Today we find ourselves at the foot of the cross.
My dear friend, Liz Curtis Higgs, a stunning writer who authored Bad Girls of the Bible and has sold more than 4.6 million books, offers precious insight on the women tucked so near to Jesus. She opens our hearts to what it means to be the beloved.
Let’s dive into today’s reading, John 19:16-30 together as we learn from Liz:
Mary of Nazareth could hardly bear to look at her son, yet she couldn’t take her eyes off of Him.
The face she’d scrubbed clean a thousand times was almost unrecognizable, so misshapen were His features.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother… John 19:25
We can almost feel Mary’s heart breaking and sense her thoughts, her actions.
Maybe she thought of David weeping for his son—“My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you”—and then nodded to herself, a fresh spate of tears running down her cheeks.
Her sister was there, perhaps resting a hand on her shoulder, offering unspoken comfort.
On this terrible day—worse than any she’d ever imagined—Mary no doubt drew strength from God above and from the women who remained by her side.
…his mother’s sister,… John 19:25
The Lord’s aunt is not named here in John, but we can be very certain of one thing: her nearness in this wretched scene assures us that this woman cared deeply for Mary and would not let her sister suffer alone.
On the crowded, dirty thoroughfare outside the city walls, strangers walked by her nephew hanging on the cross and gaped at Him, mocked Him, and degraded Him. She surely felt as helpless as Mary.
Along with Mary and her sister, stood yet another Mary.
…Mary the wife of Clopas,… John 19:25
Clopas was an Israelite, whose only claim to fame was being the husband of this particular Mary.
No small thing, considering she must have been a woman of deep faith and strong loyalty, based on her presence that day.
One more brave woman stood among them.
…and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25
As one of Jesus’s most faithful followers, Mary Magdalene is mentioned by name fourteen times across all four gospel accounts.
Extraordinary for any biblical character, but especially for a female in that culture.
Now she stood with this impressive group of women—loyal, fearless, willing to do whatever was necessary to support their beloved Rabbi, even if it meant watching every agonizing minute of His execution.
Roman crosses were no more than nine feet tall, so the feet of the condemned would have been less than a yard above the ground.
That meant Jesus could see the women’s expressions and hear their anguished voices.
“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” These women had an answer. They were there. They were present. They were faithful. They didn’t desert their Lord, as many had.
If they looked away, we have no record of it. Even though their tears could not cleanse His wounds, the women were there. Even though their prayers could not stanch His bleeding, the women were there.
From the cross Jesus fixed His gaze on the woman who loved Him most.
When Jesus saw his mother there,… John 19:26
The Son of God had looked into Mary’s eyes as a nursing infant and walked toward her outstretched arms as a toddling child.
Now He watched her weeping in despair, a widow about to lose her firstborn son.
How did you bear it, Lord? How did she?
Next to Mary stood His beloved disciple, John—the only one of the Eleven named among the witnesses that day at Golgotha.
…and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby,… John 19:26
Looking at both of them, Jesus finally spoke.
…he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”… John 19:26
We sense the tenderness in His voice.
“Dear woman” (NCV) or “dear lady” (ISV) captures it best.
A personal word, a relational word.
Aware of the invisible sword piercing his mother’s heart, Jesus tended to her wound in the best way possible—assuring her that she was not alone, that she would be cared for, provided for, and loved.
Perhaps the apostle John was physically supporting Mary, lest she collapse in grief.
They were both close enough to hear Jesus above the murmuring crowd. “This man is now your son” (CEV), Jesus said. Then He spoke directly to John as well.
…and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” John 19:27
The Lord once said, those who followed Him were His true family.
This loving gesture at the cross must have reassured Mary that He still treasured her as His mother. He had not abandoned her and never would.
From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:27
John did something more tender. He took Mary not only into his house, but also into his heart. “From that moment the disciple accepted her as his own mother” (MSG), just as the Lord intended.
As He cared for His mother that day, so He cares for us. Every day. Including this day, beloved.
What did you least want to read, but most need to hear in today’s reading?
(If you have any questions post them below. We’ll be collecting and gathering responses for insight from New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg in the upcoming weeks).
Day 35: John 19:16-30 Discussion Questions:
- What do you feel when you imagine yourself standing at the foot of the cross in this passage?
- Why do you think the Gospel of John pauses to focus on these women? What does this attention suggestion about how Jesus sees women? In general? In the church?
- Read Psalm 22:1-21. How were Jesus’ life and death foretold in this passage?
- Using the Color Method, what stood out to you most from today’s reading?
- What do you find most challenging about today’s reading? What do you find most comforting about today’s reading?
©2017 by Liz Curtis Higgs. Adapted from The Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene. Published by WaterBrook. All rights reserved.