesus to steady him and keep him from being overcome completely by grief. So–Mary was a gift to him from his Friend and Lord. What wondrous love.
One day soon, John would begin to understand the real gift that Jesus had given him, and the whole world. But in that mournful hour, what kept him from succumbing to the dark was a whispered phrase–“Here is your mother.”