April 9, 1982
Good Friday Service of the Good Neighbor Fellowship
at Augustana Lutheran Church
John Piper, Pastor
THE THIRD WORD FROM THE CROSS
So Jesus, seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, 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 into his family.
There are at least three reasons that this word of Jesus to his mother and to the beloved
disciple is a tremendous encouragement to our faith. The first reason is this: if Jesus was so
eager to care for his mother in her hour of need, how much more is he eager to care for his
disciples who hear the word of God today and do it. Ordinarily one would reason just the
opposite: if he loved his disciples who were not his relatives, how much more would he love
his own mother. But Jesus didn't view things in an ordinary way. With him it was strangely
true: if he loved his mother with a natural affection how much more can his obedient disciples
bank on his love.
We know this because of an incident recorded for us in Luke 8:19-21:
His mother came to him and his brothers also, and they were unable to get to him
because of the crowds. And it was reported to him, "Your mother and your brothers are
standing outside, wishing to see you." But he answered and said to them, "My mother and
my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."
That was not a depreciation of his mother and brothers, but an exaltation of obedience. It
means very clearly those who hear the word of God and do it have a more ready access to
Jesus' fellowship and help than do his own family members.
In one sense it is very risky to hear and do the word of God. For the word of God is always
calling us to sacrificial acts of love. "He who would come after me, let him deny himself and
take up his own cross and follow me" (Luke 9:23). But in another sense there is nothing safer
and more rewarding than to hear and do the word of God, because Jesus said, those who hear
and do the word of God are my mother and my brothers. Loving obedience to the word of God
puts us in a relationship to Jesus which is more intimate and more certain to be heard and
helped than his nearest family relations.
So you can see now what a tremendous encouragement it is to our faith when Jesus makes
provision for the needs of his mother at Calvary. Those who hear and do the word of God have
an even greater claim on Jesus' care than she. So if he took care of her, will he not much
more provide for all your needs, "O ye of little faith"?
The second reason that this word to Jesus' mother is an encouragement to our faith is this: if
Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in a moment of his deepest weakness and
humiliation, how much more can he provide for your need in his present power and exaltation!
Not only are you, as an obedient disciple, in a better position than Jesus' own mother to
receive blessing at the hand of the Lord, but he is now in a better position to give it to you than
he was to her then.
According to Ephesians 1:19,20 the greatness of God's power which is working on behalf of
us who believe "accords with the working of the strength of his might which God generated by
raising Christ from the dead and seating him at his right hand in heaven." The satisfaction
made for our sin at Calvary was so complete that God honored this sacrifice by raising Jesus
from the dead and giving him incomparable glory and power and wealth of all things. And so
when the apostle contemplates whether we can bank on Christ for the provision of our need, it
is this wealth of glory that gives him assurance. He says, "My God shall supply all your needs
according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). The risen Christ is so full of
glorious riches that he need not turn anyone away. As Paul says in Romans 10:12: "There is
no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches to
all who call upon him."
Therefore the word of Jesus to his mother from the cross is a great encouragement to our
faith. For if he could provide for his own in the moment of his weakness and humiliation, how
much more can he meet all our needs today from the right hand of God, full of power and
wealth and glory.
The third reason Jesus' word to his mother encourages our faith is that it illustrates for us the
benefits of the church, the body of Christ. Notice that contrary to custom and expectation,
Jesus did not admonish his own brothers to care for their mother. Whatever the reason for not
putting Mary in the care of her other sons, the new relationship between Mary and John
illustrates for us the provision made for us in the body of Christ.
You recall how Jesus told the rich man to sell all he had and follow him. The man turned away
and Jesus said, "How hard it will be for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." And Peter
said, "Behold we have left everything and followed you." And Jesus said, "Truly I say to you,
there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or
farms for my sake and the Gospel's but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in
the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along
with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." Now where in this life are we going to
receive 100 children and 100 mothers? Answer: in the church, the family of God.
When Jesus says to Mary: "Look on John as your son"; and to John: "Look on Mary as your
mother"; he is showing us how our needs are to be met when we have left everything to follow
him. Paul said in Acts 20:28 that Christ "purchased the church of God with his own blood."
Therefore one of the gifts Jesus gave to us from the cross was the church: a loving, caring,
sustaining, encouraging family beyond family. And it is a great encouragement to our faith that
he illustrates the meaning of the church the way he did in the relationship between John and
So let us all take courage in the care and power and provision of our Lord. If he was eager to
care for his mother, how much more eager will he be today to care for those who hear and do
the word of God! If Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in the moment of his greatest
weakness and humiliation, how much more can he provide for your need in his present wealth
of power and exaltation. And if Jesus purchased the church with his own blood and ordained
that in it bereft mothers find sons and sons find mothers, then no one should be without a
caring family today in the body of Christ. Amen.
© COPYRIGHT John Piper