Moms and sons have a special relationship. A national survey of nearly 1,200 adult children over age 40 were posed this question: If asked to make the choice, which parent would they choose to move in with them?
You already know the answer, don’t you? 2/3 of the respondents chose mom because she would be more help with cleaning and cooking, could help with the kids, would be neater and a better listener. Dad? Well, Dad would be messier and more of a couch potato than mom. He’d have worse hygiene and say inappropriate things and want control of the TV.
Dads, don’t get too upset. 70% of the respondents said that they’d rather not have either parent move in with them. But mom…it’s you if one of you does.
Mothers and their children, especially their sons, have a unique relationship. And whose is more unique than that of Mary and Jesus? It began with an angel. Gabriel shows up, tells her she is “favored by God,” only to find that means she’s going to have a baby before she gets married to Joseph. She’s a bit confused by this: “How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?” But she gets an answer: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
She lost him once when he was twelve years old on a trip to Jerusalem. She pushed him as an adult to make wine at a wedding. She even went to get him one time when she thought he was out of his mind.
But the greatest scene for Mary with her son came at the cross. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there, 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 home.”
A flood of memories from Gabriel through childhood—to now having to watch her son suffer through this gruesome ordeal—cascade over her heart. If there ever were a time she would desire to hear the word “mother” it would be now.
Instead she hears, “woman.” What is clear in the Greek and even in the English translation is the contrast between what Mary may have expected to hear and what she instead received: “Jesus said to his mother, “Woman…”
The word is not impolite. It was a simple, courteous address. But the word was important. With it Jesus redefined family. Jesus is helping his mother see that family ties are not as important as ties between the teacher and his disciples. She needs to be on mission with Jesus’ mission.
As do we. A word from the cross to Mary and John— “the disciple he loved”—is a word to us about finding our identity in Jesus and a new family. We don’t neglect our biological family. But we do gain another one that helps, supports, encourages, and lives on mission together.
So we do what families do. We eat together. We spend time together. We help each other. We give counsel and support. When we do, we follow in the footsteps of the first Christians: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). We bring others in who have no family.
When we do, we do as John did. Eusebius lived in the late 3rd and early 4th century. He was the bishop of Caesarea and was an historian of the early church. He wrote about the traditional belief that Mary lived with John. He took her with him to Ephesus and was present with her when she died. Each year pilgrims travel to a house a few short miles from the center of Ephesus that some believe to be the house where Mary lived until her death. Jesus’ family became John’s family.
The third word from the cross is a word of devotion. Jesus is devoted to us to the point of death on a cross. Even there he is thinking about his family. Mary. John. You and me. It’s a word of devotion we are to have for each other.
The only choice he made was to include all of us.
Question: When have you experienced “family” outside of your biological family?