Let’s talk about family. Maybe you recently arrived home for the summer. Maybe you’ve been back home for a while. Or maybe you’re staying with friends who feel like family for the next couple months. Greek life is built around the concept of family. We choose this group of people and call them brothers and sisters. How do we understand these different versions of what family is? How does that influence how we relate to one another? Especially as tensions or arguments inevitably arise!
The following passage takes place during the crucifixion - Jesus is on the cross when we see this interaction happen. A small background note: motherhood was deeply valued in ancient culture. It’s unclear if family members were allowed at crucifixions, but if they weren’t, this value of mothers could explain why Mary was there. And yes, there are 3 Marys in this story, but in the questions and reflection that follow the passage, assume Mary is Jesus’ mother!
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
To understand this passage better, you probably need to know a few more things. Mary is probably in her mid-late forties, widowed, and society didn’t allow for women to earn much income. During crucifixions, if witnesses were around, a person could make an oral designation of who should take over care for anyone they were responsible for. As her eldest son, Jesus would have been responsible for Mary’s care since she was widowed. If he hadn’t done this, his younger brothers would have assumed responsibility, but he chooses to delegate care of Mary to John.
- What stands out to you about this interaction?
- Imagine you’re one of the witnesses to Jesus entrusting his mother to John, what feelings emerge for you?
- Imagine you’re Mary, watching your son be put to death in a pretty terrible way. Imagine how it would feel as he uses that time to make sure you’re well cared for by someone he loves.
- How does this challenge your view of family?
Family can be messy. Maybe you have a great family or maybe it’s a struggle for you. In this story we see the care that Jesus has for his own family. He’s in the process of dying for the sake of all people, but he takes a moment to make sure Mary will be well cared for in his physical absence. Yet we also know that the very act taking place was evidence of the family we are all invited into. Jesus’ sacrifice that day enabled us to become his brothers and sisters in the family and kingdom of God. Just as Jesus greatly honored John by inviting him into his family, he also honors us by inviting us in as well.
As you engage in different relationships this summer, with your biological family or not, take a few minutes to reflect on these questions. Consider what invitations God might have for you in the next couple months.
What are ways you, like Jesus, could invite someone new into your family? Are there ways that you could care for or honor your family this summer? Have you been invited into someone else’s family? How can you care for them?
I hope that this summer can be one that is life-giving for you! If you usually struggle to be at home with family, I hope this can help you to reframe the way you think about family, even if that means needing to seek support from others outside your biological family. If you love being around your family, may this help you to think of new ways you can care for and love them, may this help you use your positive family experiences to care for others around you.