Third Wednesday of Lent: “Behold your son . . . behold your mother.”



Text:  John 19:25-27

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

In this third week of Lent we consider what is traditionally known as the third of Jesus’ Seven Words from the Cross, The Word of Relationship. In this statement of Jesus, we are shown that although He faced imminent death, and was certainly beginning to enter into the downward spiral of physical shock, He did not relinquish His human roles as a son and as a friend. In these roles, from the cross, we find both honor and loyalty demonstrated.

Jesus surely was told of Simeon’s prophecy to the young mother Mary: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” On this day that prophecy was fulfilled in the most devastating way.

Jesus honored his mother, in seeing that she was cared for, both in that moment and for the rest of her life. While Jesus is certainly the Son of God, He is also certainly the son of Mary, and loved his mother in a unique and protective way; He made arrangements for her care in her elderly years, and treated her with affection and compassion, even from the cross upon which He was dying. And as she witnessed the most horrible thing a parent can imagine—the death of their child, He saw that she received a son to care for her, at the very moment.

Jesus was loyal to his friendship with John, and entrusted him with the care of His own mother. And while He could have simply commanded that John care for Mary, as a mere responsibility, Jesus described a new relationship between John and Mary: that of a mother and son. His desire was that John would treat Mary as his own mother, and that Mary look upon John as if her own son. In doing so, Jesus used some of the last breaths He had before death to affirm the powerful intimacy of parents and their children, and of the power and hope to be found in adoption between parents and children. He spoke these words in the middle of the most violent, unjust, horrific scene Creation has ever seen—the death of God Incarnate. 

Responsive reading

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name. 

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

At the cross, Jesus was dishonored.

At the cross, Jesus honored His mother and His friends.

At the cross, Jesus was betrayed by all.

At the cross, Jesus remained loyal to His family and friends.

At the cross, Jesus was shown cruelty and hatred.

At the cross, Jesus showed kindness and love.  


Lord’s Table 






The Sorrowful Song of the Mother and Child

Image: By Akseli Gallen-Kallela –, Public Domain,

In this third week of Advent we are focusing on the third of the seven last words of Jesus from the cross–“Woman behold your son . . . behold your mother.” I’ve reposted this piece that I wrote in 2012, when considering the death of my mother in a larger backdrop of mothers and sons, and of Mary and Jesus.  Blessings, Pastor Ken 

One of the most moving, haunting pieces of music I have every encountered is Harmon Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony: Three Sorrowful Songs.  It is one of the songs that I routinely listen to while reading and preparing sermons.  I’m very particular about what music I can listen to while I study—it must be non-invasive to my thinking, and yet provide a gentle screen to keep out the street-noise that is almost a constant in my downtown neighborhood.  The three movements are equally poignant and passionate explorations of maternal relationship, as Gorecki himself said, “…the ties between mother and child.”

The first movement describes Mary’s anguish at the death of Jesus.

The second movement has a particularly fascinating origin.  Its words were found etched onto a wall of a Gestapo jail in Poland.  An eighteen year-old girl wrote:  “O Mamo nie płacz nie—Niebios Przeczysta Królowo Ty zawsze wspieraj mnie (“Oh Mamma do not cry—Immaculate Queen of Heaven support me always”).  Gorecki himself visited the jail, read the inscribed plea, and was understandably moved. Surrounded by etchings in the plaster calling for justice, revenge, and divine intervention—written presumably by adult prisoners, the composer noted the girl “…does not despair, does not cry, and does not scream for revenge. She does not think about herself; whether she deserves her fate or not. Instead, she only thinks about her mother: because it is her mother who will experience true despair. This inscription was something extraordinary. And it really fascinated me” he later explained in an interview.

The third movement describes the heartache of a mother searching for her son, who has been killed in battle.   Its roots are found in a folktale from the Silesian Wars between Poland and Austria in the 1700’s.  All of the movements are somber, complex—and, to me, comforting.

I think we all have some background music in our souls.  These songs and pieces are like lodgers that show up asking for a place to stay for the night, but soon make it very clear that they should really move in for good.  Gorecki’s Three Sorrowful Songs symphony moved in to my soul—but didn’t stand out from the other music there until winter of 2011.

It was the season of Advent. I was preparing my sermons for the coming weeks—and especially wanted to focus on Mary and Joseph, the earthly parents of the Holy Child. I had researched Gorecki’s piece enough to know that it spoke of the theme of mothers and their children, and in one movement spoke of Mary and Jesus.  It formed a low-level soundtrack to my preparation of the sermons, playing for hours as I sat at my desk working.  Often, as the biblical text and the music intertwined, I found myself sitting at my desk in tears evoked simply by the pathos of the piece as it seemed to pour over and meld with the gentle, soon to become tragic story of the young virgin bearing a child, and hearing that the events of the child’s life would one day comprise a sword that would pierce her own soul.  These tears were the first of many that would flow in the coming months, for another movement, this one in my life, began at that time.
“Your sister called.  The hospital just called and told your Mom they want her to come in—now—for an MRI.” 

“Right away?” I asked. “Without an appointment?”

“Yes. They’re there now, alone.”

I drove immediately to the hospital, where my folks sat in the waiting area of the Magnetic Imaging Department.  They were nervous, not so much because of the need for an MRI.  Such a diagnostic tool is likely used on everyone with suspected gallbladder troubles, which is what had brought my mother to her doctor’s office just a few days earlier.  It was the “Come in this morning” part that they found troubling; for once a person reaches their seventies the assumed certainties of health and wellness begin to show small cracks and chips.  Appointments are made for MRI’s—not sudden phone-calls, “Come in this morning”!

At the time, they didn’t know what would be found, but in the ensuing weeks it would be confirmed that my mother had pancreatic cancer.

As the dust settled, and the future began to form into a much different shape than any of our family would have imagined, I found myself sitting at my desk, continuing to work on Advent messages, particularly those with emphases on the Holy Family, with Gorecki’s symphony gently, quietly playing in the background—and would simply, suddenly, begin to weep.  Mary and Jesus.  Mothers and sons.  An 18-year old daughter in a Gestapo jail.  “O Mamo.”

“Queen of Heaven.”


“They called.”

O Mamo.

“This morning, come in.”


“They found something.”

My mother.  My mother.


So, the haunting, intertwining accounts of mothers and sons, and mothers and daughters suffering the loss of each other melds into one ache seated in the deepest, rarely disturbed chambers of my soul.  And despite the kindnesses of others, and the hope of faith—the faint, barely discernible echoes of loss and separation keep tapping at my soul like moths rustling against a lampshade after the light has been turned off.

When Jesus hung on a cross, His body in the final death throes of crucifixion—He looked at His own mother, Mary.  His sunken eyes then fell upon a friend, John.

“Woman, behold your son.”  And to John “Behold, your mother.”  Christian tradition tells of the apostle then taking Mary into his own family, and caring for her until her death.  To the end, mothers and their sons, mothers and their daughters.

“Mom, behold your Jesus.”

“Jesus, behold my mother.”

O Mamo.

For my mother, Judy Garrett (March 23, 1939-June 13, 2012)




Second Wednesday of Lent: “Today, you will be with Me in paradise…”

Thanks to all who attended our Wednesday noon Lent service!  I’m really enjoying seeing you mid-week!  Pastor Ken

Today we consider the greatest travesty of justice that ever occurred: the day that the only sinless, truly innocent Man that ever lived was sentenced to death by crucifixion. The very thought of the innocent Man, Jesus Christ, punished for the sins of others, causes us to rightfully fear God, and to stand in awe of such a complete, ruthless application of divine justice. And yet, we see the end of such justice—that those who call on the Crucified Lamb of God for salvation receive the promise of eternal life with Christ, in paradise.

I. At the cross, we learn of the guiltiness of man.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.

A. Each criminal was guilty, and under punishment for his crimes

B. Each criminal made choice, given what he knew of himself, and what he observed in Jesus.

C. Each criminal was certain to die—that day, for his crimes.

II. At the cross, we learn of the innocence of Jesus.
But this man has done nothing wrong.”

III. At the cross, we learn of salvation through faith alone, in Jesus alone.
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. “43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

A. We are saved because Jesus if faithful to “remember” us.

B. Our salvation is assured—it cannot be lost: “I tell you the truth”

C. Our salvation is immediate—we do not wait for it: “today”

D. Our salvation is personal—between us and Jesus: “you will be with Me”

(Responsive reading)

All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.

But the Lord has laid on Him the sin of us all.

Lord, have mercy on us for our sins against You.

Jesus, remember us when You come into Your kingdom!

Lord, have mercy on us for our sins against each other.

Jesus, remember us when You come into Your kingdom!

Lord, have mercy for sinful words spoken.

Jesus, remember us when You come into Your kingdom!

Lord, have mercy for sinful thoughts contemplated.

Jesus, remember us when You come into Your kingdom!

Lord, have mercy on us for sinful actions performed.

Jesus, remember us when You come into Your kingdom!

What will become of those who call on the Lord?

All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved!