Jesus’ mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood near the cross. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
The Third Word Jesus speaks from the cross is about his mother. Near the cross, Jesus sees his mother and the disciple whom he loved (I talk about who this might be in this past Sunday’s teaching at MCC. Go here to listen). In his waning moments he commits the care of his mother to this Beloved Disciple. I think this touching moment works on two levels.
First, as a son, he is concerned for his mother’s future. If she were a widow, as it is traditionally assumed, her options in a patriarchal society, without someone assuming her care, wouldn’t be good. So, Jesus commits her to the care of his most trusted disciple.
On another level, is we allow these two characters to also play a symbolic role, we can see the larger point Jesus is making. If the mother of Jesus represents the Jewish tradition, the faith that gave birth to and shaped Jesus, and if the Beloved Disciple represents the emerging Christian tradition, then Jesus’ intention is clear: as this movement expands, don’t forget where you came from. Honor your mother, the faith that brought you into the world.
Too often, we wrongly assume that Jesus came into the world for the purpose of founding a new religion. This is not so. Jesus’ work was that of a reformer, calling his tradition to be true to the God he called ‘Father,’ to love their neighbor (which for Jesus, is everyone), and to participate in the repair of the world. Christianity actually began in the synagogue. Those Jewish men and women who believed Jesus to be the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams worshipped alongside their Jewish brothers and sisters who did not see it that way. Eventually, however, the tension between the “Mother” tradition and the burgeoning Jesus movement came to a head. There was a split between these two groups.
Yet, from the cross, Jesus reminds his followers, “Don’t forget your mother.” Honor and acknowledge the soil in which your roots have been planted. Sadly, Christian tradition is stained with many, many instances in which we have done the opposite. Crusades and Holocausts serve as stark and painful reminders of how we have failed to honor our Mother.
God, forgive us!