“Meeting Jesus: Mary”
A Message on John 19:25-27
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
May 12, 2019
By Doug Wintermute
John 19:25-27 (NRSV)
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
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Today is Mother’s Day, a day set aside to honor mothers everywhere for all the great things they do.
I want to start off today tell you about Anna Jarvis, who lived in West Virginia right after the turn of the century in the early 1900s. Anna was a Methodist, a member of St. Andrews Methodist Church located in Grafton, West Virginia.
In 1905 Anna got an idea that it would be a good idea to have a special day to honor mothers everywhere, especially her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis. Anna’s mom had died that year. She was an incredible woman, having been a peace activist who had taken care of wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, as well as starting clubs for moms to address public health issues.
Anna wanted some way to pay tribute to her mom for all the things she had done, and for all mothers, saying that a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
In 1908, Congress was petitioned to make Mother’s Day a national holiday, but they refused. States, however, thought it was a good idea so they started making it a holiday. Then, in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed legislation making Mother’s Day a nationally recognized holiday.
That’s not the end of the story, however. Anna Jarvis became very upset with the commercialism of Mother’s Day. She started organizing boycotts of the holiday (talk about irony!) and protesting at conventions of companies that profited from the holiday. In 1925, at a meeting of American War Mothers, who were selling carnations for Mother’s Day, she got so upset that she was actually arrested for disturbing the peace.
I find that very ironic, somehow. I also find it ironic that Anna Jarvis, the woman who created Mother’s Day, never had children.
When I was growing up in Cooper, TX it was tradition on Mother’s Day to give carnations to mothers in attendance who had the youngest child, who had a child that traveled the farthest to be there, who had the most children, etc.
My mom won several times for having the most children (there were six of us).
I always felt awkward with that distinction. Mother’s day should not be a competitive contest. Not only that, but there are women who want to be mothers, who try everything they can to become a mother, but who are not successful. All the contests can make women in those situations fee pretty bad. I have known women who refused to go to church on Mother’s Day because of that very reason.
Motherhood is a rollercoaster of experiences and emotions. The highest of joys and the deepest of sorrows.
Our scripture today is about a woman, a mother, who experienced both the highs and lows of motherhood, perhaps more than any other person has. Mary, the mother of Jesus, understood both the joys and sorrows of motherhood.
She experienced the joy and anxiousness of being visited by the angel Gabriel and being told she would be giving birth to the Son of God, the Messiah. Even though she was young, she had to be familiar with the biology of how a child is created, and what the angel told her didn’t make sense biologically, but she trusted anyway, saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Mary probably didn’t anticipate the circumstances in which Jesus was born. I don’t know of any woman who wants to give birth to her child in a barn. And then, when they go to dedicate the baby, hearing the prophet Simeon tell Mary “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)
Mary also had to worry about her secret of being married to Joseph yet having a child that wasn’t his. We know that Joseph was told in a dream about the situation and so he didn’t divorce Mary, which he was well within his rights to.
Mary even knew the anxiousness and worry of not knowing where her child was. In the second chapter of Luke we are told that Jesus, when he was about 12, didn’t leave Jerusalem with the family when they were returning home. Mary and Joseph probably thought he was travelling with other family members and it wasn’t until they had traveled for a day that they realized Jesus was missing. They frantically went back to Jerusalem where it took them three days to find him. And when they found him, he was with the best and brightest religious leaders of the day, listening to them and asking them questions.
I can just imagine Mary grabbing Jesus by the ear and dragging him out of there, telling him, “I don’t care if you are the Son of God, you will tell me where you are at all times, do you understand me young man?”
And we must remember that it was at the prompting of his mother that Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine.
Mary watched her son mature and begin his ministry. She saw him give sight to the blind, give hearing to the deaf, and make the lame to walk. She saw the crowds adore him and the religious leaders try to kill him. She saw him dining and hanging out with those that were the outcasts of society. She heard him speaking in parables that puzzled the religious leaders of the day. She saw him select 12 men to be his disciples, one of which would betray him.
And in the scripture we read today we hear how she watched her son be tortured and painfully and slowly executed as if he was a common criminal.
As a pastor I can tell you that one of the most heart-wrenching moments that causes such pain among people is the death of a child. As more than one person has told me, parents aren’t supposed to outlive their children. Age doesn’t matter. Whether it is a young child or grown adult with grandchildren of their own, the grief is overwhelming. It simply breaks a parent’s heart. I am just an observer, but it breaks my heart as well. I hold in high esteem those that go through situations like this.
I can say that I know how I would feel if it was one of my two daughters. But I really don’t know, and I hope and pray that I don’t ever find out.
We can try to imagine Mary’s pain as she saw he son hanging on the cross, but we really can’t know, can we? It had to be devastating. Beyond devastating. I wonder if she thought back to the things Gabriel told her, to the things Simeon told her. I wonder if her faith in God waivered. How could God allow this to happen? Surely there must be a better way! I wonder if she thought that mothers weren’t supposed to outlive their children.
The bottom line is we simply don’t know. The scripture tells us that Jesus called “the disciple he loved,” which most scholars agree is John, and told him to take care of Mary, his mother.
Now this is interesting because we know that Jesus had siblings. Mary had more children after Jesus, with Joseph being the father. For example, James, whose writings appear as a book in the Bible, was a half brother of Jesus. Same mother, but different father.
In those days if something happened to the first born son, then it was the second born son that had the responsibility to take care of his parents as they aged. So why didn’t Jesus tell James or one of his other siblings to take care of his mother? Why did he choose John, who was not even a relative?
We can only speculate, but one of the reasons may be that James wasn’t around. Most of the disciples left Jesus when he was arrested and especially when he was crucified. It was something Jesus had predicted. John 16:32 reads, “The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.”
We know that after Jesus death and resurrection the disciples got back together as a group. We know because John 20:19 says that they were together in a room with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. They were afraid the Jews would crucify them just as they had done Jesus. It was then that the resurrected Jesus came and stood among them.
Another possibility for Jesus entrusting his mother’s care to John is that John is the only disciple to live to an old age. All the others were martyred at various times and places. John is the only one that made it to his senior years, which might have affected Jesus decision.
We know that Mary’s life was changed by meeting Jesus. Anyone who has had children knows that having a child does indeed change one’s life.
So what can we learn from Mary that we may apply to our lives, especially as we celebrate mothers?
First, I think Mary can remind us that following Jesus doesn’t mean we will lead trouble-free lives. You would think that of all people Mary wouldn’t have any problems after giving birth to and raising the Son of God. Right? But that wasn’t the case. Her blood pressure rose and her heart probably raced as she and Joseph looked for a lost Jesus in Jerusalem, just like ours does when we can’t find one of our kids. And I’m sure the tears flowed as she stood at the foot of the cross.
Another thing I think we can learn from Mary is to trust in God. She had to trust in God when she conceived Jesus, and she had to trust him even when her son was dying. That doesn’t mean she didn’t question God or even angry with God. I tell people that it’s okay to be angry with God. It’s okay to argue with God, and sometimes that makes us feel better during difficult times, but just know that God will win the argument.
Paul talks about how in this life we see things as in a mirror dimly. We aren’t God, so we can’t predict the outcome of everything in our lives. We can only see things from our limited perspective. We can’t see the whole picture. That’s why we have to trust God.
Trusting God is not easy. It’s a day-by-day and sometimes hour-by-hour process. But when we don’t know what to do we have to put our trust in someone who does.
Another thing I think we can learn from the scripture we read today about Mary is to honor and take care of our mothers. Paul, writing in Ephesians, says “Honor your mother and father” is the first commandment with a promise: “…so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
I think this is missing in today’s society. I have heard children backtalk and even curse their mothers in public. Unless there is an underlying mental issue with that child, I think he/she should learn what Ivory soap tastes like. (And yes, I personally know what it tastes like.)
We are to honor our mothers. They gave us life. They nurtured us, carried us in their bodies, and went through extreme pain in order to bring us into the world. They fed us, took care of us, and taught us. They are our moms. We should honor and respect them. It’s just the right thing to do.
So my challenge to you this week is to be like Mary, Jesus’ mom. Know that just because God calls you (and he calls each one of us) he doesn’t guarantee you a trouble free life. Trust in God, not only during the good times, but especially in the difficult times. And honor your mother like Jesus honored Mary, his mother. Moms aren’t perfect, but honor them and respect them. They may have made bad life choices, they may have emotionally scarred you, but they are still your mom.
Make Anna Jarvis, the creator of Mother’s Day, proud.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.