John 19:25 Now standing beside Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 19:26 So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!” 19:27 He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!” From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.
Garrett Ham discusses the idea that this short passage implies that Mary was an important source for the Fourth Gospel.
Here are some of the key points.
These verses seem oddly situated, stuck as they are between the soldiers dividing Jesus’ clothes and Jesus complaining of thirst.
Mary makes her only two appearances in this Gospel in Jn 2:1 (the wedding at Cana) and here in chapter 19. This suggests an inclusio (a point not explicitly mentioned by Ham).
‘At Cana, Jesus attends a wedding, a symbol for the messianic age (Isa 54:4-8; 62:4-5). At the cross, Jesus is “lifted up,” following his redefinition of messiahship.’
‘At Cana, Jesus is asked to provide drink for a thirsty crowd (2:3). At the cross, Jesus himself is thirsty and asks for a drink (19:28). At Cana, Jesus provides wine of the highest quality (2:10). At the cross, Jesus receives cheap wine (19:29).’
‘At Cana, Jesus receives water and gives back wine (2:7-9). At the cross, Jesus receives wine and gives back water and blood. At Cana, Jesus’ hour has not yet come. At the cross, his hour has come, and, “It is finished” (19:29).’
Both passages exist independently of the Synoptic tradition.
Ordinarily, one or more of a widow’s sons would be expected to take care of her. But Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him at the time, so he entrusted her to the ‘beloved disciple’ (contrary to many scholars, Ham doubts that he was a more distant relative). The commendation is subversive, pointing to the primacy, in God’s kingdom, of spiritual over natural relations.
It is unclear from the text whether Mary was being entrusted to the care of the disciple, or the other way round. Ham thinks, in view of the double charge, that they were being entrusted to the care of one another.
The language used indicates that more than shelter was involved here. The beloved disciple was to take Mary into his own home, as his own mother.
The purpose of the text is to establish the beloved disciple’s authority based on the authority of Jesus’ mother.
The special status of Mary in this Gospel contrasts somewhat with the account presented by the Synoptics, where Jesus has words of rejection for her (Matt 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21).
Although John’s Gospel lacks a birth narrative, Jesus’ human birth is affirmed by reference to ‘the mother’.
The words of Jesus to his mother in Jn 2:4 were not intended as a rebuff. The meaning (again, according to Ham) is, ‘What is that to us? That is the groom’s problem.’ There is almost a partnership implied here, and this is confirmed by Mary’s next words. Jesus’ response that ‘My hour has not yet come’ suggests an awareness that to act now would put him on the road towards the cross – and this is precisely what happened.
Mary was there at the beginning of Jesus great works, when he ‘revealed his glory’ (Jn 2:11); and she was there at the end, when he was ‘lifted up’.
In Jn 19:35 the Evangelist speaks as a witness, and as one with authority. That authority is derived, in large measure, from that of Jesus’ mother. He could, therefore, testify faithfully to Jesus birth, death and everything in between.
The spectre of Docetism lurks behind verses 26 and 27. The Evangelist was concerned to demonstrate the reality of Jesus’ death, and therefore of his humanity as a man of flesh and blood (cf. Jn 1:15). The description of blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side is consistent with the ancient view that man consists of ‘blood and water’. His expression of thirst also confirms his real humanity. The Fourth Gospel does not need a birth narrative: the presence of his mother witnesses to his birth as a human being.
In the absence of the other disciples, who had abandoned Jesus, the presence of the Beloved Disciples and the mother of Jesus testify to Jesus’ human birth, human life and human death. Together, they testify to the entirety of the gospel account. The inclusio formed by the references to Jesus’ mother in chapters 2 and 19 only serve to confirm this. Taken into a mother/son relationship of mutual care, these two key (but curiously unnamed) witnesses jointly testify to the life and ministry of Jesus.
It is to be noted that the above account does not depend on identifying the Beloved Disciple as the apostle John.