The people I have recently started working with in a support role, who have Cerebral Palsy or Spina Bifida and/or Hydrocephalus, are classed as Vulnerable Adults. Because of their disabilities, they are – potentially – at a greater risk of being taken advantage of by others; abused in a variety of ways, including physical, emotional, sexual, financial…In this context – because abuse is always wrong – vulnerability is seen as a disadvantage, something that requires extra input to counter-balance. In contrast, the majority of the population is not vulnerable; is, therefore, more highly independent of others. And, while I understand the designation Vulnerable Adult and the practices surrounding it, I’m less comfortable about the flip-side; the idea of not being vulnerable, and/or of not acknowledging our vulnerability…
I want to reflect on vulnerability in the Holy Week story, through Simon the Zealot, Judas Iscariot, and Jesus.
I guess Simon the Zealot is one of the marginalised disciples. We tend to think of Peter and James and John – the “in-crowd” – and Judas – the “bad-guy” – first; then perhaps Matthew – because of the Gospel – and Thomas – because he Doubted; and then…yeah, there were others, um…
But, imagine how vulnerable Simon the Zealot felt that week, as his past came back to haunt him…Here is a man whose passion for God’s [Name] [never spoken by devout Jews] and God’s People and God’s Land had led him to choose the path of terrorism, targeting the Roman Occupiers – whose values, and whose presence in his land, defied God and defiled all that was His. This Simon is a disturbingly contemporary fundamentalist…but, somewhere along the line, he is attracted to Jesus…accepts Jesus’ invitation to walk away from his life, his cell, and follow along a different path – a path on which the enemies are not Romans but sickness, and demons, and death, and even the religious leaders of his own people, the People of God…and the weapons are not swords but heavenly power and authority, exercised in a ruthlessly aggressive (make no mistake there) love.
Three years or so of deconstruction and reconstruction…and then, the entry into Jerusalem: excited crowds, all talking about Jesus, Jesus who had come to overthrow the Romans, at the head of a popular uprising who would then proclaim him king. Heady stuff. Like an alcoholic who has not had a drink for three years being caught up with the binge-drinkers in any British city centre on a Saturday night. And when the crowd turned ugly, what pressure was Simon under to betray Jesus with Judas, to cut off Malchus’ ear with Peter? And what grace kept him from doing so?
I, too, am a Vulnerable Adult; and Jesus is my Support Worker.
Holy Week , vulnerability