Part 85 – John 19:25
The foundation of the church
There are three strange verses in John’s account of the crucifixion that do not fit into the rest of the story. Much of it is the straight-forward account of what happened to Jesus. There are also four events mentionied because they are all direct fulfilments of prophetic statement. But then there are these three verses:
John 19:25 – 27, “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
The obvious question to ask and try to answer is ‘why are they included?’ There seem to be two reasons: first to emphasize the importance of the disciple Jesus loved, and second to point to a particular call that all the future disciples of Jesus should follow.
John, who was probably the loved disciple, is keen to highlight the importance of his witness to the crucifixion and the resurrection that he was in a specially privileged position to bear. He was there. It seems that most, or all, of the apostles had disappeared from sight, presumably because of the risk that they would be caught and imprisoned, or worse, as followers of Jesus. A small group of women, of whom some of the most important are named in most of the gospels, had continued to stay close to the cross, reckoning they were not in the same danger. (What a terrible time that must have been, particularly for Mary the mother of Jesus.) John may have been so young that he was able to join with the group of women without too much danger.
In 19: 35 he says, “The man who saw it has given testimony”. Later we read in 21: 24, “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.” Those words were written by somebody else who knew John really well and was most probably the person who actually wrote the gospel down as John dictated it, or compiled it from his letters and documents.
If we turn to John’s first letter, in 1 John 1: 1 – 4 we read, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched —this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.” This all emphasize s the importance of what John knew and how anxious he was that we should all understand the true significance of what he was privileged to see and be involved in.
The second reason John has included these verses in his Gospel is his desire to ensure that the church, still a young church as he wrote, should follow the example that he had been able to set. It is almost possible to say that this is the practical beginning of the church, not the spiritual beginning which was still to come after the resurrection, but the simple practical first move. One believer is to look after the mother of another.
How much this example is followed where you live will depend on your culture and how strongly and well within that culture believers carry out this part of the Christian commission. In our culture people are reasonably quick to support members of their family who have fallen into difficulty, but are nowhere near as quick to do so for those who, although fellow believers, are not part of their natural family. Perhaps yours does better.
So there is much to think about in these few verses. How firmly have we grasped the strength of the witness of John and the rest of the New Testament people and made it part of the central core of faith? And how ready are we to help other members of the Christian faith and church to whom we are not related?
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