Robert E. Surgenor
John Standing - His Courage
"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home' (John 19:25-27)
Let us draw near. What a scene. Do we not try to picture it, especially when at the Lordly Supper? I trust so. Never before, or since, has there ever been such a crime committed by humanity. Never before had there been such a display of God's love to us. The late Sir Robert Anderson, expressed it this way. "Eternity in the past knew no other future, and Eternity in the future will know no other past, than the Christ of God hanging on the gallows." Perhaps Isaac Watts' words would be more touching:
"When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride."
How tender, lowly, and thoughtful was the Saviour in the upper room. He had graciously washed the feet of His own, not only cleansing them, but also refreshing their hearts and comforting their souls. But now, the scene is vastly different. Where are they? With recently washed feet - they had forsaken Him and fled. How shameful, how unthankful, how cowardly! However, I perhaps would have done the same. It was a very dangerous moment for them. To publicly identify themselves with Jesus at Golgotha may have meant death for them. However, in the stillness and shadows of Calvary I see four soldiers, there because of duty. But then again, I gaze and see something that touches my heart. I see four women there because of devotion! The soldiers are occupied with His garments. The women are occupied with Himself. Rome is occupied with relics. Redeemed ones are occupied with the Redeemer. I sometimes wonder, do we become too preoccupied with temporal things rather than with Him? There is that danger. We are warned, ' If (since) ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:2-3).
The four women at the Cross, I would term, 'Representative Women. " (1) Mary, His mother, would remind us of His birth. (2) Mary Magdalene, conveys to us the thought of His ministry (Luke 8:2). (3) His mother's sister, namely Salome, who was the mother of Zebedee's children, (Matt. 27:56; Mark 10:35; 15:40. She had sustained a stern rebuke from the Lord (Matt. 20:20), but she accepted it and in no way did it hinder her love and devotion to Him. Her name means, 'peaceful," and I believe that she lived up to her name well. She held no grudges. Finally, (4) Mary, the wife of Cleophas, who would represent to us His resurrection (Luke 24:15-18).
I often think of dear Mary, our Lord's mother. Standing with a broken heart, gazing at her firstborn, viewing the agony written on His sacred face. She had brought other children into the world; James, Joses, Simon, Judas and at least two daughters. Tell me, where are they in the time of their mother's distress? They are far removed. At a most crucial time in her life, they are nowhere to be found. What a shame! I often measure a person by how they treat their mother. Let us be aware of our aged parents. "If any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite (recompense) their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God" (1 Tim. 5:4). After all, they brought us into this world. They clothed, fed and sheltered us at their expense. We owe our parents not only love and respect, but we owe them a recompense in temporal things as well. To lack in this ministry, God says, 'But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel" (1 Timothy 5:8).
How sweet to see another one there, a man of courage, not ashamed or afraid to identify himself with a crucified Christ. It is the writer of this gospel. Being a humble man, John never mentions his own name, but simply says, 'The disciple whom He loved' (19:26). He so appreciated the fact that Jesus loved him. Gazing at the Cross, he was beholding the utmost expression of that love. How it must have touched his heart. He is bravely "standing by." Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" (Rom. 1:16). Are you? If not, then I am persuaded that you are a person that is constantly witnessing for Him. You are like the Christians in Antioch. Wherever they went, whatever transactions they engaged in, they witnessed of Christ. They had been scattered from their locations because of the persecution and they had landed in Antioch. They couldn't keep still. They simply had to speak of Christ to all. Consequently, the community called them "Christians" (belonging to the party of Christ). John stood, not afraid or ashamed!
Before the darkness settles in on that scene, the Lord commits his mother to the patronage of John, saying, 'Woman, behold thy son!" He then said to John, "Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.' Tenderly the dear woman was led away from that heart-rending scene. It would seem that John, living nearby, would have taken her to his dwelling and leaving her comfortably there, he would have returned to the Cross to see the end. He saw the flashing spear and he viewed blood and water flowing from the gaping wound. The Lord seemingly spared Mary that scene.
I could hardly call it a burden for John to be responsible for the care of Mary. I would call it a privilege. Can you picture them months later, sharing their own experiences that they had with the Lord? Mary perhaps would be telling John interesting facts about the Lord's childhood, like the episode when they found Him after three days of searching, sitting calmly in the Temple. She would possibly tell him of His subjection to Joseph and herself and how he conducted Himself with her four other sons and daughters. I can just hear John saying, "Mary, I am amazed, tell me more!" Then I can imagine her saying "John, you tell me what it was like to be with Him during His ministry." Would not that home be a delightful place? What about our homes?
Many years ago a brother and I were engaged in a gospel series. The brother we were staying with happened to be out of sorts with others at that time and all we heard was negative talk about certain saints. We became a bit depressed, One Saturday, we decided to drive quite a distance to another state to visit an elderly, godly couple. Upon arriving, we were given a warm welcome. Immediately they beckoned us to sit down while they rehearsed to us all the precious thoughts that they had gleaned together in their private Bible reading that morning. Then after a couple of hours discussing precious thoughts, the four of us knelt and we prayed together. When we left that home, we were enriched. Both of those beloved saints are now at home with the Lord. We certainly could use more like them today. Our assemblies would be spiritually richer as a result. Let me ask you, if Christians came to visit you for the day, would you be hasty to relate to them your precious gleanings from the Book, or would your conversation be about everything else under the sun? Let me go further. Would you have any precious and freshly acquired thoughts to give? John's home was filled with Christ. May this be the atmosphere of our dwellings as well. The late David L. Roy once said, "It is good to talk about the Lord, rather than talk about the saints, for then you will have nothing bad to say." If our thoughts dwell on Him and our soul is constantly being refreshed by His presence, then we will not be ashamed to stand by His Cross.