Reflection on one of Christ’s seven last words, from the community Good Friday service.

John 19:25-27

It would be something of an understatement to say that Jesus had plenty on his mind at this point in the story. He was carrying human sin, divine grief, and his own physical and spiritual pain – and thinking of his mother. Of course we could have known that. The one thing on the mind of anyone with that kind of responsibility, when they’re facing death, is their dependents. It’s often easier for a person to give up their own life than their role in supporting others. Jesus gives just this gift to his mother and the beloved disciple.

Giving this role away is what anyone must do, just like dying itself is, but Jesus makes it something bigger – something holy. It’s holy and solemn work to entrust the world to the surviving generation, letting someone else into your role. And the work itself is already holy, be it the duty of a caregiver for parents or service to widows and people without their own resources.

Jesus’ dying work was not all that different from his life’s ministry: to care and provide for the needy, to call people into relationship with each other. It’s no different from what the God of Israel did all along, which is to forge human community and command us always to remember “the least of these.” Jesus repeats the disciple’s call here: follow me in caring for widows and orphans, for the hungry, poor, and homeless. Keep going in the way I’ve shown you. Don’t keep going in desperate sorrow and grief, but know that your service demonstrates Jesus’ victory; it shows that death didn’t win. This is not an abstract, “spiritual” idea. Instead, just as Jesus took on human flesh and bone, so your call is to serve this particular person beside you.

When we serve, when we live in Christ’s new community, we see Christ present among us – and love becomes real again. Jesus is not going away. Here he is: next to you, among us, in the person of the one we serve or who serves us. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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