It would be the last time the young pastor would visit the old man, and there was something heavy on the old man’s heart. He had spent the last few months in physical pain, but that was not what troubled him now. Now he seemed at peace with the pain, and even to accept his impending death. There was no more resistance, at least not for himself. What troubled the old man now, what kept him hanging on, was the one he would leave behind. He had been caring for the woman who had cared for him for so many years. The woman who had made sure there was a meal waiting for him when he worked overtime at the office. The woman who had read stories and rocked their children to sleep. The woman who had shown him both love and forgiveness for over 60 years. He had been hiding her dementia, not that people didn’t notice, but that he had done his best to care for her and to keep them together in their home. That was over now, and he knew it. In the old man’s final moments, the young pastor had hoped to talk about Jesus, but the old man had only his wife on his mind.
When people have the opportunity to share their last words, you can be sure of this; the subject will be one of extreme importance to them. We often think of the Great Commission as the final words of Jesus Christ. They were given to us after his death and resurrection—just before his ascension into heaven. Jesus had called his disciples to Galilee, and he had told them to go—to make disciples of all nations. He told them to baptize and to teach, and he promised to be with them always. His words mattered. They were of the utmost importance.
But they are not the only final words we have from our Lord.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
The words of Jesus to the Apostle John, the disciple whom he loved, show us Jesus’ humanity. They show us, that in his darkest hour, he looked beyond himself to care for the woman who had cared for him. It is a tender, intimate moment in which we can feel the love of Jesus for his mother. He has bigger problems to worry about than Mary. He has been nailed to a cross. He is bleeding and in pain. His Father in Heaven has forsaken him, yet he charges the disciple whom he loved to care for his mother.
Can you feel it?
This was someone of extreme importance to Jesus.
Perhaps that moment of tenderness should be the lens through which we read the Great Commission. Jesus speaks with an intimate love, as with the love of a son for his mother, a husband for his wife, a grandfather for a grandmother, as he charges his followers to go into the world to make disciples of all nations—to baptize and to teach. In reality, Jesus was telling them, “Bring my children home.”
When I sat with the old man, many years ago, I told him, “God loves grandma more than you do, and he has not forgotten her.”
Perhaps that is the message you need to hear today?
You are not forgotten. You are someone of extreme importance to Jesus, and you are not alone. Let that truth find a place in your heart, and may the God of peace fill you with the love of him who calls you home.
Rev. Troy Tysdal is Director of Communications and Prayer for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and serves as editor in chief of Faith & Fellowship magazine.