The crucifixion was over and the crowds had begun to dissipate. Standing somewhat at a distance were the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee to be of help (Mark 15:40). Among them was his mother, Mary. It probably comes as no surprise that standing there beside his mother was John, the “beloved disciple.” Although Jesus was in intense pain, his thoughts went out immediately to his mother, grieving as only a mother in that situation could. Looking with love at his mother, Jesus, said, “Mother dear, John is now your son!” Then turning to John added, “My mother Mary is now your mother!” (John 19:26-27). We are not sure about his father Joseph, but it is assumed that he had passed on. Scripture says nothing about his siblings at this point. So Mary in her sorrow and loneliness needed care and John, such a dear friend, was exactly the right person.
How can we live in such a way as to reflect that kind of personal concern for those we love? Empathy is defined as the “vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” It is reaching out with the heart to touch another. And Jesus was that kind of man. Obviously, empathy is a quality of character expected of those who profess to have surrendered themselves to Him. To care deeply for another may be easier for those born with that temperament but there is no excuse for “empathy deficit” (as Kirsten Powers put it) in the life of the believer.
Note, as well, that Jesus’ feelings of deep concern for his grieving mother did not stop at the point of being empathetic. It moved him to take the action necessary to meet the situation. I would think that it was not accidental that John was standing there by Mary. From what we know in scripture of the disciples, John would be the one to be there in a place to help. Perhaps this shows something else about the empathetic Christian (an oxymoron?) – they seem always to be in places where need may arise. I have the feeling that for most, life is so busy just staying alive that little time is left for dealing with the needs of others.
May God grant us the willingness to learn from his Son how to become the kind of people who are always sensitive to the deep need of others and moved to do something about it.