Summary: Through his life, Christ draws together his followers as a single family. We must understand our role as family to look past the things that divide us and to work together serving Christ in the world.
By relative standards, I’m still considered a newlywed, even though Ken and I have been married about two and a half years now. Whether you consider that really newlywed or not, it’s still new enough to merit the question every now and again from a friend, “So how’s married life?” I got asked that very question just this week, and as I responded, “It’s good!” I chuckled. On my mind was the fact that as joyful and wonderful married life is, it’s not all wine and roses. Really, that’s just a fact of family life. If you live with someone for long enough, you’re bound to disagree eventually, or perhaps even regularly! Families fight. It’s simply a fact of life. We see it most often in sibling rivalries and arguments over toys, but if we’re all honest, we will admit that we get mad at our family members sometimes. It could be as complicated as an ideological debate, or as simple as deciding which channel to put the TV on. Really, there’s nothing wrong with arguing and fighting with your family; in fact, it can even be healthy sometimes. It’s when that fighting causes permanent rifts in relationships that there is cause for concern.
As we come again this morning to Jesus’ final words as he hung on the cross, we focus in with Jesus on a family issue. Hanging on the cross, Jesus is surrounded not only by Roman soldiers and mocking crowds, but also the people who love him most; his mother, his aunt, the beloved disciple, and his friend Mary Magdalene. Seeing what was sure to have been a pained expression on his mother’s face, Jesus turned to her and said, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he turned to the beloved disciple and said to him, “Here is your mother.” Now remember, as Jesus hung on the cross, it would have been incredibly painful for him to speak. So he says in these final hours is vitally important.
Popular tradition holds that in this instance, Jesus was simply looking out for his mother’s well-being. We haven’t heard anything of Joseph since Jesus’ time in the Temple when he was twelve, and it’s probably safe to assume that Joseph had died sometime before Jesus began his public ministry. Jesus knows that with his father gone, and him gone, there would be no one left to care for his mother. And so he turns to the beloved disciple and declares that he is now the “son” of this woman, and she his mother. People say this is Jesus honoring the fifth commandment to “honor your father and mother.” And I think this is a fair assessment, but I also think there is more going on in this interaction with Mary and John than just holding up the fifth commandment and looking out for his mother’s well-being.
You see, Jesus’ death on the cross was all about redemption. At the very moment Jesus was, through his suffering, repairing and redeeming the brokenness of human existence—our broken relationship with God, with ourselves, with one another, and with creation—Jesus was also repairing the specific brokenness that existed between his birth family and his disciples; his old family and his new family.