THE MINISTRY OF COMPLETION
By: Frank G. Tunstall
Jesus’ mother, Mary, was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover when Jesus was crucified. So was Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene – three Mary’s who were each Godly women. It is not recorded how quickly someone got the news to Mary about Jesus’ arrest and His crucifixion. But as one would expect, when she did learn, Mary and the other two women in their horror surely dropped everything to rush to Golgotha.
The gospel writers said very little about Jesus’ personal feelings of pain and suffering on the cross, including the pain of His mother who was a witness. King David, however, described in prophecy some of the suffering and the shame: “I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me” (Psalm 22:6-7).
How could Jesus’ mother ever forget the horrible first sight of her son, mangled and bloody, hanging on that cross? The scene surely burned into her consciousness and stayed with her as long as she lived. Perhaps she even remembered the prophecy of Simeon some thirty years earlier when she and Joseph were young and so very happy to be taking Baby Jesus to the temple for dedication.
Simeon shook their world that day: “A sword will pierce your own soul too,” said the prophet (Luke 2:35). Mary would have been very willing to take a sword through her heart if it would have saved her son. As it was, the sharpest sword could not have hurt her any worse than the emotional sword that was driven into her soul when with that first look she saw her son hanging on the cross. Without question, part of her agony was she could do nothing to help Jesus, to ease His shame, or even to lessen the off-the-charts pain.
None of the gospel writers tell when Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, was promoted to heaven. In fact, Joseph is not mentioned again after he took Mary and Jesus on a trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem to worship in the temple when Jesus was twelve years old (Luke 2:42-51).
Joseph and Mary had four sons after Jesus was born: Joseph, James, Jude, and Simon (Matthew 12:46; 13:55). According to the social customs of the day, the primary responsibility for caring for a widowed mother went to the oldest son; in this family, it fell to Jesus.
“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 his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19:25-27).
Even though Jesus was in the most intense agony, He tenderly honored Mary’s undying love and provided for His mother’s future. Jesus assigned the care of Mary to the Apostle John who was standing at the foot of the cross with the women. John described himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.” Jesus told John to take Mary into his home and into his heart as his own mother. Jesus also told His mother to receive John as her own son. It is a warm and caring portrait of Jesus’ intimate feelings for His mother and of the trust He placed in John.
Jesus gave John the assignment to complete in Mary’s life all of the responsibilities Jesus would no longer be able to perform. It is worthy of note that Jesus did not select one of his half-brothers for this assignment.
Jesus’ action established a principle and laid the foundation for a ministry of completion in the church. Mothers are often left as widows to care for children without the help of a father. The numbers also continue to grow of fathers left to provide for children without the blessing of a mother. Two of the most common reasons are death and divorce (which is also death in a form).
When a remarriage occurs, and the wife brings children into the marriage, the ministry of completion says the new “father” must see himself as appointed by God in the same sense as Jesus appointed John, to accept responsibility to complete the children’s upkeep. This means loving a child by taking the child into his heart as his own flesh and blood so that the child feels adopted. This happens when the father extends to the child the attitude or the feelings of adoption that motivates the child to say to him, “father” or “dad.” It is very important to realize that children are far more sensitive to the feelings of adoption than they are to merely hearing the words, “I love you as my own child.”
This acceptance as a son or a daughter is exactly what happens when we are adopted into the family of God. We receive the Spirit of sonship that is so convincing we are delighted to cry out both names of God, “abba” – the Aramaic name for Father, and “pater” – the Latin name for Father (see Romans 8:15). It’s akin to saying, “Daddy! Daddy!” The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, communicates these feelings of total acceptance and seals the adoption.
- The ministry of completion communicates the same expectation of the wife if the husband brings children into the new family.
- If a blended family is involved, the husband and wife must each before God, with Jesus as their example on the cross, take their spouse’s children into their hearts as their own, with a heartfelt commitment to love each of them equally and treat each of them accordingly.
- This ministry of completion extends to accepting as an appointment from God responsibility to care for a parent or a grandparent, and in rare cases, do so even if the person is not in your own family tree.
- The ministry of completion also embraces, where possible, legally adopting the children. One family that I know did just that. Then they had a special family dinner and a ceremony in the home to celebrate the adoption.The principle here is that Jesus set the pattern while hanging on His cross. If confronted with the need, His caring followers will choose to embrace the Lord’s example and accept responsibility to complete what someone else started, but for whatever reason either cannot or will not be finishing what they started.In doing so we all must never forget the great love of God for each of His followers, because the only way we can become a part of the family of God is by adoption; every child of God is adopted. The Apostle Paul expressed it:“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” (Romans 8:14-17; 1 John 3:1-2).
Joint-heirs with Christ, and Spirit-led,
We praise the Trinity.
For “Abba, Father!” now we cry
We’re in God’s family.
And Jesus calls us “brothers” now
Our fears are put away.
The Spirit of Adoption’s help
Will guide us in the way.
By: Gordon A. Dickson