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Published Date: December 13, 2019

Published Date: December 13, 2019

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Their Broken Bodies: Mary and Jesus

In churches where men are welcomed as priests and leaders simply because they share the male body of Jesus and the twelve male disciples, we too easily assume that women’s bodies represent, by contrast, an inferiority. Because of this, girls and women have for centuries been regarded as inferiors to boys and men and denied leadership in the church, home, and world. Girls and women are not only viewed as lesser humans, they are also treated as less and endure abuse more often. While Scripture consistently supports the shared dignity, value, and equal authority of women and men, even so, devaluing ideas lead to devaluing actions, which the world’s women have experienced for too long. For this reason, we should amplify the bodily similarities between Mary—the mother of Christ—and Jesus.

While Christ’s maleness is elevated (and has been for centuries) as the standard for leadership in the church and the home, the most common name describing Jesus in the New Testament is “Son of Humankind” (anthropos)—a term consistently used by Jesus himself. The “Son of Humanity” aligns Jesus not with his maleness but with his humanness! While Paul speaks of our newness of life as being “clothed in Jesus,” he illustrates our spiritual rebirth not as a physical alteration but a spiritual one (Gal. 3:27–28). Our new life in Christ changes not our gender but our status with God and others. Redeemed before God, we no longer dominate but serve one another sacrificially, as Mary and Jesus did. And both were essential in God’s redemptive plan.

Mary’s role in our salvation is foreshadowed beside Eve’s failures in Genesis 3:15. Complicit in sin, woman (Mary) will give birth to our Savior. Theologians throughout history observe, as Sojourner Truth did, that Christ came from God and a woman, and man had nothing to do with it. Genesis 3:15–16 links the suffering of women in childbirth with the child (Jesus) who will crush evil.

The flesh of Mary and Jesus both are torn in God’s redemptive process. Both bled and endured prolonged bodily agony to birth new life. Both suffered cultural shame associated with the means of their bodily affliction. Jesus—the sinless Messiah—was unjustly condemned beside two criminals and his flesh was torn on a Roman cross. Pregnant and unmarried, Mary’s body brought shame to her life. Her discomfort and humiliation were worsened by her lengthy journey to Bethlehem, only to deliver her child in a stable. In a vulnerable wilderness, Jesus and Mary ruptured and bled. Yet, only the shedding of blood and rending of flesh leads to birth—Christ’s physical birth and our spiritual rebirth.

At communion we rehearse the greatest moment in human history: Christ’s body broken for us. Christ’s blood spilled for us. Our redemption was made possible by Christ’s torture on Calvary. Christ’s body was born by Mary’s blood spilled in a stable. Fully human and fully divine, Christ took on human flesh through Mary’s agony. Christ represented all humanity at Calvary because Mary birthed a child that could suffer and die as the Son of Humanity. Both Mary and Jesus welcomed their shameful affliction with courage and a humble faith. Jesus said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant . . . May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

In celebrating Christ’s birth this Christmas, we honor Mary’s sacrificial role in our own redemption. Through her disgrace and anguish she birthed a Savior whose body was torn on a shameful Roman cross. Both were part of God’s redemptive path for humankind. Through their humiliation and affliction, Mary and Jesus also share in solidarity the disgrace and abuse of the world’s vulnerable, declaring that God will make all things new. God will bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly. God will be merciful and faithful to humankind.