Meanwhile, the women…

John 19:16-25

So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew,[f] in Latin, and in Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

“They divided my clothes among themselves,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”

25 And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, the women…

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 

The gospels of Mark and Luke say there were also women looking on from a distance: Mary, the mother of James and Joses, and Salome, and all the women who had followed him from Galilee. Some commentaries call this “Jesus’ female entourage.”

There they were. The whole time. Defying angry mobs, these women. These mamas. They’re there. Close behind and right at hand. They gasp and weep. And crumble. And get up and tend. They fall back and then press in. Jesus’ mama. His auntie. His friends. And their mamas. The women of Jerusalem, with their babies in tow, infants swaddled, toddlers on hips, hauling up that hellish hill, bearing witness, every one of them to the terrors of evil. Refusing to close their eyes to it. These women who had birthed and raised and followed and financed and upheld and loved this boy, now man. They come. They stay. They are relentless in their grief and unwavering in their resolve. They stand near.

Plundering. Tearing. Auctioning off the contraband. That is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, the women… Stayed. Watched. Tended. Wept.

What John does here, what Jesus did throughout his ministry, what other writers of the gospels – and even Old Testament stories do – is occasionally offer us a glimpse from the other side. Dominant narrative be damned. Meanwhile, the women…

Meanwhile, the Hebrew midwives…

Meanwhile, Hagar…

Meanwhile, the women who mourned Jephtah’s daughter…

Meanwhile, the daughters of Zelophehad…

Meanwhile, Miriam…

Meanwhile…

We must also learn to listen, read, write and sing the stories from the other side. From where the women stand or where the slaves work or where the children listen in. We must hear the stories as they come from the red tents or the slave quarters of history. Pay attention. Mr. Rogers told the children that whenever there was an emergency or a disaster or something goes wrong, to look for the helpers. I suggest that when read Scripture or listen to political narratives we must also wonder about the “lesser” stories of the women, the children, the refugees, the slaves and the resisters.

I had preached this last Sunday morning in final session of a women’s retreat at which, over three days, we had walked through the life of Jesus’ mama, Mary. It all came to mind again this week as I followed the news of Turkish assaults in Syria. I read about bombings and negotiations and expired “deals,” and that “the U.S. is sending armoured vehicles back into Syria. Not to protect its Kurdish allies, but to “>guard oil fields.”

Plundering. Tearing. Auctioning off the contraband. Protecting the flipping oil fields. That is what the soldiers did. That is what the presidents did.

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Meanwhile the aid workers, the doctors, the peacemakers…

I tuned into reports from those working on the front lines, particularly those with the Preemptive Love Coalition. The ones who had given away the very last backpacks of food that they’d been distributing to those at the border. The ones who were tending the wounded.

Stayed, watched, tended, wept. That is what the helpers did.

So much of this is not okay.  In the aftermath of Canada’s elections, in our dear, unsettled Bolivia as contested elections again lead to riots and protests. The world’s on fire and it’s easy to look to the ones in power and be confused about what to do, which way is up, who’s right or wrong and who’s telling the truth.

And again, I want to say, dominant narrative be damned. Instead, follow Jesus’ finger as he points to the wounded, the broken, the child, the outcast, and the ones who stand near. Listen to their voices. Stand with them in whatever way you can.

Meanwhile, the women…

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