Midrash for Mark 3:20-35 and John 19: 25-27-by ANONYMOUS
Note: Midrash is an interpretive act, seeking the answers to religious questions (both practical and theological) by plumbing the meaning of the words of the Torah.
“He’s gone out of his mind!” they hissed, horrified beyond words to see him at it again.
Mary stood in the doorway with her family and watched in unbelief at the chaos flowing out of the house on the mountainside. Who were all those unruly people? Why was that mob pressing in on the house that held her firstborn, demanding healing, falling down on their faces and calling him God? This lunacy must be stopped, for propriety’s sake.
Despite the madness around Joseph’s heir, including proclamations of demons and Beelzebul, Mary and her children did whatever they could to take charge of him: they sent a messenger to kindly ask him—that boy she had once swaddled with tender care—to return to them. When the lunacy continued, they decided to take matters into their own hands. Mary gathered the rest of her children, and ventured out to fetch their flesh and blood. As they approached the raucous masses, Mary tried to make eye contact with her son and beckon him back home. To quit this crazy business of demons and healings, to come back to his proper place in their family.
At least the crowds recognized Mary and her flock. They knew that she was his mother, that the others were his siblings. After Mary’s repeated attempts to gain his attention, it took strangers to highlight the obvious: his family was summoning him home. “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are asking for you,” they told him. Well, finally. He could no longer ignore his kin.
And what did he do, that young man of Galilee? He refused! “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked the crowd around him. Incredulity turned to fury in Mary’s heart.
How dare he respond that way! Joseph certainly didn’t raise him to be so uppity. And that’s not all. Not only did he reject their polite request, but he also humiliated them in front of those unruly masses. Mary couldn’t believe the words she was hearing. “Here are my mother and my brothers!” he joyfully proclaimed, looking at the crowd around him and waving at them with a flourish. To add insult to injury, he added, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mary, the one who lulled that boy to sleep in a sweaty and fly-infested stable, was shocked speechless as her firstborn disowned his family. Apparently nine months carrying him in her womb no longer qualified her to be his mother; apparently anyone, even those wide-eyed neophytes, could be his mother if they would merely do God’s will. Hmmph!
Joseph’s kinfolk rolled their eyes, scoffed at him, and marched back home, slamming the door shut behind them. If he wants those strangers to be his new family, then go ahead! Let them deal with his craziness. If he wants to deny his obligation to his bloodline, then fine. They’d just sit in the house and wait for him to fail, counting the days until they could snicker, “I told you so!” as he crawled back to their doorway to beg for their good graces.
Days passed, and weeks. He continued to travel, continued to teach, and continued stirring up lunacy wherever he went (or so they were told). If the rumors were true, though, they had to admit that there was something to him, the one whom the crowds called “teacher.” Something in his message that gave them pause to raise their eyebrows in curiosity. Something irresistible.
And now, here they were, the teacher and the teaching put to the test. Mary felt her heart melt in her chest, any resolve she could muster gushing out of her while she watched her baby dying on that cross. No words could describe the pain that was exploding within as she felt the crush of death outside. She saw the lips of her son moaning in agony, whose whimpers of thirst received only the mockery of vinegar. Those same lips suckled her breast thirty-three years ago. To gaze at his face contorted in anguish, her mind initially returned to memories of her son as a tiny, helpless child.
As she continued to gaze at those lips, however, the images in her mind’s eye changed to another babe: herself. Like a punch in the gut, she realized that she was now the tiny, helpless child who desperately needed succor. The horror of the crucifixion was more than she could bear, and her knees almost gave out beneath her. A primal wail rose from the depths of her being, the cry of all humanity that begs God to bring shalom.
Panic threatened Mary’s consciousness, as palpitations convulsed her chest. Through blurring vision, however, Mary noticed those lips speaking in her direction.
Her son called her to attention with a shocking invitation (or was it a command?): “Woman, here is your son.” Jesus ever so slightly shifted his gaze to his disciple John, whom Mary was startled to discover was also standing underneath the cross.
As Mary took in the disciple’s presence, Jesus addressed John while turning his gaze back toward Mary, saying, “Here is your mother.”
Tears streamed down Mary’s face as the reality of her son’s teaching finally became clear: he came to make new families. He did invite strangers to be his relatives, but he also wanted her to be kinfolk, too. She had tried, and failed, to usher him back into the door of her narrow conventions. Yet now, even while nailed on a cross, he was inviting her into a much bigger doorway. With a changed heart, she accepted her son’s invitation. Mary joined his new family.