It may be hard for Christians who revere Jesus as divine (as God) to think of God as ever being needy or vulnerable. And yet the Bible is not the Bible if it doesn’t shock us (even those, or especially those steeped in Christian tradition). Jesus’ relationship with his mother certainly has many elements of mystery, but here’s what we do know: Jesus needed his mother.

Why might this shock us? It may have to do with the fact that we view vulnerability as a sign of weakness, and we dare not put God in that same boat. It also may have to do with the lens through which many of us view the Jesus of the Gospels: as a sort of superman Jesus who never tripped as a boy, or who never broke a jar by accident, or who never cried as a child.

The Gospels beg to differ by insisting that Jesus really was human; he wasn’t merely pretending.

We haven’t been granted access to the ins and outs of Jesus’ relationship with his mother, or if she viewed her son (pre-resurrection and ascension) as God or merely a Messianic figure. But this we do know: humans need mothers, and Jesus was human.

Jesus needed his mother’s milk for nourishment, her voice for calming, her wisdom to teach and guide him; he needed and craved her warm touch and embrace.

They say behind every great leader is a great woman; and behind the one we call king of the cosmos stands Mary, his mother.