He (Jesus) said to his mother (while he was hanging on the cross and dying), ‘Woman, behold your son!’ (John 19:26)
I have always wondered something about the exegesis of this verse: the reason why commentators assume that Jesus is referring, when using the word ‘Son’ in 19:26, to the disciple whom he loved, as opposed to himself?
From the perspective of Mary: surely when Jesus says to her “woman, behold your son” she would be “beholding” him and thinking that he was saying, “look at me, see, behold your son Jesus here on the cross”. For a first time reader who does not have the gift of hindsight, the natural flow of the narrative would lend itself to the idea that “son” directed towards Mary designates her own son: the dying, crucified Jesus.
It is only afterwards that the reader’s attention is directed towards the man beside her, the anonymous disciple whom Jesus loved.
I would aver that this disciple is never explicitly identified figuratively speaking as Mary’s “son”. I think that the “son” so mentioned is a literal reference by Jesus to himself.
The ultimate importance of the scene, therefore, seems to lie in Jesus’s invitation to his mother to look away from her dying son to find him alive again in the disciple whom he loved - and hence, by implication, in every disciple now that they are his “Body” on earth, the Church, which has now become Mary’s true family. This fulfils the earlier dictum in John 1:12 which held that “to those who believed in his name [like the beloved disciple who stuck by him to the end], he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God”.
In becoming “sons of God” by grace just as Our Lord is by nature, Mary - his mother according to the flesh - becomes ours according to the spirit. This scene, therefore, appears intended to convey the doctrine described above pertaining to the ‘sonship’ of believers who through the blood of Christ have become “partakers of the divine nature”?
This very same doctrinal point is reiterated once again later in the Gospel text during the resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene, who had been among the group of closest disciples huddled around the foot of the cross with the Mother of God and so had heard these words of Jesus to his mother herself, where it states:
16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17“Do not cling to Me, Jesus said, “For I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and tell My brothers, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what He had said to her.…
Like Mary the Mother of God, Mary Magdalene was here instructed by Jesus not to “cling to him/behold him” but rather to look towards His “brothers” - the entire community of believers who had become through Him “children of God by Grace”.
This would appear to be a central, perhaps the central, refrain of John’s Gospel.