Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Genesis Notes — The Woman: From Jesus' Lips

The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Genesis: God and His Creation to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy.

I never really thought anything about how Jesus addressed His mother but the following two snippets of study make it crystal clear. The use of "woman" is a direct connection back to Genesis, the first woman Eve, and the "woman and her seed." For Him to deliberately us that word again when being crucified makes it even more powerful as to how important it was to make this connection.

The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11

Marriage at Cana, c. 1500, Gerard David, Musée du Louvre, Paris
For Jesus to address His own mother as "woman" in this context takes us right back to Gen. 3:15. We know He could not have meant any disrespect for her, so we must understand that it has special significance. For Him to ask her what she wants of Him is to heighten the dramatic power of the episode, and John doesn't want us to miss any of its meaning. It is clear that Jesus has every intention of granting Mary's request. What follows is a collaboration of the two of them that produces the very first sign of Jesus' Messianic mission in Israel. Mary acts as advocate ("they have no wine") and mediator ("do whatever He tells you"). Jesus changes water to wine, a miracle rich in Messianic overtones. What has John done in this episode? He has given us the grown-up icon of the Woman and her Seed. With language meant to call to mind the Garden of Eden, he has enabled us to see in Jesus and Mary the New Adam and the New Eve. The work of the Messiah has begun. [Note: According to The New Bible Dictionary (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1965), one site in Israel thought to be that of ancient Cana is marked by springs of water and groves of fig trees, much like a Garden we know.]

The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27

The Crucifixion, seen from the Cross, by James Tissot, 19th century.
John's gospel is the only one to preserve this scene from the Crucifixion. Is the exchange prompted by sentiment or expediency? Is Jesus worried about what will happen to His mother when He is gone? Or is there deeper spiritual significance in this episode? Actually, the gift of a familial bond between Mary and John rockets us right back to the Garden of Eden. There we remember that the first Eve was called the "mother of all living," but before she had a chance to begin a family, she and Adam were expelled from Paradise. The original family plan for humanity was for Adam and Eve to preside over children who could enjoy the blessedness of the Garden and eat freely of the Tree of Life. Disobedience brought death into the human story, so Eve's motherhood was bittersweet. She became the human mother of the dying. That hope of blessed family life in the Garden was shattered.

Shattered but not lost. When Jesus, as He is dying, establishes this new family between Mary, the New Eve, and John, the only one of the Twelve at the foot of the Cross, He elevates Eve's motherhood to a supernatural fulfillment. Mary's motherhood will extend to all those who are in union with her Son, as John showed himself to be. Just as God becomes the Father of all who are born again into new life in Christ through baptism, Mary becomes their mother, by this gift from Jesus. This new "family," of course, is the Church-all those "who hear the word of God and do it," just as Jesus described it in Luke 8:19-21; see also Rev. 12:17). We can see that it was Jesus' intention to share Mary with His followers. Her motherhood in the Church is a powerful sign of God's plan to recover what was lost in the Garden (see CCC 964).
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

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