Writers of the four gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke,
and John, give us a record of the words that Jesus spoke
when he was hanging on the cross-seven statements in all.
The third one is perhaps the most touching scene and the
most tender of all of the scenes that we have from Calvary.
It's the scene when Jesus looks at his mother and said
"Woman behold thy Son," and then to John the beloved
disciple, "behold thy mother." This is a beautiful and
touching scene of comfort and of loyalty.
"When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes,
dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with
the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless,
woven in one piece from top to bottom. 'Let's not tear it,'
they said to one another. 'Let's decide by lot who will get
it.' This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled
which said, 'They divided my garments among them and cast
lots for my clothing.' So this is what the soldiers did.
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 his mother, 'Dear woman, here
is your son,' and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.'
From that time on, the disciple took her into his home."
There were four soldiers who crucified Jesus who divided
his clothing into four different parts. But to help us
understand the pattern of what's happening let's step back
a little bit in history and look at some of the Jewish
customs of dress as well as some of the Roman customs that
A Jewish man typically wore five pieces of clothing. He had
first of all a headpiece, maybe a turban or some kind of
cloth. You've seen pictures on your television before of
the kind of headgear people in the Far East and Middle East
wear to keep their hair out of their face and in place. It
was a traditional headpiece that has been worn for
But the Jewish male would have on some type of shoe,
usually a leather sandal. A third piece of garment would be
a long robe, generally with a slit in the top, sometimes
completely open or slit down the sides. It hung down close
to the ankles and was a loose fitting garment.
The fourth piece of clothing was his girdle or his belt as
we would call it. It was either another piece of cloth, or
sometimes a piece of leather used to tie around his waist.
This kept the long, flowing outergarment from just blowing
away, and yet allowed it to be loose. Lastly a Jewish man
wore an undergarment. In the case of Jesus, it was seamless
made out of one piece of cloth woven from top to
Customarily, that undergarment was made by a mother and
given to her son when he reached maturity, when he came
into his own adulthood. More than likely, that's exactly
what Mary had done for Jesus. Now remember because it will
come into play in just a moment.
The Romans also had some customs regarding the crucifixion.
There were five Roman soldiers always assigned to the
crucifixion duty. Four were given the responsibility to
actually drive the nails and pull the cross into position.
But after the cross was in its standing and upright
position, they formed kind of a four-cornered guard post.
If there was any kind of threat, then they were the ones
there to protect the victim as he was on the cross to die a
The soldier who was responsible for the other four was the
Centurion. He was supervising the crucifixion. One of the
benefits that came to the four soldiers was that they could
divide up whatever clothing the victim might be wearing
that day. That's what they were doing with Jesus' clothing
as He hung there naked and humiliated. They were gambling
for his clothes.
The problem was Jesus probably had five pieces of clothing
but only four soldiers. The centurion apparently didn't get
involved in this activity. Therefore one took the
headpiece, one took his sandals, one took his outer garment
and one took his belt. But who would get the fifth garment,
the undergarment? How do they decide? John tells us in
order to decide which one of the four would get that
undergarment by casting lots or gamble for it. We might say
they were throwing dice to see which one of them was
actually going to get the undergarment. No doubt they did
not know but John tells us, they were actually fulfilling a
prophecy of David recorded in Psalm 22:18.
So with that kind of background in place, knowing the
customs of how Jewish men dressed and knowing something of
the customs of the Romans soldiers as they crucified their
victims, let's come back now to the scene and see if it
makes a little more sense.
There were others present at the crucifixion besides the
soldiers who crucified him and the jeering mob who were
yelling insults at him. At least one of His disciples who
had deserted him returned. John was with Mary and at least
three other women. There must have been a bit of a
dangerous thing for those four women to be there around the
cross with Jesus. After all, for a man to be considered
such a criminal that the Roman government would deem him
worthy of being crucified, makes him the kind of person
that you probably don't want to be around for fear
something might happen to you. After all, isn't that why
all the other disciples fled? Even after Jesus had been
resurrected and ascended into heaven, the apostles all
gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem afraid to even go
out for fear that probably the same thing might happen to
Yet here these women were there out of their love and
devotion for Jesus Christ, really not caring very much
about the potential danger. Who were those three other
women? One of them was Mary, the wife of Clopas. Now we
have no idea who she was other than she was the wife of
Clopas. We don't have any other information about her, but
she was one who loved Jesus.
Another woman was according to Matthew the mother of the
sons of Zebedee, James and John; according to Mark Salome
and according to John the sister of Jesus' mother. Thus
James and John were Jesus' first cousins. Do you remember
something about Salome, something that she had done earlier
in the ministry of Jesus? She was the one who came to Jesus
and said to him, "Lord, when you establish your kingdom, I
want you to give thrones, one on your right-hand and one on
your left-hand to my sons, James and John." Jesus' response
was a loving rebuke as that kind of self-centered ambition
was not the way the kingdom was to be. As a matter of fact,
Salome had no idea the kind of problems that were going to
come and the price that would be paid by his disciples at a
The third woman is identified as Mary of Magdala, the woman
out of whom Jesus had cast evil spirits. She was so
grateful for what Jesus had done that she could never
forget it. She didn't really care that there was danger at
the cross. She loved her Lord and she could never lose her
gratitude for what Jesus had done for her. So she is right
there at the foot of the cross. But then there is one other
woman named, actually she's named first even though we are
discussing her last. It was his mother, Mary. Though Mary
had been there all along, she is introduced to us in
conjunction with the undergarment that we read just a
moment ago. Look again at the text and you'll see after the
undergarment is mentioned; it's at that point when his
undergarment is being gambled for that Jesus then speaks to
his mother. Apparently when the soldiers touched that
undergarment, they touched something that was very near and
dear to his heart as well as to his mother's heart because
more than likely she had made that undergarment for Jesus.
Little wonder then as they were gambling for that
undergarment, he would turn and address his beloved
Maybe Mary was not able to understand all that was going on
at that time. I doubt she was. But she was able to love
him; after all, that was her son-that was her firstborn
son. Is there anything like a mother's love in all the
world? I don't think there is. Can you imagine what Mary
must have been experiencing as she stood there at the foot
of the cross, seeing her son, her firstborn hanging, dying,
bleeding, suffering, struggling for every breath? He was
the one conceived by the Holy Spirit that the angel said
would be called the Son of God. You'd think that no one
would want to stand and watch that, but that was his mother
and that was her boy. She had to be there, it's the most
natural thing in the world for her to be there as painful
as it was. Jesus might be a criminal in the eyes of the
law, Jesus was still her son.
Think of all the things that Mary had seen, all the things
that she had heard, and all the things that she had
experienced up to this point. When Jesus was only eight
days old, do you remember she and Joseph took Baby Jesus to
the temple? They were going to dedicate him, and it was
time for his circumcision. They took him to the temple
where Simeon, a wise old godly man to whom the Holy Spirit
had made a promise stating "Simeon, you will not die until
you see the Messiah." Upon seeing Jesus Simeon realized
that the promise had been fulfilled. It was the Son of God.
"Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of
many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken
against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be
revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.'"
Do you think Mary had any idea what Simeon was talking
about when Jesus was eight days old, when he said to her,
"And a sword will pierce your soul too?" I doubt it very
seriously. But she lived to see her worst fears come true.
She lived to see her son, who came to give his life for
all, have a sword pierce his side. Mary lived to see the
day when they drove nails in his hands. She lived to see
the day when they shoved that crown of thorns down upon his
brow. She lived to see the day when he breathed his last.
It cost Mary greatly to submit to God's will, didn't it?
Think of all the various incidences that must have been
running through her mind as she stood there at the foot of
the cross and watched Jesus die. Now had come the time when
the ultimate plan of God was coming to pass for her
firstborn son. Jesus would be a martyr and he would die for
the sins of the whole world.
Notice something else about Mary. It would be easy to miss
it. It says Mary was standing there. She stood. She didn't
faint, she didn't fall. Outwardly she was still that same
calm woman who had met the salutation of the angel some
three decades earlier. She said to that angel, "Behold the
handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word,"
Mary still showed that same kind of strength. So at this
day she entered into her son's great suffering and she
drank the cup right down to the bitter dredges.
It must have been a shock to all those people who heard
Jesus shout, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
What a painful shock that must have been; but it didn't
crush anybody's heart anymore than it crushed Mary's. She
stood there and listened to that. Never has sorrow
presented itself in a form more touching than we see in the
life of Mary. But even in all of his bitter anguish, who is
he concerned about? He's concerned about his mother, isn't
he? Seeing her standing with John by her side, he said to
his mother, "Dear woman," as the King James has it, "Behold
thy son, here is your son." Now surely that was Jesus way
of saying to her and to John, that John was now going to
take responsibility for Mary. Jesus' earthly life was about
over and someone needed to take care of her. Though she was
strong, she was going to need support. John was the one
Jesus trusted to provide that support.
Perhaps it seems a little bit strange, but there was nobody
there from her immediate family to help. Why did Jesus have
to give that responsibility to John? Apparently, Joseph,
her husband, had died. We don't know that for sure, but we
don't have any mention of the name of Joseph after Jesus
was 12 years old. So Mary is probably a widow. Jesus
couldn't call on any of his brothers to come and take care
of his mother because although she believed in him, John
tells us that none of his brothers yet believed that he was
the Christ. Apparently, none of them were around, they were
long gone. They may never have even been there at all. So
he looks to John, his beloved friend, and says, "John, take
care of this woman, she's your mother."
The Bible tells us that all the disciples deserted Jesus.
But John was at the cross, standing at the very foot of the
cross. Who knows where the other 11 or the other 10 were.
Judas had killed himself, the other 10 were in hiding
somewhere, but John was right there loyal to Jesus. Jesus
knew he could trust John. So as John stands beside Mary,
the mother of Jesus, Jesus says to John, "John, I know I
can trust you. You are loyal to me, and you will be as
loyal to my mother as you've been to me. I want you to take
care of her." What a compliment that was to John. It meant
more than just providing a roof over her head; it meant
taking responsibility for her. The last time Mary is
mentioned in the New Testament is in the book of Acts when
she is in the presence of other disciples who are waiting
for the gift of the Holy Spirit, but the Bible tells us
that she's there with John. So John is living up to the
trust that Jesus put in him.
It's a powerful story; it's only part of the story, that's
only one of the seven statements. There's so much richness
in this scene of the death of Jesus Christ. But let's try
to make three brief applications from this:
1. Grace is
extended to those who fail. If there is one
thing in John's life that he would like to have gone back
and been able to undo and erase, it would have been the
time when he too, like all the others, deserted Jesus, but
he couldn't erase that.
Aren't you glad that when John made that mistake, the Lord
didn't say "Okay John, you had your shot at it, but you
messed up, just sit down. You're out." His grace was more
than sufficient for John and he accepted John back and even
gave him this blessed responsibility of caring for his
mother. Folks, when you fail-not if you fail, but when you
fail and we all will and we all do-turn back to Jesus like
John did because our Lord is a Lord who is gracious and who
will accept us back and restore us.
2. Water is
thicker than blood. Now we've all heard that old
expression: "Blood is thicker than water," In Jesus "Water
is thicker than blood." The reference I'm trying to make is
through the waters of baptism one comes in contact with the
blood of Jesus Christ. When we confess our sins, express
our belief in Jesus Christ and are buried in water baptism
for the forgiveness of our sins, we are brought up,
resurrected, out of that water a new life, creation. We
become Christians. We become brothers and sisters of each
other and of the Lord Jesus Christ. A new relationship is
formed as we are born in water into a far more precious and
far more powerful relationship than even than our own blood
relationships. We who have been washed in the blood of
Jesus Christ in the waters of baptism know that oftentimes,
water is thicker than blood.
3. Never get
beyond the call to honor our parents. Paul wrote
"Children, obey your parents in the name of the Lord, for
this is right-Honor your father and mother which is the
first commandment with a promise-that it may go well with
you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."
(Ephesians 6:1-3) Jesus, even in his dying moments, paid
honor and tribute to his dear sweet mother. No matter what
the circumstances might be for us, or what they might be
for our parents, we never get too old, never get too
sophisticated and never get beyond the call to honor our
father and mother. Jesus, even in his dying moments,
displays that very truth. Lesson # 1253 March 10, 1996