"Jesus of Nazareth the
King of the Jews." That was the placard that Pilate,
the Roman governor, had the soldiers put on the
cross above the head of Jesus Christ. Pilate
probably did it in order to get even with the Jewish
leaders. History tells us he hated his subjects as
much as they hated him, and he often sought ways to
get even with them. The title was written in Hebrew,
the national language, Greek, the language of the
common people, and Latin, the language of the
government. The chief priests objected to the title
because they realized that the title had been thrown
in the teeth of Jewish people. They protested,
"Write not, the king of the Jews, but that he said,
I am the king of the Jews." Pilate had accomplished
his objective and answered, "What I have written I
By midday the Roman
soldiers stationed at the cross have divided up the
garments of Jesus and are trying to decide who shall
get his outer garment that was woven tightly without
a seam. John thought about it and realized even this
was a fulfillment of the Scriptures. He cites Psalm
22:18, "They divide my garments among them, and for
my clothing they cast lots." The words of this Psalm
reach beyond David and are fulfilled literally in
the death of Christ. "Then the soldiers, when they
had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and
made four parts, a part to every soldier and also
the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one
piece. So they said to one another, 'Let us not tear
it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall
be'; this was to fulfill the Scripture: 'They
divided My outer garments among them, and for My
clothing they cast lots.' Therefore the soldiers did
these things" (John 19:23-24a).
Four women were about the
cross. Their tender hearts for the one they loved is
a strong contrast to the hardened Roman
executioners. John tells us, "But standing by the
cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s
sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene"
(Jn. 19:25). The eminent scholar A. T. Robertson
suggests "Mary, the mother of Jesus, had been
present in Jerusalem through all the dread ordeal of
trial and crucifixion till now. It is comforting to
know she was with women who loved her and loved
Jesus. Not one of the apostles was present save
John, the disciple whom Jesus loved . . ."
The historian Luke tells
us Jesus has been praying during this time. It is
imperfect tense in the original implying He kept it
up. He kept saying, "Father forgive them; for they
do not know what they are doing."
People stood by looking
on as the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, "He
saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the
Messiah of God, His chosen one" (Lk. 23:35). The
soldiers joined in on the mockery continuing to come
up to Him and offering sour wine saying, "If You are
the King of the Jews, save Yourself!" (vv. 36-37).
The criminals kept on "hurling abuse at Him," "Are
You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" How long
this behavior went on we do not know. However, one
of the criminals rebuked the other and said, "Do you
not even fear God, since you are under the same
sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for
we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but
this man has done nothing wrong." And he kept on
saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your
kingdom!" (vv. 39-42). Jesus responded with a
once–for–all statement of assurance. "Truly I say to
you, today you shall be with me in Paradise" (v.
What will Jesus say to
His mother and His friends who are gathered about
We must ever keep in mind
the central figure at the cross is Jesus Christ, the
Suffering Servant of the LORD. He speaks as Lord. He
issues commands as a king upon His throne.
MARY'S SON (John
A. T. Robertson observes,
"No mother ever had a son like Jesus. No man ever
had a better mother than Mary. Jesus deserved the
best of mothers. The Eternal Father chose this
maiden in the fullness of time for her high service
to the Kingdom of God and to the race. Mary deserves
the best from us all. She would say that we best
honor her when we honor and worship and follow the
lead of the Lord Jesus Christ who will not brook any
rival in human hearts, not our own mothers, not even
His mother" (The Mother of Jesus, p.
"In the mystery of the
Incarnation, the eternal Christ became a helpless
child, who depended upon His mother for physical and
spiritual sustenance. When God became man, He
took no half–way measures. He went
through the helplessness of every child, the
development in body, mind, and soul that each of us
has known. As Jesus was growing, someone
taught Him to behold the lilies of the field and the
birds of the air. Someone taught Him to
observe so keenly the pathos and drama of village
life, the silly pomposities of little
people, and the inedible heroism which unknown fold
bare the unbearable. The son of Man saw life
with all the sensitivity of a woman, and that woman
was Mary" (Unknown).
Mary knew as no one else
did the perfect humanity of Jesus. She knew Him as
the Son of God, for the power of the Highest had
overshadowed her when He was conceived. No doubt His
death was an even greater mystery. "He was still the
Son of God although He had died."
Mary had suffered
much because of this son.
Simeon's prophecy is
recorded for us in Luke 2:34-35. "And Simeon blessed
them and said to Mary His mother, 'Behold, this
Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in
Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword
will pierce even your own soul—to the end that
thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.'"
Someone has eloquently
written about this piercing of Simeon’s sword:
"There her son hung before her eyes, but she was
helpless. His wounds bled, but she dared not staunch
them. His mouth was parched, hot like an oven, but
she cannot moisten it. His body ached, arched from
the pain of the scourged, the tearing of the thorns,
the piercing of the nails, but she cannot sooth Him.
Those out–stretched arms used to clasp her neck; she
used to fondle those pierced hands and feet; now the
nails pierced her as well as him. The thorns around
his brow were a circle of flame about her head. The
taunts flung at Him wounded her likewise. To add to
her agony, Jesus was dying the death of a criminal.
Mary was going through the experience prophesied by
Simeon. 'A sword shall pierce through thy own soul
also'" (Source unknown).
However, the sharpest
edge of that sword was revealed when Jesus said,
"Woman, behold your son." That was when the sword
cut the deepest into her heart.
But the sword of Simeon
had pierced her heart often by the rattle of the
tongues of gossip.
At age twelve Jesus made
the declaration to his parents "I must be about my
Father’s business." After the public ministry of
Jesus begins, the Gospels keep Mary in the
background. At the wedding in Cana of Galilee Jesus
said to His mother, "Woman, what have I to do with
you. My hour has not come" (John 2:4). Two years
later Jesus was teaching at Capernaum.
Rumors have it that Jesus is suffering from a
nervous breakdown (Mk. 3:30-35). Mary came to
check up on her son and sent word to Jesus. The
Pharisees said to Him, "Your mother and your
brothers are outside wanting to see you." Jesus
responded, "Who is my mother?
And who are my brothers?" (Matthew
12:48-50). "Behold my mother and my brethren!
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which
is in heaven, the same is my mother, and sisters,
Now at the cross, what
will Jesus say to Mary? Will He have some
special position for her? What special
privilege of grace will He assign to the Virgin
In effect Jesus says,
"From now on, not I, but John, is your son."
The amazing fact is Jesus does not call Mary,
"mother," but "woman." He did not say
"mother." He could just as easily have said
"mother." He said, "woman." Jesus is not being
disrespectful. But He must terminate the earthly
relationship. It is as if Jesus said to Mary:
"Mother, look to John. Call him son. He will be with
you and take care of you. . . I must be
about my Father's business."
Jesus could have
addressed Mary as "mother" at this time, but He
chose not to. He called her "woman."
If Mary needs a son to
love and cherish, and provide for her needs, she
must look to the disciple John.
principle for us today
Spurgeon stressed that
Jesus denied to Mary any special privileges based
upon her earthly familial relationship. She must not
become His rival. No human being is closer to the
Savior than the penitent thief, or you, or me––not
Acts 1:14 records the
last reference to Mary in the Bible. It is after the
resurrection and ascension of Jesus. About 120
believers have gathered together praying. Luke
records the events, "These all with one mind were
continually devoting themselves to prayer, along
with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and
with His brothers." A. T. Robertson says, "A
delicate touch by Luke that shows Mary with her
crown of glory at last. She had come out of the
shadow of death with the song in her heart and with
the realization of the angel’s promise and the
prophecy of Simeon. It was a blessed time for Mary."
Now we find Mary, accompanied with her, the brothers
of Jesus who had once disbelieved in Him (Jn. 7:5).
"Jesus had appeared to James (1 Cor. 15:7) and now
it is a happy family of believers including the
mother and brothers (half-brothers, literally) of
Jesus. They continue in prayer for the power from on
high." The half-brothers were now whole-hearted
believers in Jesus the Messiah. The family is once
more reunited. Their Jewish theology was unable to
find room for a suffering and dying Messiah until
after Jesus rose from the dead. When He opened their
minds they understood the Old Testament Scriptures
like the rest (Lk. 24:45).
Mary lost a son, but
found a savior. This Son of Mary became her Savior.
Never forget He was her substitute dying in her
place on the cross because Mary was a sinner in the
need of a savior. Mary needed the Savior. She
brought a sin offering in obedience to the law after
the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:22, 24; 1:47). The mother
was Levitically unclean for forty days after the
birth of a son (Lev. 12:1–8).
Jesus is the central
person in the drama before us. God will not share
his glory with another, not even the earthly mother
Jesus fulfilled the
last detail of the Law.
Jesus was fulfilling to
the last detail the letter of the Law. "Thou shalt
honor thy father and thy mother."
Even at the cross Jesus
provides for Mary (v. 26–27). "When Jesus then saw
His mother, and disciple whom He loved standing
nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your
son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your
mother!’ From that hour the disciple took her into
his own household." How easily it would have been to
rationalize I am dying let her other sons and
daughters take care of her. But that is not what
Christ did. He was in charge even on the cross.
This is possibly the
clearest, most easily understood demonstration of
self–renunciation of genuine self–denial, to be
found in the New Testament.
R. G. Lee wrote: "
. . . Jesus cut Himself off from mother–love.
He forsook the best earth had to offer Him. He
renounced every tie that might interfere with His
Saviourhood. He removed even the obstruction
of filial devotion. He gave up all for sinners. He
gave up all for me. He gave up all for you . .
. It was a greater renunciation when Christ gave up
the glories of heaven to come to this earth and die
for the sins of mankind. He renounced His mother in
order that he could become her Savior."
Jesus forsook the best
earth had to offer Him. He renounced every tie that
might interfere with being the Savior of lost
mankind. He chose to give it up. "For you know the
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was
rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you
through His poverty might become rich" (2
Corinthians 8:9). Our riches are found in the
imputed righteousness God bestows on believing
sinners. "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on
our behalf, so that we might become the
righteousness of God in Him" (5:21).
Jesus drank to the dregs
of sorrow, grief, and pain on our behalf. For
three hours the sun refused to shine on the
suffering deity. Isaiah had given a vivid portrait
of the suffering servant of God when he said he was
"wounded for our transgressions." John the Baptizer
pointed to Jesus as the "lamb of God that takes away
the collective sin of a world of sinners." Christ
gave Himself a "ransom for many." He who knew no sin
God made sin for us. On the Cross Christ became a
curse for us and so redeemed us from the curse of
the law. We are "redeemed by the precious blood of
Christ" shed on Calvary. He gave Himself "a ransom
for all." Jesus had to pay the price alone and
tasted death––spiritual death––for every man. This
was also true for Mary, as well as you and me. She
was a sinner in the need of a Substitute.
Jesus is Mary's
You do not find in the
New Testament Jesus giving His mother any special
assignment or special position. Clearly Jesus denied
any special assignment or privilege to Mary. You
have to go outside of the Word of God to men's
teaching several hundred years later to find any
special privileges awarded to her. It is simply not
found in the Bible.
At the cross Mary
discovered that she had a greater need to be in a
mystical union with Christ than a natural union with
her son. Russell Bradley Jones carefully observes,
"She gladly took her place among His sincere
worshipers. It was not a special place; it was not
on the platform; it with the one hundred twenty, as
a simple believer! She found that the salvation
relationship is higher than the family relationship.
She learned that it was better to have Him as her
Savior and Lord than to have His as her son" (Jones,
Gold from Golgotha, p. 38).
MARY'S SUBSTITUTE SON
I think Jesus nodded to
His mother as He said to the disciple whom He loved,
"Behold your mother!"
It is as if Jesus said to
His disciple, "John, take care of My mother. I go
where none have ever gone. I do what none have ever
done. I go from this cross to Joseph’s tomb." "John
take care of My mother. I have an engagement. John
take care of My mother until I call for her. Mother,
look to John. Call him your son. He will be with
you. Again, mother, I must be about My Father’s
Jesus terminated the
earthly human mother–son relationship. Mary was no
longer the mother of Jesus. He was no longer her
son. He was now her divine Substitute who was dying
as her Savior. He was the Savior dying for her sins.
If she needed a son the apostle John must be that
person. Jesus was placing Mary on the same human
plane with the rest of those whom He loved. "Who is
my mother? Who are my brothers and sisters?" No
human being is closer to Jesus than the penitent
thief or you or me. Jesus as saying Mary must not be
The disciple John led
Mary away from the cross to his own home so she
would not see the terrible end. Then John came back
and saw the piercing of the side of Jesus by the
soldiers after He died (John 19:30-37). Simeon's
sword had now indeed pierced Mary's heart. Her son
died as a criminal condemned by the Jewish Sanhedrin
and the Roman governor Pilate. It appears she was
not at the simple, hurried burial of Jesus. Wonder
what her thoughts were during that lonely Sabbath
when He lay in the tomb? We aren't told.
Joseph is probably dead.
There were other children by Joseph in the family:
James, Joses, Judas, Simon and there were daughters.
Matthew records an event in Jesus’ hometown of
Nazareth after He had been teaching in the
synagogue. The people were astonished at His
teaching and said, "Is not this the carpenter’s son?
Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers,
James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His
sisters are they not all with us? Where then did
this man get all these things?" (Matthew 13:55-56).
They knew the family quite well. Jesus had divided
the household. None of His brothers and sisters
believed on Him until after the resurrection.
F. F. Bruce notes, "The brothers of Jesus were still
too unsympathetic to him to be entrusted with her
care in this sad hour: in any case, they may not
have been in Jerusalem at this time" (John,
Tradition says John took
Mary into his home and she lived with him in
Jerusalem for eleven years and died. Another
says John took her with him to Ephesus and she lived
there until she died.
Why you and me?
There is no more glorious
mission on earth than to substitute for the
Substitute. If the work of Jesus is going to be
taken care of it must be by His substitutes.
Jesus is our substitute.
Romans 5:6-8 as the apostle Paul writes, "For while
we were still helpless, at the right time Christ
died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a
righteous man; though perhaps for the good man
someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates
His own love toward us, in that while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us." Christ chose to take
our place on the cross and die in our place. He paid
our sin debt in full in order to save us.
Let it be noted carefully
there is a world of difference between
sanctification and justification. We are justified
by grace through faith in Christ alone. Our good
works have nothing to do with our justification. It
is an act of God in His grace when He declares the
believing sinner right with Him based upon the death
of Christ for his sins. Our doing good works will
not save us. It will not add to our salvation. It
will not make us right with God. It is not Christ
plus good deeds, even great sacrificial works in His
name. We are saved by placing our trust in the work
and obedience of Jesus Christ who died on our
behalf. Yes, it is a holy privilege to substitute
for the Substitute, but it can only be done after
Christ has come into our lives and saved us by His
grace. A clear line must be drawn between
justification and sanctification.
"For by grace you have
been saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result
of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk
in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Our job is to substitute
for the Substitute. If His work is to be carried on
it must be by His substitutes.
Annie Johnson Flint
"Christ has no hands but
To do His work today,
He has no feet but our feet
To lead men in His way,
He has no tongue but our tongues
To tell men how He died,
He has no help but our help
To bring them to His side."
When you are substituting
for the Substitute you do not have anything to prove
and nothing to lose.
When you are substituting
for the Substitute you do not have to worry about
who is #1, or #2, or who gets credit, or doesn't, or
who makes the decisions. You just want
to bring honor and glory to Him!
When you are substituting
for the Substitute everything you do in His name
counts. There is no insignificant ministry in
Complete Series on 7 Last Saying of Christ
19:26-27 Substituting for the Substitute
Series: Seven Last Saying