Why did Jesus entrust His mother Mary to John’s care?

Q.  When Jesus was dying and entrusted his mother to John, does that mean Joseph was dead?

Jesus entrusts Mary to John’s care. Chapel Nosso Senhor dos Passos, Santa Casa de Misericórdia of Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Yes, most interpreters believe that Joseph had died and that Jesus, who had been responsible to care for his mother as the eldest son in the family, was asking John to take on this responsibility.

This shows us two remarkable things:

(1) Even at his time of greatest suffering, Jesus was thinking of others, not himself.

(2) The family of the kingdom of God takes precedence over human families. Jesus had at least four brothers whom he might have asked to take on this responsibility, but instead he gave it to a “brother” in the kingdom.

To explore this episode a little further, one fascinating and beautiful aspect of the account of Jesus’ crucifixion in John’s gospel is the way it’s arranged as a seven-part chiasm:
A: Jesus is Brought to the Place of Execution
B: Pilate Refuses the Jewish Leaders’ Request to Change the Inscription
C: The Soldiers At the Cross Cast Lots for Jesus’ Clothes
D:  Jesus Entrusts Mary into John’s Care
C: The Soldiers At the Cross Give Jesus Wine to Drink
B: Pilate Grants the Jewish Leaders’ Request to Break the Legs of the Crucified Prisoners
A: Jesus is Taken from the Place of Execution

As I note in my study guide to the gospel of John, the central placement within this arrangement of the episode in which Jesus entrusts Mary to John’s care “shows that Jesus was a person of compassion who extended mercy and care to others right to the very end of his life.”

“But,” I also observe, “it’s interesting that an account of the crucifixion would not have Jesus’ actual death at its center.  John may have an additional purpose for including this episode and placing it where he does.  He may be putting his central focus on the effects of Jesus’ death.  John may be portraying how Jesus’ death is for ‘the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.’  Through his death, believers in Jesus become part of a new family, which is their true family.”

I then ask in the guide:  “Are there some other followers of Jesus who are ‘just like family’ to you?  What creates the bond between you?”

What would you say?

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

3 thoughts on “Why did Jesus entrust His mother Mary to John’s care?”

  1. I truly appreciate this post. I’ve been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You’ve made my day! Thank you again!

  2. Just out of curiosity: If Jesus who is God is omniscient, wouldn’t He have known that at least James and Jude, His half-brothers, would become believers AFTER His Resurrection and would have entrusted His mother to, say, James? I do believe that entrusting her to a believer like John is godly wisdom, I would just like to hear an opinion regarding my question as I have not seen/read any commentary toward this thought. Thank you for your response. Blessings!

    1. I think this is another of the illustrations that we find in the gospels of how, in the kingdom of God, fellow believers become brothers and sisters, parents and children, to one another in ways that supersede earthly relationships. In Mark’s gospel, for example, Jesus “looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’” So even if Jesus knew that James or Jude (who both wrote New Testament books, for that matter) would have taken good care of Mary, he chose John as a “kingdom-of-God son” for her, and Mary as his “kingdom-of-God mother.” I think many of us who are followers of Jesus have such relationships in our lives–spiritual brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers.

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