Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mothers 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.
As Protestants, I think, we have have lost some of who we understand Jesus to be because we don’t really talk about Mary.
Mary shows up at Christmas, in TV specials and maybe in a Christmas pageant,
very pregnant, and uncomfortable, riding a donkey looking for a place to have her baby.
She and Joseph find a stable,
the baby is born, angels sing,
there’s a star,
wise men visit from the east,
somewhere in there, there is a little drummer boy,
finally the family flees for Egypt.
And then we don’t really talk much about Mary until the next Christmas; where she shows up pregnant…AGAIN,
riding that same donkey.
It all fits very neatly into our liturgy and then we move on.
I’m not really sure why this happens. At times, I have thought this was because talking about Mary and honoring her for being the mother of god was entirely too Catholic; for us Protestants, that’s big C.
But what if it’s something else?
What if we don’t talk about Mary because Mary makes us remember that this whole story about Jesus is just really messy?
Because when we bring Mary back into the story we have to remember that Jesus was someone’s son, not just the son of God.
It was Mary who intimately knew Jesus. It was Mary who felt the pains as she labored in childbirth, and then in the moments after he was born counted his fingers and toes. Mary changed his diapers, and held his pudgy little hands as he learned to walk. She intuitively knew the difference in his cries; she knew if he was crying out in pain or in fear, knew if he was hungry, or cranky and just needed a nap.
In Luke’s Gospel, we read about how Mary’s heart raced in a panic when she and Joseph could not find him as they headed home from Jerusalem and then made a three day journey back to find Jesus sitting in the temple. For three days Mary did not know where her son was...
And then she hears him say to herself and Joseph that they should have known where he would be.
Now, Luke’s Gospel says that Mary and Joseph didn’t understand what he was saying to them, but as a parent, I have to tell you that I read between the lines here, and I think that Mary understood all to well what had happened and didn’t appreciate being worried by a smart-alec, teen aged boy.
In the Gospel of Mark, we read about how some of Jesus’ family go to get Jesus while he is preaching because they though that he had lost his fool mind. Was this because Mary had said to her sons, “I'm worried about Jesus, go get him”?
Back to the Gospel of John, it is at the wedding in Cana where Mary tells her son that they have run out of wine. She approached Jesus with expectation that he could fix the disaster of the moment. She settles things with Jesus and then tells the servants, with a mother’s pride, “do what he tells you”.
Mary treasured in her heart those times of joy, but she also had recall of those moments that were painful.
And now, we read that she is standing near the cross watching the unthinkable happen because there is no other place she could possibly be.
The time that Jesus walked among humanity on earth may have only been around 33 years, but after Jesus dies, Mary is still his mother.
So, I think that, maybe we don’t talk all that much about Mary because she makes us feel uncomfortable. She reminds us that there are people who suffer. That there are mothers who watch their children die. She reminds us that there is injustice and that innocent people lose their lives.
In our culture we can separate ourselves from the suffering of other people, from the suffering happening in our world. We can change the channel on the television or the radio, we can chose not to sit with people who are suffering, we can walk away.
In like fashion,
We’ve sanitized the stories in the gospels:
the birth the narrative,
and even the resurrection because they’re too messy and too painful.
We would prefer to cast these messy stories in an angelic glow
like some medieval painting,
everyone looks a little sad, but they’re all still pretty clean.
We would rather leave out details that make the stories real.
I think that Mary is one of those details.
Because it’s easier to think about the pregnant woman on a donkey waiting to have a child
than a broken woman standing by a cross as she watched her son die the humiliating death of a criminal.
When we reclaim the story of Mary, we reclaim the humanity of Jesus. And as we reclaim the humanity of Jesus through the messiness that was his story, we reclaim the humanity of ourselves, and the humanity of other people. Amen.