March 6, 2016: Staying WITH Jesus

Posted on : Mar 3rd, 2016 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

For those who were raised in the Protestant tradition, this Sunday’s scripture is often called one of the “Seven last words of Christ.” Many Protestant Churches used to have a three hour Good Friday worship service from noon to three o’clock in the afternoon. The time frame was symbolic of the hours Jesus hung on the cross dying. Many of those services focused on the “seven last words of Christ” spoken by Jesus from the cross.

As a teenager I was enthralled by the intensity of these three hour services. And yes, even long before I felt called into the ministry, I loved to sit through seven sermons punctuated by great music, hymns and solos. But the one text I never understood was the text I will speak about this Sunday. Part of the problem was the way the text used to be translated. Traditionally, it was translated: “Woman behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”

When I was newly ordained, the church I served always hosted a three hour Good Friday service using the seven last words of Christ from the cross. We would invite local ministers to each preach on one of the texts from the seven last words. Every year I would say, I’ll take any of them except the third word which is ““Woman behold your son. Son, behold your mother.” Luckily I was there for only six years. My time was running out. Had I stayed another year, I would have had to preach on “#3.” This Sunday I’m finally tackling that text.

A more contemporary rendering of this scripture, one which makes it a bit more understandable is:

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister who is named Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom Jesus loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then Jesus said to the disciple, Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (emphasis mine)

OK, now we’re getting a little closer to what this text means. It is not unusual when you are with someone who is dying, that they ask someone whom they trust and love to watch over another family member. Oftentimes, when death is near, a mother or a father asks one of their children to watch over the remaining spouse. But this scripture goes further than that.

In John’s gospel one of the disciples is often referred to as “the beloved disciple.” As is the mystery with much of scripture, the name of the person who is the beloved disciple is never revealed. Throughout most of history, it has been assumed it is John. Michelangelo’s famous picture of the Last Supper has John seated right next to Jesus with his head laid upon Jesus’ chest. [Michelangelo of course was gay.] It is clear from the language used at the last supper that John had a super crush on Jesus. What is never confirmed is whether Jesus had a crush on John. However, in this text, there were three females and one male disciple gathered at the foot of the cross as Jesus was dying and the writer of John’s Gospel identified the male disciple as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

Some have conjectured that Jesus was gay and that he and John were lovers. Others believe that Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead was Jesus’ beloved (lover). After all, at Lazarus’ death, Jesus weeps. Whether you believe either of those is true depends on your life perspective and how you read the story. But what is obviously clear is that as Jesus nears his death, Jesus says to his mother and the disciple whom he loved – and I’m going to give you my vernacular of the Greek New Testament text – “Mom, here is your new son” (referring to the disciple whom Jesus loved); and to his beloved, “My beloved my mother is now your mother. Love her and care for her as I have loved her and you.” And from that hour until her death, the disciple whom Jesus loved took his new mother into his own home.

As a gay man, and as one who has seen so many gay men assigned the role or assuming the role of caretaker of aging or widowed parents, this story sure sounds like a lover passing on the role of parental caretaker to his beloved. After all Mary, Jesus’s mother, had at least four other sons: Joseph, James, Jude, and Simon. The last three mentioned are not to be confused with those who were disciples of Jesus by the same name. Here are some passages where the other sons of Mary by Joseph are mentioned (Matt. 12:46; 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 2:12; 7:3, 5, 10; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5; Gal. 1:19). So why would Jesus pass on care of his mother to his beloved and his beloved to be his mother’s son?

What is going on here?

This text is another story of someone whose life was Changed for Good because he knew Jesus and for those who wonder if there were any gay or lesbian people in the bible, it might be good for you, too!  More on Sunday.

Lenten Blessings to you,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

John 19: 17 – 27

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jewish people.’ Many of the Jewish people read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jewish people said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jewish people”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jewish people.” ’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

‘They divided my clothes among themselves,

   and for my clothing they cast lots.’

And that is what the soldiers did.

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 Jesus said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

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