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"Woman, Behold Your Son" (John 19:25-27)

- Pastor James

[The 3rd meditation on the Seven Last Words, delivered at the ecumenical walk, the Way of the Cross, on Good Friday, 2005]

On this third stop on the Way of the Cross, we come to the scene on the hill of Golgotha. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and other women have followed Jesus all the way to the cross. From the beginning of Jesus' ministry, women have been among the faithful disciples. And here at the foot of the cross, as their master is condemned to death, it is they who remain with Him to the end.

With the hindsight of the resurrection and with the benefit of the 2000 years of theological reflections, we know that Jesus' crucifixion was in God's plan of redemption - a cosmic drama that revealed such a great salvation. But these women don't know that. To them, Jesus is their family, their teacher, their rabbi, and their friend.

And to Mary, Jesus is the son of her own flesh. How can we ever understand the excruciating pain of watching her own child die a slow death? The natural instinct of any mother would be to substitute her life in place of her child's. "If only I could die instead of my child. If only I could suffer the pain. If only I could sacrifice my life .."

Jesus, suspended on the cross by nails, remembers His earthly mother. He looks at her with infinite compassion. He knows her agonizing pain, her lacerating heart, and her unbearable sorrow. And He says to her, "Woman, behold your son!" Then He says to the beloved disciple, "Behold your mother," entrusting His mother into the care of the beloved disciple.

Now, I want you to hold this scene in your mind, and at the same time, extend your imagination to what is happening on a much larger stage.

Behind the scene, on the cosmic stage, there is the grand epic of salvation unfolding. On this little hill of Golgotha, the cosmic battle from the dawn of age is converging with a mighty force. All the prophecies of the Old Testament - the promise of redemption, the promise of the new covenant, the promise of new life - are all being fulfilled in this Man crucified, fully human and fully God.

At the same time, there is, what one theologian (Loren Wilkinson) calls, a "home story" - a story of daily love, a story of home life, and a story of a mother and her son. On the hill of Golgotha, there is a home story of the mother, bearing the torment of her crucified son, and the son, bearing the lacerating heart of his mother.

Here, in the Gospel of John, the grand story of salvation is united with the home story. We cannot separate the two. They are happening at the same time.

Today, as we walk on the Way of the Cross, each of us carries our own home story - our most cherished relationships, our wounds from those relationships, our need for forgiveness and healing, and our shame and guilt. Each of us has a story that we ourselves must live out, a story that no one else can live out for us. And we are invited to bring our home story to the foot of the cross. The grand story of salvation is for the sake of the home story so that we ourselves and our family may become whole.

Yet, this home story goes beyond the bonds of flesh and blood. When Jesus entrusts His mother to the care of the beloved disciple, He is initiating a new family. He already said during His earthly ministry, "Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother" (Mark 3:35) - a scandalous statement in a culture where the family bond is tight and lasts for generations and generations.

On the cross, Jesus has given us a new home story. He has broken down every dividing wall that separates us from one another. And He has given birth to a new family - a new community that transcends flesh and blood boundaries, a new community where there is no distinction between Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian, a new community that is far bigger than denominational boundaries, a new community born of the Holy Spirit. In this new community, we are called to live out a new home story. Whoever does the will of God is our family, my family and your family.

Amen.