Jesus' Mother

February 23rd, 2011

"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.”  John 19:26-27

Perhaps the most enigmatic episode in this section of John is the conversation of Jesus from the cross with the Beloved Disciple and Jesus' mother. This story is unique to John. It's meaning has been variously debated. Some would take it literally as a poignant story telling how Jesus saw to it that his mother would be cared for after his death. However, both the Beloved Disciple and Jesus' mother are given symbolic roles elsewhere in John's Gospel. An often repeated interpretation is that Jesus' mother here represents the church, which has now been given into the safekeeping of the Beloved Disciple, who would here symbolize the leadership of John's Christian community.

I propose another interpretation. In the only other story where the mother of Jesus appears, in the story of the wedding feast at Cana (2:1-11), she has a role as one who participates in bringing about the mission of Jesus. She is not like other characters in John who have to go through a process of faith: she is already in the know. In fact, she operates virtually as a partner in Jesus' ministry on that occasion at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Now at the end of his ministry, when he is about to depart, he entrusts his “partner” to the Beloved Disciple. In doing so, he symbolically appoints the Beloved Disciple to be the agent of his mission on earth in his absence. In this sense, the Beloved Disciple becomes symbolic of pastoral leadership in the church in any generation. His role at the foot of the cross is to interpret events correctly, utilizing the spiritual insight symbolized by the mother of Jesus, an insight made accessible to succeeding generations by the stories presented in this very Gospel.


Excerpted from The Storyteller's Companion to the Bible, Volume 10

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