Contemplating Jesus


Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

H. Bruggen "The Crucifixion with the Virgin and St. John, 1625

In the Book of Deuteronomy (10:18) widows and orphans were first identified as the people most vulnerable and in need of care.  Defining “the essence of the law” God was not only “mighty and awesome who is not partial and takes no bribe” but “who executes justice for the orphan and the widow.”  God is also called a Father “of orphans and protector of widows” in Psalm 68 (5-6 ) who provides the desolate with a home to live in. “The Lord sets the prisoners free……The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down…..The Lord loves the righteous…. He upholds the orphan and the widow.” Psalm 146 (7-9 ).

Jesus’ obedience to the will of God was not only particular to his own circumstance.  He had identified himself in Luke 4:16 -22 as the anointed one who was “to bring good news to the poor….to recover sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”  Jesus’ ministry was full of examples of this anointing.  But it wasn’t until he hung on the cross in his final hour, that “the essence of the law” was given its paradigmatic demonstration.   The gospel of John tells us that Jesus’ mother and “the disciple whom he loved” stood side by side at the foot of the cross.  By Joseph’s absence it can be assumed that Mary was a widow.  Jesus’ last action of his earthly life was to take care of his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” (John 19:26-27).  The beloved disciple, presumed to be John and, like all Jesus’ followers, soon to be spiritually orphaned, was given Mary as his mother to take into his home.   After Jesus’ utterance of thirst and fulfillment, he “gave up his spirit” and was pierced in his side – usually required to stop the heart – from where “blood and water” flowed.

A holy rabbi and Jewish prophet no more, a crucified renegade no more, a mighty healer and preacher no more.  How could anyone believe that a man who had suffered to the extremes of physical torture could still care for the stranger (crucified beside him) pray for those who had condemned him, and above all, make sure that his mother, soon to be widowed and vulnerable, and his disciple orphaned and alone, would not suffer homelessness by his parting?  A heart pierced and flooding the earth was the last embodied symbol of the ceaseless, unending, protective love of God.

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