Date: March 29, 1936
“Behold thy son! . . . Behold thy mother!” – John 19:26-27
Father of endless grace: How can we thank Thee for that unmerited mercy by which Thy Son took upon Himself the guilt of all sin in all history’s ages and patiently, lovingly, victoriously bore the punishment of human iniquity? Grant that with contrite hearts we may daily strive to make our lives monuments of sincere thanks for these unspeakable blessings. With Thy Spirit strengthen our message of this mercy, so that sinners, convicted of their sin, may turn to the saving grace in Jesus. Shed the comfort of this love throughout the land, so that we may be saved from despair, strengthened against indifference, and preserved from ingratitude. Particularly do we ask Thee to look down compassionately upon the homeless victims of last week’s flood and disasters, and do Thou, whose hand can restrain the rushing waters, check the terrors of these swollen torrents. Prove Thyself the God of all power, all wisdom, and all love in Christ, in whose name, by whose promise, and for whose glory we ask this. These petitions we direct to the throne of Thy mercy through Him who came not to be ministered unto, but to give His life as a ransom for many. Amen.
IF I were to sum up in one concise statement the supreme need of this nation or of any other nation, I would offer this plain prescription for a better tomorrow: “Put Jesus Christ into the homes of the people.” Let legislators write new laws for this new age and our statesmen conclude new and effective treaties; let our engineers build dams to restrain floods in the East and let them check the dust-storms in the West; let our bankers suggest new financial policies and our business men offer new industrial programs,—the best that Congress, geniuses of statecraft, and scientific experts can offer will prove inadequate unless supported by God-fearing homes.
Again, if we were asked which human agency can most effectively help the Christian Church to move towering mountains of unbelief, check the ravages of indifference, shake off torpid sleep, and call a halt to the organized betrayal of our faith, we would declare: “Put Christ into the homes of the Church.” No matter how high the spires of stone cathedrals, how impressive the names on the church rosters, how powerful the personality of the preacher, how large the resources of the congregation,—unless the work of the Church is supported by the Christian home, its best efforts will fall woefully short of their full blessings.
If you should ask once more what you and millions of others need for quiet, comfort, unfailing direction, we would still say: “Put Christ into your homes.” Though you build pretentious dwelling-places, though you include all the appointments of modern house-planning, if you leave Christ out, you have built on sand. Only too suddenly can the mad tumult of human passions and overreaching selfishness exile all happiness from a Christless house, while a modest home, a room or two blessed by the presence of Jesus Christ, can be a refuge from the noise and brunt of daily battle, a haven of sustaining comfort in the day of trouble.
Endow our land with families blessed with the fear of God and the love of Christ, with homes where the atoning Christ is daily invoked in prayer, His guidance sought in the Scriptures, and His teachings translated into earnest, Christian lives, and you have created a defense stronger than army divisions and naval armadas; you have transfused new life-blood into anemic churches; you have brought God and His peace close to weary, pain-racked lives. Build the home with Christ, and you build souls with love, churches with power, nations with blessings.
So vital is the Christian home that our Savior in His dying hours, torn by the agonies of His crucifixion and the immeasurably greater anguish of His soul, had time and thought for its blessings. He left no legacy of money; the soldiers had robbed Him even of His clothing; yet the holy example of His love for His mother has become a heritage so priceless that this afternoon I would commemorate
HOMES BLESSED AT THE CROSS
and ask you to hear and apply to your home-life this sacred command of our dying Lord: “Behold thy son! . . . Behold thy mother!” John 19, 26. 27.
MARY’S HOME BLESSED AT THE CROSS
Four women cowered at the Savior’s cross, terrified, yet faithful, unto His end. Four women and, as far as we know, only one of the twelve disciples! The weaker sex, as an old Church Father reminds us, was the stronger at the crucifixion; and women have been stronger and of firmer faith in unnumbered crisis hours since Calvary. In thousands of homes a Christian mother’s godliness and prayer bring her children to Jesus and help to keep them with the Church, while the father lacks courage to confess the Savior even before his own flesh and blood. In countless churches the untiring zeal and sacrifices of consecrated women have, under God, mightily helped to spread the cause of the Kingdom. Four women to one man under the cross of the dying Christ and about the same proportion today in many churches that exalt the Cross of the living Christ! As though there were not in the Gospel a virile appeal to the bravery of red-blooded men! As though the strongest souls who ever walked the face of the earth were not humble followers of the Crucified! And as I say, “God bless the loyalty of Christian womanhood,” I also plead, “God seize and change the hearts of you fathers and sons who think that you can rest on the faith of your wives or mothers. God charge you with His Holy Spirit and show you the sin of denying Christ and the blessing of confessing Him. While the Church needs your support, energy, and leadership, a million times more you men need the Church and its Christ.”
Of the faithful four at Calvary the heart-torn mother of Christ holds our attention. Thirty-four years had passed since Mary, the village maiden, was startled by the angelic “Blessed art thou among women!”—more than a third of history’s most blessed century. Standing under the cross, she who treasured every turn of her divine Son’s destiny must have recalled those inexpressibly happy years at Nazareth and its busy carpenter’s shop; the unfolding of perfect youth; the obedience and love which hallowed that Galilean home; and then that awe-filled day when Jesus, her Son, laid down His tools and set out to bring the kingdom of God to men. She remembered the Magi who brought their royal gifts and called the cradled infant “King”; but where was His Kingdom now that His bleeding head was crowned with a mocking diadem? She recalled the miracles that had proved His heavenly power; but where was His miraculous might with that milling crowd singing its taunt song “He saved others; Himself He cannot save”? She lived again those moments of majesty when Jesus, her son, spoke words of life and strength and hope; but where was the penetrating power of His appeal now that His parched lips pleaded, “I thirst”?
Do you, the mothers in this radio assembly, know what it means to lose a child in death? Those who have kept ceaseless vigils at the sick-beds of a son or daughter and have prayed as they have never prayed before that, if it were God’s will, their child might be spared, only to be stunned by the inscrutable Wisdom that took their child to Himself and to His heaven, know that profound sorrow, that indescribable emptiness of life, that strength-draining, hope-breaking numbness which creeps over them when death enters their home, even though they have sought the best medical help and surrounded their loved one with every attention. How much more deeply the agonies of Jesus’ death must have cut into Mary’s heart when, fever racked, her Son pleaded for cooling water and she could not grant even this dying request; when the blood dripped from His pierced hands, His feet, His lacerated head, and she could not staunch those wounds nor wipe that pallid brow! As we behold Mary, suffering as no mother has ever suffered, we do not see a superhuman, immaculate mother,—for the Scriptures know nothing of a sinless Mary,—but it is a human mother, a great heroine, as your Christian mother or mine, struck by the depths of Christ’s suffering and looking to the cross for an answer to this divine mystery.
Never perhaps was Jesus closer to His mother than in this dying hour; for He who on that cross bore the sins of all the world even then proved Himself the High Priest “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” His compassion remembers His mother, the arms that nestled Him close, the lips that sung sweet lullabies, the eyes that sparkled with radiant love. And as He beholds Mary, her grief, her dreary, solitary path of life, the glance that brought repentance to Peter and paradise to the penitent now brings comfort to His mother. In His last testament Jesus provides for her support and comfort. “Behold thy son!” He says, referring to John, and turning to His beloved disciple, He adds: “Behold thy mother!” As death and its deliverance approach, Jesus creates and blesses a new home for Mary.
OUR HOMES BLESSED AT THE CROSS
Today hundreds of self-constituted doctors look at sorrowing homes in the United States and Canada to offer a hundred different remedies; thousands of radical books are published with revolutionary proposals for the family; our universities tolerate men and women who brand marriage and the home as outworn institutions; atheistic Communism is dedicated to destroy the family. Never before have as many conflicting opinions on the home clamored for adoption, and never before has it become as necessary to proclaim that our homes need Christ, above all else, first and last.
To have Christ and the power of His blessings for ourselves and our homes, we must believe and trust in Him as the divine, love-sent Savior of our souls; we must acknowledge beyond all reserve or hesitation that without Jesus we are poor, lost, sinful, helpless; that we cannot find recognition and reward before our God almighty and all-holy by our tears or toils, but that by the shedding of His holy, precious blood, by His dying that sacrificial death, He appeased the divine wrath and paid the price of sin.
Put that message of the crucified Savior into the hearts of any family, and it will express itself in their lives. We warn young people against marriage with unbelievers, which creates a house divided against itself and too often tears the believing husband or wife from Christ. Don’t say that love conquers everything and that you hope to win the unbelieving, scoffing, Christ-denying young man or woman for the Church. If even mixed marriages between members of various denominations are often marred by unhappiness, how can there be any lasting joy in a union between belief and unbelief? Unless you are honestly convinced that you and your life-partner can stand beneath the cross and hear Jesus say in approval: “Behold your wife! Behold your husband!” there is a radical mistake in your marriage plans.
To secure and preserve the Savior’s benediction, every family should unite daily in Scripture-reading and prayer, so that Christ may be sincerely welcomed into the home circle and His love invoked for our problems and opportunities. God knows that we have drifted far from the safe moorings of past generations, when few Christian families would think of beginning or ending the day without prayer in Jesus’ name. If I could ask each of you into whose home this radio message has penetrated whether the family altar has been erected in your midst, disheartening numbers would be forced to admit that they have time for the trivialities of life, but no time for Christ. No time for family prayers because we do not make time for this sacred privilege; because we have not been stirred deeply enough in our hearts to know “what a privilege” it is “to carry everything to God in prayer”! Notable homes that have been overcrowded with honors and obligations have met Christ in prayer. It was the custom of George Washington to read the Bible and religious writings to Mrs. Washington while on journeys or at home. In one of his last letters Lord Roberts, Field Marshal of Great Britain during the World War, wrote to Lord Curzon: “We have had family prayers for fifty-five years.” Martin Luther, for whom every day brought new and vast responsibilities, declared: “This I do: when I rise up with the children, I pray the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, and some psalm besides.” When hindered from attending church, he prepared and preached special sermons for his family.—Who are we that in the relatively small issues of our lives we cannot find ten minutes a day to rest in the sacred company of the Savior?
When Christ is enthroned in the home, there may still be hours of sorrow and anxiety, but these adversities will serve only to bring us closer to His love. As His dying compassion strengthened His mother, so His love helps us in our troubles and fulfils His promise: “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you.” The bereft and the lonely are close to the heart of Christ. Widows are under His special care, and the blessings which He showers upon them prove His never-failing help. He is a Staff in the weakness and infirmity of declining years; and while He offers no lavish old-age pensions, His promise of sufficient grace is renewed every morning. If some invalid father or some mortally sick mother who hears these words has been worrying about the support of helpless children, soon to be orphaned, let them behold the cross in the full radiance of its heavenly love and believe with all their hearts that the Christ of mercy, who “loved us unto death and gave Himself for us,” will find a way for these children, just as He found help and support for His mother.
His loving care for the home has not ceased. He still calls out to the youth of the land: “Behold thy mother!” “Behold thy father!” and pleads for filial love and honor. As St. John, who provided for Mary, enjoyed long life and many blessings, in fulfilment of the one commandment with promise, so you who hold the ties of parenthood sacred will experience the bounteous love of God in your own careers. Today few tragedies mar the lives of young people more deeply than their thankless conduct toward their fathers and mothers. That ingratitude helps to swell the ranks of our criminal population; it fills our penitentiaries; it is one of the fastest ways to misery. And if it should now be my opportunity to speak to sons and daughters who have turned their backs upon aged parents, forsaken those who gave them life and protected them during the perils of their infancy, may God’s Spirit touch these ungrateful hearts, so that they penitently behold the Savior providing for His destitute mother and resolve to follow Him.
To fathers and mothers the Savior repeats His command from the cross, “Behold thy son!” “Behold thy daughter!” And how pointedly this appeal speaks to parents who have not stopped to consider that their children have immortal and preciously bought souls, for whose spiritual destiny they must render an accurate accounting! The millions of children outside the Sunday-school who grow up as heathen; the neglected young people who do not know God, Christ, the Bible, and who have never been baptized, all because an irresponsible father let them drift toward hell or a flighty, hare-brained mother thought more of their clothing, their tap-dancing, or their theatricals than she did of their immortal souls,—these youthful paganized millions constitute a menace to the welfare of this nation’s tomorrow. All the CCC camps and all the National Youth Administration projects, with their splendid objectives, will not be able to compensate for the spiritual loss which hundreds of thousands of youths sustain because parents have shirked their divinely imposed duty.
You fathers, charged by God to bring up your children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” must accept Christ as your Savior and let the Word of Grace “dwell among you richly” and join patriarchal Joshua in making the resolution: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” You mothers, who to a larger degree than you realize are molding the destiny of the next generation, give up everything that takes time from your children and makes you neglect the care for their souls. Realize the sacredness of Christian motherhood. Try to understand how your child’s characteristics and attitudes are shaped, long before it is born, by your faith and your habits. And resolve with Hannah of old that your child shall be given to God—in Baptism, by leading it to Jesus, and in the devotions of your home. You sons and daughters, who, please God, may once have children of your own, as you behold the compassionate Christ and His love of His mother, believe me when I tell you that there can be no satisfying happiness in your life until you have knelt in repentance before the Savior, found forgiveness in His suffering, pardon in His punishment, life in His death, and then have extended His spirit of love and care to your parents.
How much of quarrel and misery could be avoided, how many blighted lives and shattered hopes spared their crushing sorrows, how much abiding peace and deepening love could be found in the millions of homes on this continent if they were built and blessed at the cross! Heavenly Father, we ask not for large homes nor for brilliant families, not for famous parents nor for renowned children; but give the nation, give Thy Church, give us individually, Christ-blessed homes, Christ-strengthened families, Christconscious parents, Christ-centered children. We ask this in His name. Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.