“Then [Jesus] said to the disciple [John], ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” John 19:27
When Jesus spoke these caring words to John he was already nailed to the cross and suffering excruciatingly from that cross and events leading up to it. We are not told how or when Joseph had died but from this passage it is clear that Jesus had assumed responsibility sometime before this for His mother’s care and well being. In Paul’s letter to Timothy Paul writes concerning the care of believing widows and the responsibility a son has for his widowed mother. He writes that it is unthinkable that Christians would not care for their ageing parents (1 Timothy 5:8). After all, it is an aspect of the fifth commandment!
It appears that Jesus was not just asking John to look after Mary until she could get back to her other sons in Galilee. He was commanding John to treat Mary as he would his own mother and Mary was to relate to John as her own son – indefinitely. At this time none of Jesus’ half-brothers believed that He was the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah. That would come later but for now they seemed to have little interest in His teaching or what was happening in His life.
Jesus wanted to ensure that a godly man was caring for His mother. That John was chosen ahead of other disciples may be for several reasons. John referred to himself as “the disciple whom [Jesus] loved” (v 26) so there was already a very special bond between Jesus and John and most likely between Mary and John also.
The society and culture in which we live is quite different but the principle remains the same. We have a privilege and a responsibility to care for our parents when they are unable to do so themselves and especially our widowed mothers (1 Timothy 5:8; John 19:26-27). As a church body we have the privilege of being able to care for them according to their need. Paul writes that we should honour such mothers by caring for them (1 Timothy 5:1) just as Jesus provided for His mother’s care even while on the cross.
There are several places in the Bible where we are told that the Lord will care for the fatherless and widows (cf. James 1:27; Psalm 146:9). The church is Christ on earth and is therefore His heart, arms and legs to minister to the need of believing widows when family is unable or unwilling to do so. The church is the “John” to the widowed mother without believing children. The application of that caring may be as varied as there are widowed mothers. We honour and reveal Jesus Christ in the world when we apply His example.