The Good News: Jesus gives you family
The mother-child relationship is so intimate that, when a mother even imagines her child in distress, the mother’s brain can respond nearly identical to that which the child would personally experience were the child in that distress. All the more so when the distress of the child is real. In the maternal bond the mother so identifies with her child that it is as if the mother bears the child’s griefs, carries the child’s sorrows.
In this way, only a mother can identify with Jesus’ mother, Mary, at the foot of Jesus’ cross. Science accounts for the physiology of the mother-child bond by calling it “high self-overlap”, the intense identification by which Jesus’ suffering anguished Mary within mind and body. The Holy Spirit accounts for the theology, the intense identification by which Jesus’ suffering gashed His mother within soul.
The Holy Spirit forewarned Mary of this very distress. From the mouth of Simeon, he said to her “a sword will pierce even your own soul”. (Luke 2:35) The word translated ‘sword’ means not a sleek scalpel but a bloody bludgeon.
So, consider Mary. Consider any notion ‘Theotokos’, that is, the ‘mother of God’, was exempted her share of human suffering is contradicted by her place at Calvary. She received more than her share. Consider a mother laying eyes on her son crucified. Consider birth mother become death witness. Consider parent outliving child.
With her husband’s death, Mary became a widow. With her son’s death, she would become a “vilomah”, a Sanskrit word which means “against natural order”. Natural order being child buries parent.
As her son, Jesus considered Mary. As true man, born of the virgin, He was Mary’s eldest, closest, living male adult relative, and she was by law His ward. So, from His cross He fulfilled His duty and spoke for her temporal need. “He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’”
In obedience to the Fourth Commandment, Jesus honored His mother by appointing a legal guardian for her. He made John a substitute, a non-blood son before Mary in His place, establishing a new relationship between the mother whom He loved and the disciple whom He loved. At His cross, Jesus gave Mary and John a family.
And as God’s Son, Jesus considered Mary. As true God begotten of the Father from eternity, He was Mary’s Lord, and she was His creation. Knit together by God in Mary’s womb, Jesus knit Mary together in her mother’s womb. So, from His cross He fulfilled His promise and acted for her eternal need. Honoring His heavenly Father, He performed a legal exchange. He made Himself a substitute, a blood-offering sacrifice before God in her place. At Calvary, Mary was not the only parent preparing to bury a child. For there, Jesus took Mary’s share of suffering. He bore His mother’s griefs. He carried her sorrows. And He bore His Father’s wrath and condemnation. And in so doing He re-established relationship between the woman whom He loved and the God whom He loved.
And, as “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man,” (Nicene Creed) Jesus considers you. “[His] death on the cross witnesses to His birth from the woman. For He that died was also born.” (Ephrem the Syrian) Thereby He is your one Lord and you are His beloved. And He speaks for your temporal need. “Do not worry,” Jesus says. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not fear.”
No, Jesus has not exempted you your share of human suffering. Indeed, you may receive more than your share. “A slave is not greater than his master.” (John 13:16) This is why from His cross He acted for your eternal need. On His cross Jesus not only took human suffering, of which He was due no share, He took all shares of human suffering. Including yours. Your God is highly self-overlapped with you. So much so, Jesus bore your sins in His body on the cross. (1 Peter 2:24) He was pierced for your transgressions; He was crushed for your iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought you peace, and with His wounds you are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
As through His suffering Jesus delivered you from sin, death, and the devil, so through your suffering He delivers you from this vale of tears. By establishing a new relationship between you and the church whom He loves. The Good News is, at the cross, Jesus gives you a family. For the bond of faith so identifies you with Jesus that not only has Jesus made “Mary your true mother, Himself your brother, and God your father” (Martin Luther), it is also Jesus who bears your griefs and carries your sorrows. He overlapped Himself with you in the water of holy Baptism, “uniting you with Him in a death like His, and certainly uniting you with Him in a resurrection like His”. (Romans 6) He overlaps Himself with you by His body and blood. (Behold God’s Son truly in bread and wine!) He gives you rest. For your soul. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. (Matthew 11) He will walk you through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23) Until the hour, He takes you to His own home.
Kevin Wendt is the senior pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Destin.