All the Way to Calvary: The Third Cry from the Cross

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” (Joh 19:25-27).[1]

The previous verses (vv23-24) tell us about four unbelieving men (soldiers) dividing up the garments of the Savior. Matthew says that after they parted His garments they sat down (27:35-36). So there were four unbelieving men sitting. But now we read about four believing women standing. The mother of Jesus was one of them. She was not sitting, pacing or running, nor did she need to be held up by others. She was not in a heap on the ground sobbing. Mary, like the other women, “stood by the cross of Jesus” (Joh 19:25). And as overwhelming as her sorrow certainly was, she did not seem to be surprised by the events of the day which would inevitably lead to the death of her son. From the beginning, Mary had kept Jesus’ sayings in her heart (Luk 2:51). Now that she heard this saying (Christ’s third cry from the cross), she would know that Jesus was not going to obey the many calls from the spectators to miraculously descend from His cross. Christ was clearly preparing her for His death by what He said. And Mary accepted it. She submitted to God’s plan, as painful as it would be for her personally.[2]

But we need to notice some characteristics of Christ in this third cry, which are vintage Jesus.


If there were ever a time you would expect someone to focus only on self, it would be during moments of extreme suffering. Not so Christ. He never asked the soldiers for mercy as they handled hammer and nails. He didn’t beg them to spare a piece of His clothing so that He might have at least some privacy in His pain. Nor did Jesus request expediency, hoping to make the duration of His agony as brief as possible. This is the third time we have heard Christ say something since arriving at His cross, and He has yet to seek anything for Himself personally. Nor does He ever. Although He was later given the sour wine, it was not in response to any request or demand made, but after He stated a simple fact – “I thirst” (Joh 19:28). His concern now focused upon His mother.


When Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, behold thy son,” He wasn’t referring to Himself, but to John, who was also standing there. It was as if Jesus were saying, “Look at John now as your son, because I am leaving.” When Jesus addressed John with “Behold thy mother,” it was as if He were saying, “John, look after her now as if she were your mother, because I am leaving.” In His agony and sorrow, Jesus thought of His mother’s loneliness and need.

The first two cries from the cross were also expressions of thoughtfulness for others (a prayer for the soldiers’ forgiveness and an assuring promise to the criminal hanging next to Him). The third cry continues this theme as He ensures Mary is cared for after He is gone.[3]


It seems likely that at this point in her life, Mary’s husband Joseph has died. Although Jesus had brothers and sisters (or more accurately, half-brothers and half-sisters),[4] the responsibility to provide for Mary would fall to Him since He was the firstborn son. I have no doubt He did just that since Joseph’s death. It’s possible that Jesus spent many of those hidden years in Nazareth working as a carpenter, saving enough money for Mary so that He could begin His public ministry. But now He is about to die. Yet He will remain a faithful firstborn son even in death by committing Mary into John’s care. If ever a man honored the fifth commandment, it was Jesus of Nazareth.

Interestingly, Christ does not commit Mary to the care of any of His half-brothers. At this point they had not yet believed on Jesus (Joh 7:5), nor do they seem to care enough about Him (or Mary) to be present at the cross. Therefore, Jesus commits His precious mother into the hands of the disciple whom He loved. There was a stronger bond with John than a mere natural one.


Matthew tells us that at one point “all the disciples forsook him [Jesus], and fled” (26:56). John, then, must have fled also. But he obviously returned, although we don’t know exactly when. Yet when Jesus addressed him from the cross, He didn’t scold John for his previous abandonment. How tender Christ was with him (and with us).

After Jesus spoke to him, John didn’t depart immediately. The word “home” (Joh 19:27) is supplied by translators. The meaning is that from that time forward, John took Mary into his own care.[5] John was at the cross to witness all that followed (v35), including Jesus’ death.

In Christ’s third cry from His cross, Jesus tenderly asked John to take His place, while Jesus was on the cross to take his.

[1] Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.

[2] Mary was experiencing the fulfillment of Simeon’s words: “A sword shall pierce through thy own soul” (Luk 2:35).

[3] There may be lessons here to provide for our parents in their advanced years, since they typically provide for us in our early years.

[4] Four half-brothers are named (James, Joseph, Simon, Judas), while the half-sisters are not named or numbered (Mat 13:55; Mar 6:3).

[5] John’s actual mother was also there at the cross (Mat 27:56).