As an adoptive mother, I knew why I was chosen to talk about Mary & John. It is a beautiful picture of adoption. There at the cross stands Jesus’s mother Mary, likely widowed, reliant on her oldest son for provision and protection, now facing a destitute future. And standing nearby is John - the beloved disciple and dear friend to Jesus - now facing the loss of his teacher who is like a brother.
In Jesus’s last act of ministry, before pouring Himself out unto death, He said to them,“Woman, behold your son!” And to John, “Behold, your mother!” In that very moment, the Bible says two things happened:
Both of these details show how powerfully beautiful and fulfilling adoption is! It is often beauty from ashes, a new beginning pulled from a heartbreaking ending. As believers, it is also something we are called into. We are all adopted into God’s family - not by lineage, but by His love. And as believers, we are all called to minister to the orphans and the widows. It is one of the purest forms of faith.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)
It was the very last thing Jesus did before dying.
In fact, Christ’s life was bookended by adoption! Jesus’s birth included Joseph becoming his adopted father and taking pregnant Mary as his wife. It was a divine calling and prelude to the Messiah. And now, we see a similar scene at the end of Jesus’s life, as John is called to take Mary as His mother, carrying on the Messiah’s ministry to his family. Both scenes are beautiful reminders to us that the new adoptive family of God was born at the foot of the cross.
But not really...
Otherwise, we will miss the second incredible lesson in this passage!
Ask any adoptive parent and they will tell you: Adoption is a beautiful picture… But it's not always a pretty picture.
Adoption is HARD. It will take all of you! And then a bit more. Like anything God calls us to, it will require more than ourselves. Even Christ Himself relied on others to continue His work after He poured Himself out! Adoption is the very picture of reliance on God and community. Because it takes more than what you have alone. It takes a village.
Yes, we are called to help others, but we are also called to ask for help. Jesus, in His perfection, asked for help! Jesus, in His perfection, commissioned the church to carry on the spread of the gospel, “to the ends of the earth”. And Jesus, in His perfection, asked Mary and John to love each other and care for each other in his physical absence. What a great example to us!
How much more, as an imperfect person, do I need to rely on others?
How much do I pour into a village and also let them pour into me?
How often do I help others connect to each other, beyond me?
What areas have I fed the incorrect and sinful idea that I need to do it all myself? Or that I am alone in this?
As an adoptive mom and now a widow, this is what I so desperately needed to hear this week! Not necessarily that adoption, or ministry, or whatever God is calling you to do, is beautiful (it is), but that it is HARD! Too hard to accomplish all by yourself. Because that was never God’s plan.
Maybe you need to hear this, too:
Whatever God has called you to “adopt”, is beautiful, but it is also hard. You are doing hard things. And you are not meant to do them alone. Get some prayer warriors. Get some strong shoulders around you. Pour yourself out for what God has called you to do, but understand it's going to take a bit more than you have. Christ allowed His own ministry to be shared and carried out by others. He poured himself out, and then handed it off to be adopted by His family, His church, His village.
What do you find yourself alone in? Reach out.
Share the “hard” with your village and it will be all the more beautiful because of it.