“When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, ‘Dear woman, here is your son.’ And he said to this disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from then on this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26,27)
The fifth of the Ten Commandments reads: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). This commandment is repeated in the New Testament (Ephesians 6:1-3.)
When does this responsibility end? I believe Jesus set us an example, even while he was dying on the cross. His honoring of his mother did not end when he became an adult. His honoring of his mother did not end even when he knew he was dying. His honoring of his mother was a responsibility that Jesus provided for even after his own death—by entrusting her care to “the disciple he loved” (the Apostle John.)
Let me extend this thought: for most of us, our parents will probably pass before we do. I believe that obedience to this commandment never ends; that even after their passing, we honor their memories—for example, in the manner in which we speak of them to others.
(Just in case there is any doubt that Jesus honored his earthly parents even while they were all living, or when he was growing up, note Luke 2:51—“He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.” Jesus was 12 years old at this time.)
I believe there is another aspect to Jesus providing for his mother after his own death: he was demonstrating that, even in the most difficult of circumstances, obedience to God’s law was always on his mind. (In this way, he was also honoring his heavenly Father while providing for his earthly mother!)
One more word about the command to honor your parents before we take today’s meditation in a different direction: the word “honor” encompasses much more than mere obedience! It includes respect; it includes love. A grudging obedience is not fully fulfilling the intent of the injunction; children are to obey their parents, for sure—but our responsibility does not end there; we are to honor them in our very hearts.
(Please note that I am aware that in a sinful, fallen world there are some parents who do not deserve the respect of their children; I am not addressing the exceptions in this meditation, but I do realize they exist.)
I can’t leave today’s words without noting one more interesting truth contained in this passage: note that “the disciple he loved” (again, the Apostle John—the writer of the Gospel where these words of Jesus are found)—was one of those who could not stay awake and pray with Jesus during his greatest hour of need. Indeed, he was one of those who fled; who abandoned Jesus when he was being arrested. (Read Matthew 26:36-56.)
And yet—here we find him standing by Jesus’s side. He returned to Jesus; he stood by the cross, and Jesus entrusted him with an awesome responsibility.
If anyone reading this feels like they have wandered away from Jesus; have neglected or even forsaken him—let this be an encouragement to you! You can return to his side, and you will not hear a word of rebuke—you will find him ready to forgive, ready to restore; ready to entrust you once again. This is the grace of our God, even while suffering on the cross!