The Mother of Jesus
May 13th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
THE MOTHER OF OUR LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-13-73 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us our worship of Christ in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message on The Mother of our Lord. In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of John, verse 25:
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother. . .
When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
The first beatitude in the New Testament is addressed to the mother of Jesus, "And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb" [Luke 1:41-42]. The first beatitude of the New Covenant, addressed to the mother of our Lord, and John, in writing his Gospel, presents her at the beginning of the public ministry of Christ. "And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there" [John 2:1]. And in the last public appearance of our Lord, for after His death the world never saw Him again, only His disciples. In the last public appearance of our Lord, Mary is there, "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother" [John 19:25]. The apostle John very carefully tells us that out of a vast, uncounted volume of books that could be written of the things that Jesus said and did, he chose these things that are written in his Gospel "that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ . . . and believing have life in His name" [John 20:30-31]. I know therefore, that there is purpose back of everything John does. He does not write fortuitously but purposely. And when he presents the mother of our Lord in His first public appearance and in His last public appearance, I can see back of that the years of pondering the life of Christ as Mary the mother knew her Son, loved her Son, prayed for her Son.
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother . . .
and when the Lord looked upon her –
When Jesus . . . saw His mother [He said to]
. . . the disciple standing by –
the apostle John –
[Take care of her] and from that hour John took her to his own home.
It would be very difficult for us, who live in the ease and affluence of present modern American society, to enter into the unfathomable, indescribable depths of the sufferings of our Lord, both in soul and in body on the cross [Isaiah 53:3-11; 1 Peter 2:24]. Yet in the midst of that awesome trial and agony, He remembered His mother [John 19:25-27]. This is after the night of Gethsemane [John 18:1-12]; this is after the long trial before Caiaphas and Pilate [John 18:13-40], standing for the hours and hours of hours, and no one asking Him to be seated. This is after the cruel mocking and scourging [Matthew 27:26-31]; this is after a body so exhausted He fell beneath the weight of the cross [Matthew 27:32]. This is after the driving of the nails through the quivering flesh of hands and feet [John 19:18]. This is after the experience of unappeased thirst [John 19:28]. And this is after the cold chill of death began to settle over His soul. Looking down from the cross, He saw His mother standing by [John 19:25-27].
Wonder what she looked like? She is plainly a peasant woman from the north; her speech, Galilean, betrays it. She is most certainly poor; her garments but advertise her poverty. She is old; for over fifty years the weight and burden of life have rested upon her shoulders. She has known nothing but drudgery and toil; her hands show it, and her face. In art and in literature, Mary is always presented in the charm and strength of youth. It is the official dogma and doctrine of the Roman church that she was perpetually virgin, and perpetually young. If you have ever seen the famous statue of Michelangelo, the PietÃ , which is in the Vatican, to the right as you walk in the door – which priceless statue was damaged by a maniac, a little over a year or so ago – if you have ever seen that, you see a girl who is eighteen years old, holding a corpse of a man who is thirty-three, as though youth were more attractive and more beautiful than age. How much better and how much truer to follow the sentiment of Robert Browning, when he begins his poem, "Rabbi Ben Ezra," with these words:
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our lives are in His hand
Who sayeth, "A whole I’ve planned,
. . . Trust God: see all, nor be afraid.
["Rabbi Ben Ezra"; Robert Browning]
When the Lord looks down from the cross and looks upon the face of His mother, she is not less beautiful in her age, but more beautiful. Ah! The experiences she has known, the psalms that have arisen from her heart, the prayers her lips have prayed, her face is a manuscript illuminated by the very light of the presence of the glory of God, "There stood by the cross of Jesus His mother" [John 19:25].
I am very surprised to see her there. I would have thought she had remained in Galilee. But here she is in Judea and in Jerusalem and on Golgotha, close by the side of her crucified and dying Son. You know, Holman Hunt, the famous English artist, has painted a picture – and I know you have seen it – it is a picture of our Lord when He is say, eighteen, nineteen years of age, and He is working in Joseph’s carpenter shop. And as the Lad works, Holman Hunt has so drawn the picture of the youth that His hands are outstretched, and His mother Mary, looking at the boy, sees beyond Him, back of Him, against the wall, the form of a cross created by His upright figure and His outstretched arms. She had the gift of prophecy, and I think all through her life was the foreboding of the day that would come when the prophecy of aged Simeon would come to pass; when Simeon said, "Yea, and a sword shall pierce thine own soul also" [Luke 2:35]. Through the days of the life of her Son was always just beyond the sight of the shadow of that cross.
When the crowds in their enthusiasm would take the Lord Jesus and make Him a king by force [John 6:15], she saw that shadow of the cross. And when the disciples were arguing with one another about who would be greatest in His kingdom [Mark 9:33-34], she saw the shadow of that cross. And when the crowds in ecstasy, coming into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David" [Matthew 21:9], she saw the shadow of that cross. And after the agony of the night, and the lone vigil of those hours, and after the trial and now the crucifixion, thronged by the scribes, by the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the curious onlookers [Matthew 27:39], she was standing beyond the crowd. Then as the heat of the day rose with the rising sun, and as the crowd began to dissolve, she drew nearer, and nearer, and nearer, and finally stood by the cross itself [John 19:25]; is not that like a mother? As close, as near, in love and prayer to help as she could possibly come; standing by the cross; a mother’s love, a mother’s devotion, a mother’s care, a mother’s hand and heart to help. Society asks, "Who is He? What is His pedigree and heritage?" Business asks, "What is His financial status, His credit rating?" Law asks, "What is His record?" Politics asks, "What office does He hold? Does He have the support of the electorate?" A mother asks, "What can I do to help, to love, to encourage?"
I one time read the story of a young man who fell in love with a cruel and merciless woman, who hated his mother. And this cruel, merciless woman, whom the young man had fallen in love with, said to him, "Bring me the heart of your mother, that I may feed it to my dog." He hastened, slew his mother, cut out her heart, and was hastening back to give it to this cruel woman whom he loved; and as he ran with his mother’s heart in his hand, he stumbled and fell down, and the heart fell on the ground. And when the young man was lying prostrate, having fallen, he heard his mother’s heart say to him, "My dear son, are you hurt? Are you hurt?"
If I were hanged on the highest hill,
I know whose love would follow me still,
If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
I know whose tears would come down to me,
And if I were damned in body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
["Mother o’ Mine"; Rudyard Kipling]
An angel one time was sent from God in heaven to bring back the most beautiful things to be found in earth. And the angel returned with four things: a fleecy cloud, an exquisite flower, a baby’s smile, and a mother’s love. And when the angel stood before God to present his beautiful gifts, the cloud had dissolved away, the exquisite flower had wilted, the baby’s smile had faded; but the mother’s love was forever and ever.
"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother" [John 19:25]. The sacrifice of the cross was the sacrifice of our Lord; He suffered and died for us [John 12:27; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 10:5-14]. The sacrifice of the cross was the sacrifice of the Father who gave His only begotten Son for us [John 3:16]. But the sacrifice of the cross was also the sacrifice of His mother Mary; the cruel agony of seeing Him suffer and die [John 19:25-27].
When I was a youth, playing in the band at Baylor, we made a tour through West Texas. And I stayed in the home, in Big Springs, of a family by the name of Reagan. They had a daughter named Lucille, who had been appointed by the Foreign Mission Board a missionary in Nigeria, West Africa. She was a nurse. And in her dedicated service to Christ in Nigeria, she had fallen victim of yellow fever and had died, and was buried in Africa. Staying in that home as a youth – oh! I was seventeen, eighteen years of age – staying in that home I could never, ever forget the heavy sorrow of that mother as she described to me the giving up of their only daughter, and of her death and burial in Africa. After the passing of the years and the years, as the pastor of this church, I made a preaching tour through Nigeria, West Africa. And when I came to Ogbomosho, I asked if they knew where that girl was buried. And I made my way to that lonely grave, and relived once again the heaviness of heart that I felt when I talked with that sweet family so many years ago. The tears, and the love, and the sacrifice of our mothers is about the finest picture we ever have of the love of God.
Bless her sweet memory forever.
We stand now and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, could there be a more precious moment to give your heart to Christ, put your life in the church, than this day, this precious day, this holy and heavenly day, this Mother’s Day? If you are in the balcony, come. If you are on this lower floor, into that aisle, come. As God shall press the appeal to your heart, answer today with your life. Do it now, make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.