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. (NLT)
Crucifixion was one of the most terrible ways to die, reserved for the worst crimes and criminals. This is what makes these words of Jesus so remarkable. As he struggled to breathe, as he was in pain from being hung on a cross, as he endured public humiliation, he saw beyond his suffering.
He asked John, one of his closest colleagues, to take care of Mary. Mary was to regard John as her son, and John was to regard Mary as his mother. It was not an expression of mere sentiment. In effect, he was making a legal declaration of adoption into a family. Mary was not going to be left desolate.
We would understand if Jesus were to overlook all this sort of thing. After all, when we are in pain, or suffering loss, we can easily crawl into our own space to lick our wounds and let the rest of the world fend for itself. We become self absorbed. No one else’s plight matters as much as our own.
Apart from the overwhelming truth that Jesus’ own suffering was for the sake of others, his focus was not on himself. Many years ago, I was at the bedside of a clergy colleague who was close to death and very weak. He insisted on praying for those who were gathered round him even as they had come to pray for him.
Pain and suffering and loss can swamp us. How good it would be if amidst all that, we caught a glimpse of the world beyond ourselves and recognised that pain and suffering and loss are universal.