Woman, Here Is Your Son- A Good Friday Meditation
The meditation below was shared as part of a community Good Friday Service at Community of Christ Church of Troy that focused on the Seven Last Words of Christ. I was tasked with reflecting on the third word from the cross -- "Woman, here is your son." My colleagues spoke to the remaining six.
25b Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
The mother of Jesus stands before the cross in the company of several women, along with the Beloved Disciple. This is the second time Jesus’ mother is mentioned in the Gospel of John. In both cases John doesn’t name her. Jesus simply addresses her as “Woman.”
On the first occasion Jesus joined his mother for a wedding. When the wine was about to give out, she asked Jesus to take care of the situation. He responds by addressing her as “Woman.” He tells her his hour has not yet come. Of course, that doesn’t stop her from directing the stewards to do as Jesus directs, and as the story goes forward, water gets turned into wine (Jn. 2:1-12). This is his first miracle.
Now the hour has come, and in this second appearance of his mother in John’s Gospel, Jesus isn’t turning water into wine. He’s hanging on a cross, with death near at hand. Although he must be experiencing great suffering, John pictures Jesus reaching out with compassion to his mother. He says to her: “Woman, here is your son.” Then, turning to the Beloved Disciple, he says to him: “here is your mother.” These two people aren’t biologically related, but they will form the foundation of a new kind of family rooted in Jesus’s message.
I hear this conversation between mother and son as a mother’s son. How might I respond if I were in a life and death situation like this? How might I provide for my mother? Now, I have a brother, so my mother’s welfare doesn’t depend solely on me, but I understand the claim the biological family has on our lives when times become difficult. There are few times more difficult than when a parent watches as their child dies, even an adult child.
We understand the power of family, though Jesus wasn’t always family friendly—just check out the Gospel of Mark. While Jesus’ own family is largely absent from John’s Gospel, in this moment of the story, we find ourselves at the foot of the cross, in the presence of Jesus, with these two individuals related to each other only in the Spirit. Though not directly related, it is said by John, that the Beloved Disciple took the mother of Jesus into his home from that time on. Perhaps, he took her away from the cross so she wouldn’t have to watch her son die. John doesn’t say one way or another, but that’s the way I want to read it.
While John doesn’t say anything about Jesus having family other than his mother, nor does he say why Jesus chose to bequest the care of his mother to the Beloved Disciple, John’s first word from the cross concerns matters of family. It also suggests that Jesus has a broader sense of family than simply those who share our bloodlines. So what does this encounter say to us about family and community on this Good Friday?
I will leave you with these words from Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, who suggests that “in this simple act, Jesus sows seeds of the new community to come, in which family is redefined in ways that are not restricted to blood kin and in which members of the family are called to be responsible caretakers of one another. [Feasting on the Word, p. 303].