Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” John 19:26
When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, the thing that crushed me most was having to tell my children. Knowing they would grieve with me was almost more than I could bear. I wanted to spare them the pain I knew they would suffer. But I was helpless to prevent it.
I suspect it was the same for Jesus, as he suffered the agony of the cross, watching those he loved in anguish below him. Especially his mother.
But he did what he could. He appointed one he knew he could trust to protect and care for her. No doubt he was thinking not just of his mother, but of his friend, John, as well. he knew this “disciple whom he loved” would be blessed in the caring for his mother.
In a way, Jesus’ words might be surprising. Perhaps we would expect him to say something like, “Put your trust in God and you’ll be fine.” Or “Why are you weeping? Where is your faith?”
But Jesus is compassionate. What a beautiful testimony to the character of our Saviour, that even in his agony, he was other-centred.
And he was practical. There’s an old Irish saying – ‘Trust in God but don’t dance in a small boat.’ Jesus knew the world in which he was leaving his mother, a world that was not often kind to women not protected and cared for by a husband or son. So he did what he could to ensure her well-being.
It brings to mind the words written by James, the most practical of the apostles – “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15,16).
Jesus is, as always, the example for us to follow, even in this. We too are to give practical aid where and when we can, with compassion and love, as Christ did, no matter our own circumstances. We too are to be other-centred, for when we do, we exhibit the true nature of Jesus and when that is revealed the world stands in awe. God is glorified.
I saw a beautiful example of this some time ago, at a Christian writers’ conference. I’d been suffering with what is called, ‘frozen shoulder,’ an extremely painful condition, but I had agreed to teach at the conference and felt I could not back out of that commitment. A woman I barely knew approached me just before my workshop began. “You’re in pain, aren’t you?” I was surprised, since I hadn’t told anyone about my condition. I asked her how she knew. She smiled. “I’m quite familiar with pain. I can tell by the way you’re moving. Just wanted to let you know I’m praying for you.” Then she walked away. It wasn’t until later that I learned that woman had a medical condition that gave her pain so severe she was required to wear a morphine patch to manage it.
That left me in awe, that someone, in such agony herself, would recognize my pain and petition the Lord on my behalf. She exhibited the compassion of Christ. God was glorified through her, and I’ve never forgotten it.