concern for her future well-being is remarkable in the depth of its compassion, and in the simplicity of the arrangements. The following three principles of love stand the test of time for all those who want to show a deep, abiding love to their family members.
Recognize Family Members as Individuals
Jesus recognized his mother as an important person. He paid attention to her presence at the foot of the cross. Jesus took the time to acknowledge his mother as ‘dear woman’. This was the woman who had birthed him, raised him, and had even fled to another country for a while to protect him.
Mary must have often felt left behind, especially when Jesus began his traveling ministry. She had been prepared for this many years before. When Jesus was only 12 years old and stayed behind in Jerusalem after the Feast of the Passover, he reminded his mother, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). He was on earth to carry out the will of God the Father. Mary knew that, but she was still his mother and made sure she was in his life to the end.
The lesson here for everyone who wants to demonstrate love in their families is to pay attention to each family member as an individual. Look at each of them, listen to them, and walk alongside family members. Spend time and energy paying attention. This, in itself, is a way to accord dignity and respect to all of the family, from a loveable toddler to a cantankerous octogenarian.
Provide for The Needs of Family Members
Mary was aging and tradition tells us she had been a widow for years. Although he had half-siblings who could care for Mary’s physical needs in old age, Jesus ensured that one of his own disciples would assume that responsibility. He demonstrated that Mary was very precious to him in a few simple words, “Dear woman, here is your son” (John 19:26). This short statement shows respect and affection for Mary, while identifying John not just as a caregiver, but as someone who will treat her as a son would treat her. To John, he simply said, ”Here is your mother” (John 19:27), authorizing his disciple to take over the care of Mary as if she were his own mother.
This gift of care for the elderly is confirmed for Christians in I Timothy 5, summed up in verse 3, “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.”
In today’s world, there is much analysis of family love and all its ramifications. Perhaps this simple precept of Jesus of presenting one family member to another with the unspoken reminder of the love, duty, and rewards is all that is needed. This is truly unconditional love. Elder care, in particular, can sometimes seem like a burden, but if Jesus could attend to it while hanging on a cross near the moment of his physical death, Christians today can surely do what is right in the spirit of love.
Provide Emotional Support for the Family
Mary had gone through many hardships in her love of her son, Jesus. It started with the shame of what appeared to others to be an illegitimate pregnancy and having to flee to Egypt when King Herod started killing all boys under the age of two in an effort to eliminate the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:16). The subsequent knowledge that it was because of her son that all those other little boys were killed would have been a burden. Later on, she must have suffered when the priests turned against her son, trying to trick him at every opportunity.
All the while, it appears that she was more and more distanced from him as he began traveling, preaching and ministering to people. However, she was there at the end, probably suffused with emotions ranging from love and sorrow, to anger and frustration. How could any mother watch her innocent son die such a slow, tortuous death? Jesus’ death was, indeed, the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy for Mary at the temple when Jesus was a baby: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35).
Even in his deepest pain, Jesus was able to look outside himself, to make sure that his mother’s emotional state was acknowledged and supported. It was not just a duty of care for physical needs, but also for her emotional and spiritual needs.
This is a lesson for Christians everywhere to meet others’ needs even if their own are not being met. This principle of love is noted in Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” That directive includes all aspects of failings. It is often easy to look after food, shelter, and clothing for family members, but Christians are called to tend to the emotional and spiritual well being of those close to them.
There are many messages from the cross of Jesus at Easter. However, one of the most important is that of family love. Let Christians everywhere accept the challenge from Jesus himself and rejoice in a more closely knit family.