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TEXT: John 19:25-27

SUBJECT: Henry on the Seven Sayings #3

      Tonight, with God’s help, we’ll get back to the study we started a few weeks ago.  It’s called Matthew Henry on the Seven Sayings.  The “seven sayings”, of course, refer to the things our Lord Jesus Christ said while He was on the cross.  He may have said other things, but these are the only ones we have in the Bible.

      Thus far, we’ve looked at the first two sayings: the first was spoken to God: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.  The other was spoken to the penitent thief: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise”.   It’s good to know our Lord Jesus Christ prays for sinners!  And that even the worst sinner who repents will find a place in His kingdom.

      Matthew Henry breaks up the third saying into three parts, the first of which is this…

MARY’S CARE FOR HER DYING SON AND LORD

“His mother attends to Him in His death.  She stood by the cross, as near as she could get.  See here the tender affection of this pious woman to our Lord in His sufferings.  When all the disciples except John had forsaken Him, she continued with Him.  She was not deterred by the fury of the enemy nor the horror of the sight.  She could not rescue Him or relieve Him, yet she attended Him to show her good will”.

There’s nothing practical in what Mary does for her Son.  She could not take Him off the cross or bring Him any comfort at all.  Her presence, in fact, may well have added to His pain.  Yet she sets all this aside to be with the Lord in His agony and death.  And He notices her devotion and pays tribute to it.

Just being there for people in pain is important.  The time wasted at the bedside of dying friends is not wasted!  Even if they’re not conscious.  The time spent with them is precious—if not to them, then it is to Jesus Christ!  If the Lord had been more “practical” He might have told His Mary to go home and do good for the poor or read the Bible or something.  But He says no such thing.

Though the sight of her Son on the cross must have sickened her, it was the right place to be.  In a world without sympathy, our Lord found some in His dear mother, a beloved disciple, and a few other women.  It’s shocking, isn’t it?  A city had sung His praises just a few days before, and now, the only compassion He gets is from a man and four women.

Sympathy is never wasted.  Tears may be the only comfort the dying receive in this life.

That’s the first thing Henry says about our Lord’s Third Saying on the Cross.

THE LORD’S CARE FOR HIS MOTHER

      Sympathy runs in the family, of course. The tender care Mary offers her Son is more than returned to her.  Seeing His mother and John below Him, He says,

“Woman, behold your Son”.

      How do we understand this?  I always took it to mean, “Mary, look at Me, your Son, Lord and Savior”.  I think I got this from Arthur W. Pink (who is excellent on most things).  But Matthew Henry understands it quite differently (and it makes more sense, it seems to me):

“Christ tenderly provides for His mother at His death.  It is probable that Joseph, her husband, is long since dead, and that her son, Jesus, had supported her, and now that He was dying what would become of her?  He saw her standing by and knew her cares and griefs; and He saw John standing not far off, and so He settled a new relation between His beloved mother and His beloved disciple; for he said to her, `Woman behold your son’, for whom, henceforth, you must have a motherly affection…”

      This is not the clearest thing Henry ever said, so let me try to put it into plain English: When the Lord said, “Behold your son” He doesn’t mean Himself, but rather, He means John who was not Mary’s natural son, of course, but would become a son to her and take care of her for the rest of her life.

      The other view is also true—that Mary, like all sinners—must look to Christ for salvation, but it’s not what’s being taught here.   What we have here is the Lord’s tender compassion for His mother and the practical steps He took to care for her after His death.

      In this saying, Henry sees an unselfish Lord,

“He was not so taken up with a sense of His sufferings as to forget His mother whose concerns He bore upon His heart.  His mother, perhaps, was so taken up with His sufferings, that she did not think of what would become of her, but He expresses His care for her”.

When times were good for the Lord, He put others before Himself.  But not only when times were good.  Even in death, He stays in character—it’s this same Jesus!  If any man ever had a right to think of himself first, it was our Lord.  Yet He didn’t.  Even on the cross He was thinking of others.

And not just of their souls, but also of their bodies.  Mary was still a comparatively young woman (probably in her mid-forties).  She had to eat for the next twenty or thirty years.  And the Lord remembered that!  Even in the agonies of the cross, He put the concerns of other people above His own.

Henry also sees an example to carefully mark and follow:

“Here is an instance of family duty, to be observed for our imitation.  Christ has here taught children to provide, to the utmost of their power, for their aged parents.  When David was in distress, he took care of his parents and found a shelter for them (I Samuel 22:3); so the Son of David here.  Children should provide for their parents if they need their kindness”.

This is a powerful rebuke to a selfish generation.  A man I know (who’s now with the Lord) was very much in love with a girl named Jane.  They were about to be married when the man’s father died, leaving his mother without means of support.  Do you know what the man did?  He broke off his wedding plans to care for his mother, which he did till she died many years later.  The man lost the woman he loved for the sake of taking care of his mother.  Was he a mama’s boy? No, he wasn’t—not at all.  In fact, at the time, he wasn’t even a Christian.  What he was was a responsible young man.  By the way, he finally did marry—though not Jane—at age 72!

Today, we’d look at him as a fool!  But I wonder if God looks at his choice in the same way?  In any event, our Lord set an example of

“Showing piety at home”.

…An example we’d do well to follow.

THE LORD’S CONFIDENCE IN JOHN

      After speaking to His grieving mother, the Lord turns His attention to John, who is called “the disciple whom the Lord loved”.  To him, He said,

“Behold your mother”.

      What does this mean?  Henry says,

“I commend her to your care.  Be a son to her, to guide her and to not forsake her when she is old”.

The Lord had brothers: James, Judas, Joses, and Simon are named in the Bible and also sisters (who aren’t named), but are probably married.   Yet the Lord does not commit Mary’s care to any of them.

He wants John to do it.  Why?  Because He can count on him.  John is not a perfect man, a sinless man, of course, but he is faithful.  He swore to follow the Lord and, though he gave in to fear for a few hours, he was back.  His return proved his character to the Lord’s satisfaction.

Henry underlines two things here:

First, we have the great honor conferred on John.

“This was a great honor put upon John and a testimony to his prudence and fidelity.  If He who knows all things had not known that John loved Him, He would not have made him His mother’s guardian.  It is a great honor to be employed for Christ and to be entrusted with His interest in the world”.

      The Lord has given you something to do.  And He has given you people to take care of (a wife, kids, aged parents, friends who look up to you, weaker brethren in the church, and so on).  Instead of looking at these things as burdens to bear, you ought to see them as medals pinned on your chest by the Lord Jesus Christ!  It is a high privilege to serve Christ and to care for anyone He loves.

      Secondly, we have John’s obedience.

“It would be a care and some charge to John, but he cheerfully accepted it, not objecting to the trouble or the expense or the objections of his own family.  Those who truly love Christ will be glad of an opportunity to do Him or His any service”.

Taking care of Mary sounds romantic—to live with the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ!  But, I suspect it wasn’t that way at all.  Mary had to eat, of course, and that means John had to work harder to make a living for her.  As she got older she needed the doctor more often and couldn’t do much around the house anymore.  She was not sinless and so maybe she bickered with John’s wife or horned in on the kids.  I suspect living with Mary is a lot like living with anyone else!  With all the joys and aggravations of life under the same roof.

But John did this work cheerfully, Henry says.  We ought to care for the Lord’s people with the same willingness.  Will they be a lot of bother?  Sure they will—everyone is!  But with the bother goes the blessing.  Surely if Jesus Christ bothered with us, we ought to bother with each other.

CONCLUSION

      Matthew Henry—it seems to me—has taken us all over the map on this Saying.  But the main lessons need learning, again and again.  They are:

1.      When you can do nothing for others, just sit with them.  Being there is doing something for them.

2.      You’re to put others first—even when things aren’t going well for you.

3.      Material things matter to God.

4.      It is a high privilege to serve the Lord by serving His people.

5.      You ought to serve others eagerly, for God loves a cheerful giver.

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