Though we already read John 19 yesterday, I cannot skip over this section of verses. We have already seen that John’s narrative reveals a lot about how Yeshua interacted with women, and that in turn gives us a framework to know how G-d interacts with us as women. He revealed his deity to the Samaritan woman, with no condemnation for her lifestyle choices that were far from ideal. (John 4) He saves the life of the woman who was caught in adultery and tells her, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8) He mourns the death of Lazarus with Marth and Mary, caring for each of their emotional needs individually. (John 11)
Today we see that even as he approached the very door of death, Yeshua exemplified chesed – care and concern for others. Scholars believe that somewhere in between the time of the famous trip to Jerusalem for Passover (Luke 2:41-51) and the beginning of Yeshua’s ministry, his earthly father, Joseph died. He isn’t mentioned in the text, though it does talk about his mother, brothers, and sisters. (Mark 6:3 is just one example) It is safe to assume that Mary was a widow at the beginning of his ministry and certainly at the time of Yeshua’s death.
From as early as Sinai, G-d specifically codified his desire for the people of Israel to care for widows and orphans. (Exodus 22:22) Widows were afforded specific legal and financial rights. Yeshua goes above and beyond that here. In his moment of pain and torment as he hung on the cross, he looked down and saw his mother, the one who had given birth to him, watched him grow, believed in his power as Messiah from the beginning, and followed him around the country during the time of his ministry. What did he see in her eyes? Did he see the pain of a mother watching her son suffer in the most unimaginable way? Did she know this would be what all those years would come to? Did he see belief waver as she wondered how G-d could allow the death of the Messiah that they most surely thought was there to save the world and reign as king? We know that the care and compassion he felt as he wept with Mary, was exhibited here as he looked down on his own mother and considered her needs at the hour of his death.
Seeing his closest disciple, John, standing next to her, he entrusts the care of his widowed mother to his most beloved friend. “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:27) The bond that Yeshua had formed with John was such that he entrusted him with the one person on this earth that he had the personaland legal responsibility for as the eldest son. This begs the question, “Why didn’t Yeshua’s brothers and/or sisters take responsibility for Mary?” The text states in a few of the gospels that his brothers did not believe that he was the Messiah.
And Yeshua said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”Mark 6:4
We know that Mary believed, so this verse in Mark only solidifies the understanding that his brothers were not counted among the believers. (James, Yeshua’s oldest younger brother, did come to faith after his resurrection and became the leader of the believers in Jerusalem. He was stoned for his belief that Yeshua was the messiah.)
In that moment of overwhelming grief for Mary, with Yeshua knowing the turmoil that was to come to the believing community in the wake of his death, resurrection, and ascension, he gives her care to one who could fully support her physically and emotionally. While this act shows G-d’s concern for our physical and emotional well-being, I think it also sets a precedent for us as believers in setting healthy boundaries. Many of us are faced with family or friends that don’t understand our life of faith. We may lose the support of mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. We may face ridicule for our beliefs. Yeshua showed us that our family reaches beyond blood (Matthew 12:46-50) and that the family of believers are our brothers and sisters.
But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”Matthew 12:46-50