Mother’s Love & Jesus’ Political Concept: Reflection on Matt. 20:20-28

Nestor Ravilas

Whatever prompted the wife of Zebedee to do the thing she did could have been pure love for her two sons. Too presumptuous to assume such thing, I know. We might probably have an Elenita Binay or an Imelda Marcos case here, mothers who deploy their kids in politics to secure political dominance of their own dynasty. The Zebedees, however, has no dynasty to maintain. What they have is a risky adventurism in supporting a fledgling revolutionary movement of another Galilean activist`.

Mary, as she was called in another account, is no imbecile however. The journey towards the seat of power of the revolutionary force of Jesus was not a friendly crusade. It was a march to victory, or to their own death.

It was an embarrassing move, nonetheless. While everyone looks anxious and troubled as they come nearer the capital, Mary and her two sons, James and John, shoved their way to Jesus and asked something that is completely premature. They are concerned about the post-battle scenario while the rest was buried to the thought of how fierce the confrontation will be once in Jerusalem. The sneer they received afterwards from the rest of the disciples confirmed that what they did is shameful. Outsmarting the rest by securing sinecures when the battle hasn’t yet began.

What might have been running to the mother’s mind to breach the collective agenda and campaign for her sons’ future? The mother who have been wondering what the future has for her sons while cuddling them in her arms. The mother’s love which exceeds Rene Girard’s mimetic desire, a mother’s sacrifice that belies all the way his notion of triangular desire as responsible for the world’s violence. Nothing is more comforting to leave this world with the thought that your sons in secure and privileged position, to have otherwise is undesirable. There is no any tinge if competing desire there.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus told her. A mother’s love might be incomprehensible, the very same reason also why it is prone to mistake. A political position is not an award to be accorded after a commendable service. Where you ascend to the top and wage power against your own subjects. It is not an office that provides you largesse and comfort of life at the expense of the poverty and suffering of your people. Mary might have been thinking that after all the sufferings they have gone to under the puppet Hebrew Republic and risking later on their own lives to the cause of Jesus’ revolution, they deserved to be lifted up to the very position they denounced and wished to topple.
Something they missed about Jesus notion of political regime. While the Athenian were experimenting the possibility of a regime where people rule their society, Jesus is suggesting a radical reverse where those in political positions should serve the people.

Jesus’ imagined society is the complete reversal of monarchical and oligarchical system that are dominant then and even now. To desire a political berth is not to award oneself, but to bind oneself into service, committing oneself to collective flourishing, to fight for economic arrangement that is just and beneficial to all, and to create a world that is liveable for every living thing.

The conventional view that Jesus has no political agenda and no particular social arrangement in mind is based on misconception of the West. That is unjustly imposing to biblical records the institutional separation of church and state which was constructed sometime in 18th century. Why bending the biblical record to agree with human construction made only in recent past?

Midterm election almost coincides with the celebration of Mother’s Day. Mary’s love for her two sons and Jesus’ imagined form of government must be our guide and choosing our candidates, whether we want people who will rule and abuse us, or people who will serve the cause of the gospel. The Matthean version to include Mary in the narrative which is far different from the no-Mary of Markan narration is another providence to provide us divine direction how to fuse mother’s love and the regime Jesus wishes us to uphold. Happy Mother’s Day!