As she stood below the cross staring up through stinging tears her eyes met his. Jesus is in unimaginable physical agony – to say nothing of the crushing spiritual affliction and torment as he, God’s lamb, takes upon himself the sin and brokenness of our world.
One would have thought that in all of this, the domestic problems of his mother would be the furthest thing from his mind – but such a thought would be wrong.
Beside Mary stood a young man – John, the only male friend to be there. John himself records the moment –
“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, 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.”
In the last several posts we have seen the value Jesus placed on the feminine throughout his life and ministry. Now, in the moment of death, he reveals again his love, respect, consideration and compassion for his mother – and in her for every women in every age and generation. And in that moment he is, once again, reflecting the heart of his Father –
“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy.”
This incident also helps us to put in perspective what some consider to be the offhand way Jesus sometimes treated his mother.
On one occasion during his ministry we are told that Mary, along with other family members, came looking for Jesus. When he is told of their presence Jesus replied –
“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:33 – 35
To our western ears this may sound disrespectful – even harsh – but in the light of his interaction with Mary at the cross this can never have been the case. Another controversial statement of Jesus is recorded by Luke, when he says –
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14: 26
This again is a shocking statement – especially to our western ears where everything must be taken as literal. But once again the care of Jesus for Mary, in his dying moments, must force us to understand such statements in another way. Jesus here, as in many other places, is using hyperbole [“a natural exaggeration for the purpose of emphasis”] – common in Eastern culture – and in the Bible text. Nowhere does Jesus want anyone to hate other people – especially our loved ones and families – that is the stuff of the cult. Furthermore God commands –
“Honour your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
Exodus 20 12
As the perfect One, Jesus, in every, way fulfilled the Commandments. He honoured his mother – and his honour, respect and consideration , even in the moments before his own agonising death, reveal a depth of love for Mary no one can ever doubt.
Should we not love her also? And should not we [and I write a man] be careful always to place on women the value, respect and love for which Jesus is forever our example?