This is an exerpt from my new book “Amazed – Why the Humanity of Jesus Matters”. Read and enjoy. Happy Mother’s Day!
The final account of Jesus honoring his mother is one of his final, earthly actions as a man in the flesh.
When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, he is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. John 19:26–27
Jesus had been beaten, ridiculed, and tortured. As he hung nailed to the cross, which shortly brought his death, he looked down and saw his mother standing beside his friend and disciple John. He said to his mother, “Woman, he is your son.” And he said to John, “Here is your mother.” Why did Jesus say this to them when clearly Mary was not John’s mother?
In biblical times a woman alone without someone to care for her could be left to beg for her living. It would be a terrible existence. Since Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father wasn’t mentioned, he may have earlier passed away. This would leave Jesus to be in charge of the family as the eldest son.
Jesus knew he wasn’t long for this earth, and he wanted to ensure that his mother would be cared for, rather than leave her as a widow without a first-born son in the picture. So he gave her care over to John.
Can you imagine such a selfless act? Of all the things to be concerned about while dying and in great pain, Jesus honored his mother by assigning a caretaker for her. This is a simply a wonderful and awe-inspiring act of compassion and selflessness.
We’ve all heard of the Ten Commandments that were given by God to Moses after he delivered the people out of slavery from Egypt. The fifth of these commandments is the first one that directs our dealings with people other than God.
“Honor your father and your mother.” Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12
In Ephesians chapter 6, the apostle Paul expands on this topic.
“Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise. If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will live a long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2–3
Paul is referring to the place in scripture where God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses. Within that Exodus text, God says more about some of the commandments than others. In the case of honoring our parents, God provides the promise referred to by Paul—in that living a life that honors our parents, God will provide us with a long and blessed life.
So what does this mean to us? How do we put this into practice today? Is this a message to children? Parents would hope so, but the original message was delivered to the Israelites who had just escaped the Pharaoh’s grip on them, holding them in slavery in Egypt. They were adults, being told by God as a direct order to honor their parents.
Jesus not only honored his mother, he actually taught on the subject. He was in Jerusalem, and some of the Pharisees and other religious law teachers showed up. This was one of the many situations in which they tried to entrap Jesus into saying or doing something they defined as wrong. They were trying to take Jesus to task on why his disciples didn’t perform the ceremonial hand washing before they ate a meal.
Jesus brought compliance to tradition and laws up to another, higher level.
Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’” Matthew 15:3–4
We haven’t all had great parents. Maybe one of your parents has been missing from your life because of mistakes made, a divorce, or, worse yet, some form of abuse. So this may be a difficult subject. If this has happened to you, I know it may not mean much coming from me, but I’m very sorry. But the actions of parents do not discharge children from their responsibilities. And God laid these out clearly both to the Israelites in Exodus and in Jesus’ teachings, and therefore to us in following the model of the earthly life Jesus led.
Here is an analogy about honoring someone or something that we might find difficult. In the military, a salute is required in situations when one encounters a superior officer. It’s a sign of honor and respect. The superior officer wearing the uniform may be someone you know well. You might even dislike this person a great deal. But this does not allow you to shirk your responsibility of honoring and respecting that person enough to not salute them. You salute the uniform, not necessarily the person, because it’s your job.
Honoring your parents will take on a variety of different forms throughout your lifetime, depending on your age and relationship. It might mean taking time to help with something. Being present at special occasions. Making a phone call or sending a message indicating that you’re thinking about them. Taking care of something they need like running an errand. Near the end of their lives, it might mean helping with living arrangements or perhaps taking them in to live with you. Maybe allowing them to have something their way instead of what you think might be best for them.
One of the common themes related to honoring parents is the element of time. Time is the currency in relationships. Sure, time can be spent unproductively or unwisely. But we all have hardwired into us the value that time provides—it is a nonrenewable resource. No matter how much money you have, the playing field is level when it comes to time. We each get the same twenty-four hours each day. That’s it.
So it’s simply understood that when time is spent with another, that person knows that you’ve given them something of value—something that you can’t get back, something that can’t be spent another way or doing something else. You chose to spend it on them. And that’s valuable. That’s love.
However we do it, however it looks or is carried out, giving time to parents is the most valuable thing we can provide and is a great way to honor them and honor God by keeping his commandment.
Honor your mother. Honor your father. Jesus as God doesn’t need to honor anyone. We are to honor him as all that we have, all that we are. Our very existence is always and only because of him. He deserves our honor. Yet he chose to honor his mother. He didn’t have to. But in his humanity, Jesus set the standard for how we are to treat our parents. Honor your mother and father.