Jesus’ view of family was expansive. He loved his mother and all his extended family, but his views of family went far beyond blood relationships. The gospel of Mark tells us that “all who do the will of God” were considered to be the mother, brother and sister of Jesus (Matt. 12:50).
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, slowly losing his life, he saw his mother standing there, along with “the disciple he loved” (possibly John, the one who wrote the gospel with this story). Knowing that he could no longer care for his mother, he asked this disciple to care for her…and for her to take care of the disciple:
Over the centuries, Christians have interpreted this in a variety of ways, and that is as it should be. Scripture is full of meaning–many layers of meaning, like a poem.
So what does this bible passage speak to me today? I’m thinking about how this nearly-final utterance of Jesus crosses boundaries. Jesus could have told Mary to go live with her brother, uncle, or cousin. Instead, he asks Mary to take up residence with his friend, a disciple.
His choice is significant because it breaks with blood relationships–and, I assume, the social/religious customs of his time and place.
Jesus’ mother, Mary, enters into a kind of familial relationship with the disciple. John is to treat Mary as his mother, and Mary is to treat John as her son. Considering their culture, this makes it quite likely that Mary would go to live at John’s home, or that John might go to live with her.
All this reminds me that Jesus invites us to view others outside of our blood relatives, as if they were family members. “Love one another” is not only a slogan for those in one’s family, but rather reaches down the street, through the village, beyond culture and nationality–and, in our time, into the global community.
This is especially relevant in this time of intense polarization in my country. Jesus does not love only Democrats or Republicans; rather Jesus loves them all as members of his family. Jesus does not love only “straight” or only “gay” people–Jesus loves them all, and welcomes all to be his “brother” or “sister.” Christ does not view people outside of the Christian church as enemies, but rather as created by God, loved by God, as children of God.
This is what I believe: Jesus loved all people while dying on the cross. Jesus died to bring life to the world… the whole world, and all the people in it.
And Jesus continues, this day and into the future, to love all people.
Until next time, Amen!