One of my Middle Eastern friends tells the story of when his sister was being courted by a suitor.  The older brother in typical culture gathered his 4 younger brothers to meet with the young man.  They came looking tough and intimidating.  They would meet with him 5 times to find out if he was good enough for their sister.  They would also try to add an intimidation factor.  If at the 3rd visit they liked the guy, they would begin by offering him tea as a sign they were warming up to him.  After 5 visits they would give their blessing.  If after they married and the husband was harmful to their sister, they would investigate.  If they found their sister in the wrong, they would let him deal with it.  If they found he was wrong, they would deal with him.In Middle Eastern culture (and many African cultures) the responsibility of the family falls on to the oldest brother.  He is to protect the family name and make sure the family is protected.  An older brother is also oftentimes expected to financially send the young siblings to school.   It’s double the honor, double the responsibility.

Jesus is Middle Eastern.  And he is the oldest brother.  He had the responsibility of caring for his family, especially his mother and the other siblings.  (According to tradition his father died young.)  At one point his brothers thought he had gone crazy so they tried to pull the “mom-card” to get him to stop (Mk 3:30-34).  Didn’t work.  Jesus knew what they were up to.  “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

But on the cross it was different.  Jesus had a responsibility to his mother.    And it wasn’t pretty as Michaelangelo so shockingly reminds us in his painting–Jesus was naked.  They gambled away his under garments.  And the Romans wanted the greatest possible shame.  There was a reason that “All those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things” (Lk 23:49).

But it was different with family.  Jesus’ mother was there.  It was her son.  And the disciple Jesus loved.  And in the moment of his greatest agony as he became the sin of the world, he still was focused on the one in front of him–his mother.

“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”  From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:26-27).

It wasn’t his brothers or even his sisters but it was the man who came to the horror of the cross to look after his mother.  To this man he handed over the care giving responsibilities.  Ironically it was this man who would live the longest.

Jesus was indeed a caregiver.  Not in her sickness but in his crucifixion.  This tells us much about the kind of man we follow.