John (18:1-40) 19: 1-17
14 April 2017
“Take my lips, Oh Lord, and speak through them; take our minds and think with them. Take our hearts and set them on fire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Let me start by thanking Barbara Brown Taylor. Her sermon on these lessons, published in her book Home by Another Way, reminds me how much we need one another I’ve said it before, Christianity is all about relationship. Certainly it is about our relationship to God and God’s relationship to us. And it is about our relationships with each other as well. That’s important because God works through all those layers of relationship to bring God’s purpose for creation to fulfillment. Think of it this way, Christianity is about the way the Holy One asks us to be, because we love God, the conduits for God’s creative love in our world. The man Jesus lived and ministered on this earth a long time ago. Let’s look at his relationships, seen through the lens of the Gospel According to John. One thing is clear. In this Gospel Jesus is no victim. He carries his own cross. He is not mocked. Speaking from the cross he says he is thirsty simply to fulfill the scripture. Living in such strong relationship with God Jesus was able to live his life on his own terms and to give up his life on his own terms. I wonder if you noticed? Just before Jesus died he made provision for both his mother and the disciple that he loved. And, I think, by extension, for us as well. What can we learn here? Understand, in those days women, especially poor women like Jesus’ mother, were at a real disadvantage. In those days, a woman’s children were her pension plan, her life insurance, her social security so to speak. Tonight we see Mary standing at the foot of the cross. Can you imagine much grief and fear was she feeling as she watched her first-born son being executed? How wonderful that she was not alone in her grief. Her sister was there, and Mary Magdalene, as well as Mary the wife of Cleopas. They form a community of women who hold her tight in the embrace of God’s love. And, the disciple that we know only as the beloved disciple was also with her, a kind of self-appointed guardian. How interesting that while he is mentioned five times he is never named in John’s Gospel. That Jesus loved him is the most important thing. For me the fact of his anonymity is a blessing, that lets me stand in his shoes more easily, at least in my imagination. I bet it seemed pretty dangerous to stay with Jesus right then, especially if you were a male who looked or sounded like a Galilean. There was, no doubt, a real risk of being stopped and questioned. Clearly that disciple loved Jesus in return. I hope you noticed how Jesus showed his concern for his mother and the beloved disciple, even in the midst of the agony of hanging on that cross. At first Jesus did not seem to see them, although, apparently, they were close enough by to hear him clearly. There was a crowd gathered after all, on-lookers straining to see all the details, soldiers casting lots to divide his clothes, and priests arguing over what the sign above Jesus head should say. But, at last, Jesus did see them.
And mustered his reserves for some last instructions. First, he looked straight at his mother, “woman” he said. Do you remember? It’s what he called her at the wedding at Cana, the only other occasion she appears in this gospel. Now from the cross he says: “Woman, here is your son.” Then he looked directly at that disciple he loved so well. And spoke again, “Here is your mother.” When he is done, it is clear that, their relationship had changed. An adoption of sorts had been finalized in those few words. We hear that “from that hour the beloved disciple took Mary into his own home.” It’s a powerfully poignant moment, capturing a tenderness that is remarkable given Jesus’ circumstances right then. But I wonder. Was Jesus mostly looking out for his mother or for that beloved disciple? Who was more in need at that point? Clearly Mary was a widow or Jesus would not have needed to provide for her care. With Jesus’ death Mary would be left alone to fend for herself. Her life would be a hard one with no father, husband, or son to protect her from the cruelty of others. She would likely be forced to eat other people’s leftovers for whatever was left of her life. How merciful of Jesus to arrange for her to have a new son. But isn’t it also merciful of him to give that beloved disciple a new mother? Especially this particular mother. She is young, certainly, not more than 50, she is strong yet and, she’s been touched by the Spirit. After all, her contact with the Holy Spirit of God has been far more intimate than what any of the disciples have experienced. The beloved disciple will take her home and then, when the other disciples re-appear from where ever they have been hiding, they will all have the blessing of her wisdom, and her more direct relationship with God. She has seen and heard things they cannot imagine. She has felt things in her body and soul they have only heard about. When you think about it Jesus has provided for us too, all of us who are his followers these many years later. I am sure that those in power, the Romans and the religious authorities who worked with them thought they were tearing apart the fellowship of Jesus’ family and followers. But they were wrong. Jesus might have been hanging there, right in front of them, but he was re-shaping his family so it could go on without him. His enemies no doubt thought that they had succeeded in killing him, but they could not kill what he had started,
the blessed community of his followers. And they certainly could not stop God working a new thing through the power of that community as it gathered around the resurrected Christ and carried his great love into the world in his name. Just as we do today.Amen