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Why did Jesus choose John to care for His mother Mary?

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Question:  I have a question about John 19: 26-27 where John takes on the responsibility for caring for Jesus' mother rather than James (which we might expect since James was also Mary's son). Does this have something to do with James' spiritual status at that particular time?

Response: The notes for the NIV study Bible on this passage have probably got it right: at this point, it is probable that none of Jesus' brothers had accepted Him as the Messiah, although as your question suggests James would do so later, and Jude too (cf. Jude 1:1), and possibly some or even all of his other brothers as well (cf. 1Cor.9:5).

I think we can glean two important things from our Lord's decision:

1) as the elder brother, the care of His sole remaining parent was Jesus' responsibility. He wasn't about to leave it to others to decide, given the opportunity to arrange the matter Himself (even though He had to do so from the cross). Since none of the 12 really "got it" before Jesus was crucified and resurrected, it would not have been prudent of our Lord to entrust this responsibility to John before the cross, any more than it would have been fair to expect the charge and responsibility to fully register before John saw Jesus hanging there. There is a proper time and place for everything (Eccl.8:5-6; cf. Eccl.3:1-8). Even though there are some things that weigh so heavily upon us that we would like to settle them ahead of time, if we are prudent and wise we will, like our Lord, wait patiently for just the right time.

2) There can be no stronger testimony as to the importance of faith over all other worldly considerations than this decision of our Lord. In our own scale of priorities, some of us would put family first in such situations (the principle of "blood being thicker than water"). Others would consider the material aspects: "Who could best provide for her?" John was not family. John was poor (and no doubt poorer than Jesus' brothers, for John had been unemployed in the worldly sense for the past three years, living off of donations along with Jesus and the other twelve: cf. Lk.8:3). Our Lord was clearly more concerned with His mother's spiritual welfare than with either family considerations or economic welfare (and letting His brothers take care of her would have been better on both of these other two counts). For our Lord was concerned that His mother continue in an environment of faith, her eternal life and spiritual growth being even more important to Him than her physical life and financial security. If we really love someone, we should live by this example and put their spiritual welfare ahead of all other considerations. For even if we see to it that they are happy, healthy, and know no financial want, if they are suffering spiritually because of our focus on these other issues - far subordinate in God's eyes to maintaining healthy faith, growing in the truth, and drawing closer to Him and His Son - then we have made a poor bargain indeed.

John was, as it says in this context, "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (cf. also Jn.13:23; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20). Since our Lord's judgment was perfect, this means that John certainly had a lot going for him relative to the other disciples. And the qualities which attracted our Lord to John must have been primarily spiritual. We certainly see His great humility and responsiveness to the leading of the Spirit in his gospel and his epistles. And John, of course, lived longer than any of the rest, penning the final book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, apparently just before his death in circa 64-68 A.D. For all these reasons, John seems to have been the best choice and indeed the perfect choice to look after Mary.

Please see also the following links:

Mary, Joseph, and Nazareth.

What ever happened to Joseph, Jesus' Stepfather?

Jesus' Siblings.

The Birth of Christ (in Bible Basics 4A: Christology)

"The events surrounding the birth of Christ"

I hope this explanation is helpful.

In our Lord who always knows the right time for all of our deliverances, our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


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