Third Word

“Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.

John 19:26–27

The Third Word completes a family. Jesus has called to his father, and now he speaks to his mother as a son. From the beginning, through the creed, and today, the words father, mother, and child are entwined with our theology, rendering our faith subject to derision from those puzzled by the ambiguity.

This very ambiguity and ambivalence, so present in our relationships with family, is inescapable in our faith. What human relationship is more confounding than the one with family?

I think of David and his son Absalom, a charismatic but vain figure who rebelled against his father, quite unlike Jesus. And consider Absalom’s death while fighting with his father’s army.

“He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.”

Joab then pierced Absalom, hanging from a tree, with a spear. Jesus, by contrast, rode into Jerusalem, in obedience. But the outcome was the same. Think of Mary, watching her son in agony, dying an excruciating death in public; A life and death of cosmic significance, but still a mother watching her son die.

Thomas Weelkes’ When David Heard expresses this sorrow.

When David heard that Absalom was slain,
He went to his chamber over the gate and wept.
And thus he said,
“O, O my son, Absalom. My son, Absalom!
Would God had I died for thee!
O, Absalom. Absalom, my son!

Our path to salvation runs through our families and the human family with its joys and suffering, its life and its death. Jesus could have said, “Woman, avert your eyes.” We are called to welcome with faith the uncertainty and pain of loving one another. 

Choral Response: When David Heard, Weelkes

Hymn in Response: Sing of Mary

Fourth Word