My wife was often asked what she did while mothering our two children.
“I am a mother,” was her natural response.
“Yes,” was the reply, “but what do you do for work; what are you”? (As if being a mother were not a full-time job!).
Even the dictionary definition for mother, “a female parent,” seems stunted. Just the bland second half of the human production equation. Is that how you describe the love, care, courage, strength, beauty, hope, help, heart, joy, pain, tears, work, commitment of what it means to be a mother?
Eventually, my wife found a more sophisticated way to describe who she was:
I am a “domestic engineer, household CEO and director of child development.”
Moms juggle so many daily tasks that Insure.com estimates that if moms were monetarily compensated they’d earn up to $138K a year.
No wonder the word mom when turned upside down spells wow!
The negative connotation of mothers hasn’t changed much over the years. There are even some places in the Bible where it appears at times that a mother, and more specifically the mother of Jesus, is not given much consideration. Like the time when Jesus attends a wedding feast:
“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come’” (John 2:1-4, KKJV).
That would not go over well with my mom. Clearly, the culture was far different in Christ’s day than in ours, as Jesus eventual compliance with His mother’s request demonstrates.
On another occasion we read about the time when Mary attempts to use her relationship to gain access to Jesus:
“There came then His brethren and His mother, and, standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him. And the multitude sat about Him, and they said unto Him, ‘Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren without seek for Thee.’ And He answered them, saying, ‘Who is My mother, or My brethren?’ And He looked round about on them which sat about Him, and said, ‘Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother’” (Mark 3:31-35, NKJV).
In this text the mother of Jesus, it appears, expects special access to her Son. As Savior of the world, Jesus gives special access to no one and refuses to even acknowledge his mother or family, but rather points to those who do God’s will as His family.
It gets worse yet. On another occasion Jesus simply tells us that…well…let’s just read His words:
“If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).
So there they are. Three instances in the Bible where Jesus Himself does not seem to place upon mothers any greater respect than what we find in the world today. He calls His mother “woman,” appears to disown her when she comes to interfere with His ministry, and finally places her on a “hate” list along with everyone else who gets in God’s way.
Sometimes the Bible seems difficult, even impossible, to understand.
Sometimes the Bible seems difficult, even impossible, to understand. These verses about the mother of Jesus remind us of an entire book of the Bible that is just as misunderstood—the book of Revelation.
One truth we learn from the book of Revelation is that the cross of Calvary unlocks passages of Scripture that are difficult to grasp. This idea is repeated again and again in Revelation chapters five and six. The prophetic scene opens in chapter five. God is holding a book with written words that are sealed up with seven seals. No one in heaven or earth can open or read the words. John weeps and weeps (Revelation 5:4, NIV). Then a voice gently directs him to “weep not,” but to behold Jesus the “Lamb slain” in the midst of the throne. The imagery of the slain Lamb points us to Calvary’s cross. At this point the Lamb is declared worthy to take the book and unseal it, encouraging us that the mystery of the cross unseals all other mysteries.
Then we see the Lamb pulling back seal after seal from this book that no man in heaven or earth could understand (Revelation 6). The cross of Christ pierces the mist and fog that darkens our understanding of God’s words. Like John we weep over words difficult to understand, like these passages concerning Christ’s mother. So how does Calvary bring clarity to the way Christ spoke about His mother? Let’s go to Calvary and take a look:
“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:25-30, NKJV).
Immerse all of Christ’s words about His mother in the self-forgetful, self-sacrificing love of Calvary. While stretched out to die the death of the cross, the last eight words spoken before His death included these three:
“Behold thy mother!”
Whatever misunderstanding we may have about God and His relationship with any human being on planet earth is clarified by the naked, beaten, bruised, dying, Creator of the universe who hung upon Calvary’s cross for our sin.
Jesus knew how great the need for reconciliation between parents and children in our present world. Every word God has spoken, every action taken, every evil He has been obliged to endure—all are clarified, yes, even defined, at Calvary’s cross.
Woman, what are you to Me?
Who is My mother?
Whoever does not hate his mother for My sake?
These statements find their true interpretation when we understand that on Calvary Jesus defined His undying love for His mother and all humanity.
In that dying moment Jesus made clear what that woman was to Him. He loved her more than His own life. His mother was indeed a vital part of His family, the human family for whom He died.
Calvary’s action of love for His mother puts all these other verses in a proper context, a love context, a relational context. The last thing Jesus did before his atoning death on the cross was to take care of his mother.
The last thing Jesus did before his atoning death on the cross was to take care of his mother.
Jesus is dying for the sins of the world. This is the greatest act in the history of mankind. And yet He takes time to remember His mother—the woman who insisted He work a wedding miracle before His time, who attempted to dictate His actions and later tried to use her family connection to gain access to God in human flesh.
Are you too busy to remember your mother? Is life too pressing to give her a call? Do you bear too many responsibilities to make sure she is taken care of? Are misunderstandings from the past stealing love opportunities of the present? Look to the cross. Look to Jesus. While dying under the crushing weight of our sin, He took time to remember His mother. Hanging naked and torn on the cross He remembered to honor His mother according to the commandment, the law of love (Matthew 22:36-40).
The love of God, the plan of redemption, reminds us that this is not about whether our mothers deserve our love. It’s about who they are. They are our moms.
The grace of heaven reminds us that it’s not what they’ve done or neglected to do. God’s unmerited favor reminds us that this is not about our moms meeting certain criteria. No, Mothers in every nation, kindred, tongue and people are to be honored by God with the everlasting gospel. There may be no better day to remind them of what they mean to us and to God. Take time today to remember your mother like Jesus remembered His mother and us. Amen
James has spent more than 30 years preaching the gospel around the world in revival seminars and evangelistic meetings. He and his wife Risë have two adult children, Jeiel and Kierra.