Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb
March 25, 2016 Comments Off on Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The story of the last words of Jesus to his mother and the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross is, for me, one of the most moving and intriguing within the passion narratives. Every time I read this passage I cannot help but to be genuinely touched by this scene, by this image of our savior, of God incarnate, showing genuine love for his earthly mother. But despite these powerful images, is this the reaction that the Gospel writer wanted to encourage? Was John concerned with presenting to his community the humanity of Jesus and his love for his earthly family?
The value of the biological family is a complicated subject within the life and teachings of Jesus. On the one hand, the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke highlight the value of the holy family and commend both Joseph and Mary for their faith, courage, and virtue. On the other hand, Jesus’ teachings tend to highlight the importance of the “family of disciples” over that of traditional kin relationships. Given the complexity of Gospel attitudes regarding the concept of “family,” scholars debate the meaning and relevance of this Johannine passage. Some argue that Jesus’ words in his final moments of earthly existence demonstrate his genuine concern for the welfare of his mother, hence showing that Jesus valued familial relationships. Others point out, however, that because Mary often represented the church in late antique theology, and the beloved disciple, John, symbolized gentile Christians, Jesus’ words demonstrate his final teaching: that gentiles were to care for the Church, the “new family” of disciples.
At this point in my study of the Gospels, it is quite apparent that Jesus was creating a new kind of community, a community in which all people are seen as children of God, and hence as siblings of one another. Yet, when Jesus is looking down upon his grieving mother and turns to the beloved disciple for her care, I find it difficult to believe that Jesus, in this moment, is not looking upon Mary as his beloved mother, as the woman who raised him and loved him as her son. Perhaps, then, as Jesus utters his final teaching upon the cross, he is demonstrating that the earthly family and the spiritual family are not necessarily at odds with one another; but rather, that the earthly family is to be embraced by the spiritual family – the Church. And in doing so, the earthly family is transformed as it lovingly embraces new brothers and new sisters in accordance with the teachings of our savior. And maybe, when the earthly and spiritual come together as a single family, all shall indeed be “finished.”
– Alexander Herasimtschuk