January 2024 | Conversion: Persecutor Turns Promoter

Women Around the Cross

Women Around the Cross

Ms. Starla Luke

"Scripture has no stories of women betraying Jesus or abandoning Jesus. His female followers remained loyal."  LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

Contemplating on the women around the cross of Christ, one thought that stands out is that these women - some named and others unnamed - were no ordinary or simple women. They were women of great faith and courage; women who were willing to walk alongside Jesus, gave of their resources to help Jesus in His ministry; traveled crossing all boundaries; gave up the safety and security of their homes; boldly and publicly displayed their loyalty to Jesus even at the cost of risking relationships. Some stood with Jesus at the very cost of their reputation. 

A close look at the scene where Jesus was arrested shows how some of the disciples (including Peter) ran away, some watched from a distance and the others stayed close by. John 19:25 reads that his mother Mary, his mother's sister and Mary Magadelene stood close to the cross - the physical closeness happened  because of the deep emotional closeness  with Jesus. 

Surprisingly,  many real life incidents regarding the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus are so clearly passed down to us because of the narratives of these women who stood around the cross. They remained close to Jesus, by the cross, until the very end despite the hopeless situation they faced.

Mary Magdalene was demon possessed. Mark 16 talks about how Jesus delivered her from them all. She was set free - set free from demonic oppression, from a past filled with guilt, shame and all pain. It was out of deep gratitude for this mighty deliverance that she kept following Jesus, even to the cross. Her deep devotion and allegiance sprung from the memories of her great deliverance. She must have found it difficult to let go of her pain until the moment Jesus touched and healed her. The resurrected Jesus commissions her to be an evangelist and even sends her  to the apostles as a carrier of good news of His resurrection! She was regarded as a visionary and leader.

Today, we live knowing  Jesus died on the cross and rose again - in the power of the resurrection. He can do mighty things. You and I may not need outright deliverance from demonic oppression, however He is more than able to draw us out of the shame and pain of the past that grips our hearts and mind, if only we will willing surrender them to Jesus like Mary did. And like Mary Magdalene, the commission to share the 'good news' is given to each one of us. None of us are exempt from this task. Mary carried out the mandate very faithfully. How faithful are we in fulfilling this mandate?

Mary, mother of Jesus was at the foot of the cross too. "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene". John 19:25

How heart wrenching it must have been for her to watch her beloved first born hanging on the cross. How would she, a mother, have borne the agony of her son crying out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Imagine Mary's helplessness,  watching her son die such a cruel death. Words cannot convey the pain this mother must have felt to see her son suffer.

It is quite possible that Mary would have assumed that, Jesus, conceived of the Holy Spirit, whose very birth was announced by angels would also enjoy angelic protection in times of crisis. Mary, who quietly pondered in her heart the wonderful things spoken by the angel at His birth, now stands at the foot of the Cross wondering about the hopeless situation. She must have been longing to hear some angelic voice giving hope. She heard none.

It would have been only natural for Mary to anticipate that the Messiah would be delivered miraculously. But, it did not happen. Jesus died a senseless human death! As a mother, she was crushed by His death.

However, on the third day, Mary heard of the greatest of miracles! Jesus rose again - conquering the grave; conquering death itself! Jesus' coming back to life revived in Mary every promise that was foretold of Him even before His birth. What a fitting reward to her faith in and love for Jesus. This resurrection of Jesus is what makes the Christian hopeful of life in eternity. All one has to do is believe in Jesus and he/she is rewarded with eternal life.

Mary teaches us, never to assume we are abandoned by God in times of distress. At such times, may we kneel at the foot of the cross and seek His intervention. Our sufferings ought to become opportunities to draw us closer to Christ and learn from Him.

Mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John)  - "Some women were watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses and Salome" Mark 15:40

Reading Matthew's narrative below clarifies to us that Salome mentioned by Mark was was the wife of Zebedee. 

Matthew 27:55-56 reads, "Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for His needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.

Salome, considered the mother of the sons of Zebedee, puts forth her request in Matt.20:20, 21, "Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons,... " Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." She dreamed of her sons gaining prominent positions in the kingdom of God. That is all that mattered to her. All that she was concerned about was her sons secure future. She anticipated a kingdom to be established wherein her sons would be groomed by Jesus for greater glory and power!  

And now this very Jesus hangs on the cross - on the cursed tree. How devastating for this mother! What would be the future of her dearly loved sons? All her dreams are shattered as she stands at the foot of the cross and looks up to see the mangled face of Jesus on wooden cross, lying helpless between the two thieves!  

What a devastating sight for one whose every waking thought and dream was to behold both her sons seated in glory, beside the LORD in His kingdom. This is how we often feel when faced with situations that are trying and challenging. When we are faced with utter despair, and every hope seems lost. For three days there was nothing but silence. No sign of life from the One on the cross. Nothing to look forward to. 

But suddenly on the third day is the resurrection! And life springs forth! Because Jesus died and rose again we have hope of eternal life with Christ. It was the Cross that changed everything. From despair rose hope; from death came life!

Salome's two sons were much loved disciples of Jesus. Instead of ensuring that her sons continued to be the best of Jesus' disciples, it appears she was trying to gain His favor by her selfish recommendations. Salome's deep love for her sons caused her to be highly ambitious for them. It is not wrong for a mother to want the very best for her child. But if her desire for her child is at cross purposes with God's, that spells danger. May our desires for our children stem from true faith in Jesus and may the methods to fulfill those desires always be honorable ones!

Invaluable Life Lessons from the Women at the Cross

1. None of the women followers of Jesus abandoned Him. All of them stayed faithful till the end. What a tremendous responsibility we women have as we follow our Lord today!! We will go through challenges - cornered and compelled to quit. In such trying times may we remain faithful. May we never betray, backtrack or break faith! We must be faithful to Christ and to others. We must be known to be people of our word. 

2. The women from Galilee followed him and ministered to Jesus by preparing spices and perfume for His burial. They not only ministered to His many needs while he was alive, but also showed deep regard and care after his death. This is a reminder for us to always be prepared to serve and be mindful of the needs of others. Service to God and man ought to be the focus of our lives as women. We certainly have a responsibility to take care of those in need and around us.

3. His women followers became His brand ambassadors. They went around speaking what they heard and saw. They were commissioned by Jesus to share the good news to the disciples (Apostles)  - which they did valiantly. We are given the same  freedom and responsibility today. May we 'preach and speak' intentionally and become messengers of the gospel. We should speak with clarity and reach more people with the gospel of salvation. 

Just as the women at the Cross proved their faithfulness until the very end, may we women of God prove our faithfulness to Christ and His Word to the very end.                              

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