“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdelene…” John 19:25
John chapter nineteen verses twenty six and twenty seven is the famous pericope in which Jesus tells his disciple John that his mother Mary is now John’s mother and he tells his mother that his disciple John is now her son. Because of the male dominated tone of scripture and the way in which males have dominated the narrative surrounding Jesus for centuries this pericope has often been interpreted as a moment wherein Jesus passes on his responsibility for his mother to John. What is unfortunately and often missed in this pericope is the idea that Jesus was giving his mother Mary who had obviously been an incredible ally to him later on in his ministry charge of John. We often only think of John having the authority in this pericope as Mary’s caretaker. But I posit that this pericope is just as much about Mary looking after John as it is John looking out for Mary. Similarly, our focus on this pericope belies something monumental in the verse that precedes it. In John chapter nineteen verse twenty five, the gospel writer speaks of Jesus’ mother Mary, her sister Mary, and Mary Magdeline as standing near the cross. I posit that this incredibly short mention of the “three Marys” is of colossal importance given the cosmology in which Jesus operated.
Here in this verse we see that when all of Jesus’ disciples besides John had either denied or abandoned him, these three women of low stature had the courage to stand and endure the shame, misery, and humiliation of the cross right along with him. This fact is prodigious at face value because it unearths the courage that these women had and their strength to “stand with Jesus,” a strength that eluded all of Jesus’ followers writ large and all of his most intimate allies save one. But when one applies the light of Holy Spirit inspired revelation to this text, something even more amazing reveals itself.
James 4:2 states among other things that “ye have not because ye ask not.” I believe that this is a statement about how God works in the world. Ephesians 2:8 states, “For it is by grace that ye are saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” This implies that it is through our faith that grace is activated as a tangible manifestation in our world. God works through the prayers, love, and compassion of human vessels. Without our love and prayers, God usually does not move. There are times when God intercedes without the mechanism of our faith and prayers, but most times it is in the love that we have for each other that God lives, breathes, and moves on the earth. God exists and is omnipotent all by himself, but it is my belief that it when it comes to moving on the earth God works through us in most cases.
Bearing in mind that it is through our faith that God works, when we revisit the near presence of the three Marys to Jesus with this understanding something incredible comes to the light of our consciousness. Though Jesus came from Divinity and went back to Divinity, everything that he did on the earth, was a function of the faith of those around him. When there was no faith, Jesus could not do many miracles. Mark 6:5 clearly stipulates that “He could not do any miracles there, except lay hands on a few sick people and heal them.” This verse is in reference to Jesus’ inability to do many miracles when the people had no faith. This alludes to the interdependence that Jesus had with the people who he blessed. Jesus was interdependently operating with the Jewish people as he blessed them. This notion dismisses the Jews as a “passive” and “pathetic” people who Jesus came to bless and save, and reveals them as strong, assertive, and active participants in the miraculous love of God.
More importantly this idea that Jesus operated interdependently with the Jewish people that he blessed, begs the question, “If Jesus needed another human being’s faith to work his miraculous power, then whose faith enabled him to perform his greatest miracle, ostensibly his resurrection from the dead?” Herein, is the importance of the three Marys to the entire gospel narrative and the fate of humanity revealed. It is my supposition that given that his disciples, save John, were cowering in fear and that no one defended Jesus during his prosecution and subsequent crucifixion, it was in fact the love, power, and soundness of mind of these three women that enabled Jesus to give the world “the sign of Jonah” and consequently redeem all things. It is my supposition that without the faith and courage of the three Marys that there would have been no resurrection and no ensuing redemption. When we take off the blinders of chauvinism and enter into the perception of the Kingdom, we see that it was in fact to three women of low stature that we owe a supreme debt of gratitude.
This reality encourages us to never stop fighting, never stop praying, and never stop believe that God surely uses the “low things” of this culture to bring about massive blessing of cosmic consequence. This reality also enables us to acknowledge that it was the love of the most persecuted people of Jesus’ day, namely women, to which we owe the grandeur of salvation. In light of this I am moved to pray, “Mary, Mary, and Mary you were three incredible women, no doubt. But you were also three of the most important prayer warriors in history. Thank you for your love, commitment, power, and perseverance. Please enable all of us to follow your example and to never stop fighting and never stop striving for the beauty that is immanent to the faithful.”