Every book, movie or television portrayal of Mordecai and Esther has Esther as a young and beautiful girl who most likely, in real life, was barely into her teens when she was selected as queen. As for Mordecai, he is usually portrayed as middle-aged or even older, and could be mistaken for her grandfather. In reality he was most likely barely into his thirties if not younger at the telling of this story. Mordecai adopted Esther after the death of her mother and father, Esther’s father being Mordecai’s uncle. Knowing that multigenerational households were the norm; one could even conclude that Esther and Mordecai were more like brother and sister, at least in age.
Yet, the text tells us that Mordecai took her to be his “daughter (2:7).” We also know that Mordecai and Esther cared deeply for each other and demonstrated it by their actions. In fact, it is their love for each other that is at the center of this story and the catalyst for all the good that happens throughout. Their unselfish love extends beyond their relationship to all of their fellow Jews throughout the kingdom and is demonstrated by their willingness to risk it all in order to deliver them from certain death. It is true that the name of God is not referenced even once in the Book of Esther, but both Esther and Mordecai testify, by their actions, to God’s persistent and unfailing love.
Returning to the story, it is worthy to note that Esther didn’t volunteer to become a member of Xerxes’ harem or to compete for the role of queen. Also it becomes evident that Mordecai had little or nothing to say in the matter, for Esther was first selected by the king’s eunuch in charge of the harem, and then taken to the palace at the citadel of Susa. Furthermore, Mordecai tried to protect her from possible discrimination by advising her not to reveal that she was a Jew and then decided to hang around the king’s gate to keep an eye on her as best he could. Perhaps even more than his love for her, was a sense of obligation to protect and care for his uncle’s daughter and although we are not told directly, it appears that he sacrificed having his own wife and family in order to fulfill this obligation to Esther.
When we looked into the other book of the bible that does not reference God’s name, Song of Songs, the love that is described there is between Solomon and his young bride to be. This is not the kind of love that is highlighted and lived in the relationship between Mordecai and Esther. It is also not the lust turned to loathing we see between King Xerxes and Queen Vashti. The love that is revealed between the hero and heroine in the book of Esther is like a father has for a daughter or a brother for his sister. The key component of this love, and all love that comes from God, is the element of self-sacrifice and the willingness to give everything for each other, even unto death. Jesus testifies to this truth by both his death on the cross and his teaching, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13).” This is undoubtedly the highest form of love but I must object to those who teach that all other demonstrations of love are in some way subordinate. Does laying down one’s life for another necessarily mean that death could be the end result?
On one of my frequent trips to the grocery store a couple of weeks ago I saw a woman selecting breakfast cereals with her two year-old son. The boy was sitting in the shopping cart with his legs dangling out, held in by the safety belt that stores have installed so kids don’t take a header out of a speeding cart. This youngster however wasn’t wearing it for only safety reasons, because without it he wouldn’t have been able to sit up at all. You see Joshua was severely handicapped, both physically and mentally and although his mother would hold the cereal boxes up to him, pointing out the cartoon characters and talking to him and laughing about each one of them, Joshua’s expression never changed, his eyes fixed only on what was directly in front of him. When they started off down the aisle, Joshua’s head began slump to one side, much like a new-born baby does. Of course she stopped and then cupped Joshua’s head gently in her hands until he looked comfortable and was upright again. Still there was no expression on Joshua’s face, no acknowledgement of his mother’s profound love for him.
When I reached the check out line Joshua and his mother were directly in front of me and at first I hesitated to speak to her, mainly because I didn’t know what to say and I was afraid I would cry. But I had to say something, so I introduced myself to her, said hello to Joshua and then she promptly told me his name and how old he was. I tried not to look at her directly because my tears were welling up and were soon to overflow their banks. Then she said to me, “There’s no reason to feel sad for me or Joshua, we couldn’t be happier.” She then turned and unloaded her cart of groceries and Joshua sat there in silence… perfectly still.
I can’t even imagine what this woman has been through in two short years or what she will likely face in the future, but one thing I know for sure. I just witnessed someone who is in the process of laying down their life for another. This is the love that Jesus has commanded each of us to reach for, to be our calling and to make our mission in life daily.
Tool #350 How far have you reached toward one another, how far are you willing to reach for the sake of your Lord Jesus Christ?