The third word of Christ on the cross, is found in Gospel of John Chapter 19:26 & 27. The words uttered by Christ in the flesh as per the King James’ Version is
26: When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
27: Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
Since King James’ version was the first Authentic version, let me start with the words of Christ on the cross, with the Kings James’ version. The other important version I’d like to cite here is the New International Version. The same passage runs as follows:-
26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home
The first word on the cross was a prayer to God the Father asking Him to FORGIVE. The second was a PROMISE to one of the bandits who flanked Jesus. The third word on the cross are addressed to two persons: firstly, to His earthly mother and then to his beloved disciple, whom the scholars consider to be John.
The King James’ Version has the words Woman, behold thy son!, which had generated a heated debate between the scholars of the Bible as to how Jesus addressed his earthly mother as “WOMAN”. First, Jesus addresses his mother not as “Mother,” but as “woman,” translated appropriately as “dear woman” by the New International Version. We might sense a coldness in the term as used in our culture, but in Jesus’ culture, it was perfectly proper for a man to address a woman this way — but still strange for a son to a mother. The reason for this more formal address is probably that Jesus intends his words to be understood as a formal testamentary disposition under Jewish family law.
However a similar situation was cited by Jesus at Matthew chapter 22 which i’d like to read out for greater clarity:-
“The son of David,” they replied.
43He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
44“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’e
45If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”
The same question is reported in all the synoptic gospels viz. Matthew, Mark and Luke. The point that is not to be lost sight of, is that JESUS was not merely the MESSIAH who was to come to save Israel, the chosen race, but GOD himself who had been with the Father and as Jesus Himself says in the Gospel according to John 8:58:-
Before Abraham was, I am.
The Jews belonging to the generation of Jesus, were under the hope and belief that the MESSIAH would come and save them from the political yoke of the Roman empire. They did not understand JESUS as HE is understood by us. This is borne out by the fact that Salome, the mother of John and James requests Jesus to allot her sons seats to His right and left. Even his own disciples were not able to understand the purpose, as they were too proximate to the happenings and had fixed notions of the MESSIAH.
Therefore Jesus in the flesh calling HIS mother as “WOMAN” need not be viewed as a disrespectful cold statement of a son. It was the ALMIGHTY Jesus who, on the verge of uniting with HIS father, addressed His earthly mother and suggested to her, that she consider John to be her earthly son in his place.
If we further read the other instance where Jesus in the flesh addressed his mother as “woman” it could be found at the wedding at Cana where the first miracle was performed by Jesus. The opening verses of the second chapter of Gospel according to John reads as follows (NIV):
1On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”
King James’ Version reads as follows:-
1: And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
2: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
3: And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
4: Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
But through the Bible, in the King James’ Version one could find Jesus addressing his mother as WOMAN only in these two instances and I believe that John’s narrative was first hand and was faithfully reported.
The point that should be noted is that Jesus came in the human form to redeem man from the original sin. The mission was commissioned by God the Father, and His only begotten Son was sent as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Yet while doing the WILL OF THE FATHER, Jesus in the flesh, at the time of His departure spared a thought for His earthly mother and her future and entrusted the duty, owed by Him as the first born son, to John, His beloved disciple.
It is that compassion and the concern that Jesus showed even while discharging an important DUTY imposed by the FATHER, which brings out His concern for human beings. He did not get engrossed in His undeserved pain, suffering and insults but saw to it that His earthly mother was provided for and her future secured in His absence in the flesh.
The second part of the third word on the cross is equally important, it was addressed to John: Behold thy mother! As we all know John outlived all the other disciples and by hindsight we as human beings now know that, Jesus, being God, entrusted His duty in the flesh as the first born, to a man who would firstly outlive His earthly mother and secondly who would carry out the command faithfully. The appropriateness of the command to John is accentuated by the fact that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the sister of John’s mother Salome.
Further, John was called Jesus’ BELOVED disciple and the only disciple who was in the vicinity when Jesus Christ was crucified. The courage shown by the Disciple John, by being present at the scene of crucifixion, was amply rewarded by Jesus by entrusting one of the most important duties owed by Christ to His earthly mother.
The third word on the cross, by Jesus brings out that man cannot ignore his filial duties merely because he is busy performing a very important function in the society. However important his other duties might be, man has to shoulder his responsibilities till the very end without ignoring them. The same Jesus who said at Matt 12:50
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
when it came to the cross, took up His filial duties and entrusted those duties to the disciple who had the courage and capability to perform them.
Let the 3rd word on the cross be a reminder to each one of us, that however important our work might be, let us not fail in performing our duties towards our earthly parents which is one of the commandments given by God thru Moses: HONOUR thy father and they mother (Exodus 20:12). Even the ALMIGHTY CHRIST JESUS PERFORMED IT ON THE CROSS.