1-1-4-4 "A Sheep Before her Shearers"
6 Is. 53:7 speaks of the Lord at this time as being uncannily silent: " as a sheep before her shearers is silent" . The LXX has: “Because of his affliction he opens not his mouth", as if the silence was from pure fear as well as a reflection of an internal pain that was unspeakable. Job’s experience had foretold that the cross would be what the Lord had always “greatly feared". The Passover Lamb, so evidently typical of the Lord as He approached death, was to be male. And yet Is. 53:7 conspicuously speaks of a female sheep. Why such an obvious contradiction? Was it not because the prophet foresaw that in the extraordinary breadth of experience the Lord was passing through, He was made to empathize with both men and women? He felt then, as He as the seed of the woman stood silent before those abusive men, as a woman would feel. This is not the only place where both the Father and Son are described in feminine terms. It doesn't mean, of course, that the Father is a woman; what it means is that He has the ability to appreciate and manifest feelings which a male would not normally be able to. Through His experience and zeal for our redemption, the Lord Jesus came to the same ability as His Father in these areas. Those who have suffered most are the most able to empathize. And yet somehow the Lord exceeded this principle; it was true of Him, but such were His sufferings and such His final empathy that this isn't a fully adequate explanation as to how He got to that point of supreme empathy and identity with us that He did. Exactly how He did it must surely remain a mystery; for God was in Him, reconciling the world unto Himself by that fully and totally representative sacrifice.
The female element in Old Testament sacrifice pointed forward to the Lord’s sacrifice, as a sheep before her shearers. His identity with both male and female, as the ultimate representative of all humanity, meant that He took upon Himself things that were perceived as specifically feminine. The mother was the story teller of the family; when people heard the Lord tell parables and teach wisdom, it would have struck them that He was doing the work of the matriarch of a family (1). “Typical female behaviour included taking the last place at the table, serving others, forgiving wrongs, having compassion, and attempting to heal wounds", strife and arguments (2). All this was done by the Lord Jesus- especially in His time of dying and the lead up to it. He was in many ways the idealized mother / matriarch. His sacrifice for us was very much seen as woman’s work. And this is why the example of his mother Mary would have been a particular inspiration for Him in going through the final process of self-surrender and sacrifice for others, to bring about forgiveness and healing of strife between God and men. In a fascinating study, Diane Jacobs-Malina develops the thesis that a psychological analysis of the Gospels shows that the Lord Jesus played his roles like “the wife of the absent husband" (3). And assuming that Joseph disappeared from the scene early in life, His own mother would have been His role model here- for she was indeed the wife of an absent husband. You’d have to read Jacobs-Malina’s study to be able to judge whether or not you think it’s all valid. But if she’s right, then it would be yet another tribute to the abiding influence of Mary upon the character of the Son of God.
(1) V.C. Matthews and D.C. Benjamin, The Social World Of Ancient Israel (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1993) pp. 28-29.
(2) B. J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights From Cultural Anthropology (Louisville: Westminster / John Knox Press, 1993) p. 54.
(3) Diane Jacobs-Malina, Beyond Patriarchy: The Images Of Family In Jesus (New York: Paulist, 1993) p.2.