When a loved one is dying, grief is a heavy blanket wrapped around your shoulders and even the act of breathing is difficult . God’s most priceless gift, His Son, is hanging on a cross hewn from a tree He created; Nails made from iron ore He placed in the ground hold His hands and feet; The bone shards that ripped His flesh, He formed in the womb of the now dead creatures the bones came from; The thorns the result of the curse of sin on the earth from the Garden pierce His brow so HIs death will even redeem creation. Who is watching this display of hate and brutality? Why the women of course. All but one of His “chosen disciples” have fled like scared rabbits to find a hole to hide in: One betrayed HIm, one denied HIm, and the others vanish. The women are standing in the distance, mouths gaping at this spectacle of horror: His mother, Mary, Mary the mother of James and John, Salome, and Mary Magdalene. (Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, Luke 23:49, John 19:25)
I cannot even imagine His mother’s pain. Not only is she witnessing the heinous way her first born is being treated, to add insult to injury, none of her children are there to comfort her! (Matthew 13:55-56) How very alone she must feel. Yet, she remains, inching her way to the foot of the cross. She must be near her Son. Her own hands covered in the blood of Jesus and her tears cascade even as she struggles to be strong. This is when the memory of the Magi’s gifts of burial preparations come flooding back and Simeon’s words ring in her ears “and a sword will pierce your heart,” (Matthew 2:11, Luke 2:35). Her soul is screaming for the angels to intervene, her head knows the prophecy and she is witnessing every gory detail, and yet, her mouth utters not a sound. There is only the silent cry from the pain of her Mama heart. Children are not suppose to die before their parents! Her spirit……………does her soul magnify the Lord now? (Luke 1:46-55)
These women had formed a bond from traveling with Jesus. They had a common goal: Serve Jesus. They loved Jesus and understood He was indeed the Son of God, the promised Messiah. Nothing could keep them away. They had been the recipients of His love, mercy, forgiveness, healing, and grace. These had lavished Jesus with love, devotion, and assisted Him in His ministry out of their “own purses.” (Luke 8:3)
All four gospels mention the name of one of the women who remained near Jesus: Mary Magdalene. Why is she there and why is she mentioned by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? From the four gospel accounts we see she follows Christ from beginning to end of His death, burial and resurrection. She alone STAYS! “Mary Magdalene earns (emphasis mine) her place among the apostles because of all Jesus’ students, she is one who catches the full unitive meaning of his teachings and is best able to ‘walk the talk’.” She is a “broken person whose conversion was synonymous with her healing………..a type of recovering sinner.” Unfortunately, this woman who loved the Lord, “is hawked about as everything from an archetypal goddess of wisdom to a sexualized consort.” (The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity, by Cynthia Bourgeault) This sweet woman has known pain and Jesus alone freed her “from satanic bondage and she became harnessed to the chariot of the LORD.” Jesus saw past who she was to who she would become–a ministering spirit to Him! He healed her of seven demons and in doing so set about “liberating highest virtues of sacrifice, fortitude, and courage.” (BibleGateway) Truly, “to whom much is given much is required,” (Luke 12:48) and Mary of Magdala gave much because she was given much healing. Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany understood worship. It pours out from a grateful heart. No expense is too great: No act of service or inconvenience. Time, in His Presence, stands still and nothing and no one else matters.
Mary the mother of James and John. Some scholars think this Mary and Salome are the same person. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer but too me the Gospel writers are very plain in the writing these are two different women. I will let you decide based on the Scriptures:
Matthew 27:56 “Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.”
Mark 15:40 “There were also women looking on from afar: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;”
Luke 24:10 “It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James (Jesus brother), and the others with them who told this to the apostles”
John 19:25 “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”
Based on Matthew 20:20 and Mark 10:35 This Mary is the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John, two apostles of Jesus who get their boldness from their mom. (Matthew 20:20-21)
I must admit there are a few too many Mary’s. It is quite confusing to my simple mind but in my family I have two Rita’s, two Jim’s, a Jimmy, a Jaime, two Stephanie’s and several Mary’s!!! We have had to resort to Rita D., Rita H., Jim P., Jimmy, and Jaime to keep it all straight! You should hear some of our conversations: “are you talking about Rita D or Rita H? So, common names you are familiar with and you write about, 2000 years from now will be quite confusing because readers will have no faces to go with the names or middle or last names to differentiate. Truth is when you love someone, you name your child for them. Mary Lillian (my great aunt) was so loved her brother, he named his daughter, Mary Jo and her nephew named his daughter Mary Hardy and Mary Jo was so loved her granddaughter named her great-granddaughter Mary Michael. See what I mean!
Joanna is the wife of Chuza the steward of Herod! Jesus had healed Joanna of an evil spirit. (Luke 8:1-3) She too was a woman of means and followed the Lord after her healing, serving and providing for the needs of Jesus and the apostles. Joanna was given a unique platform for sharing her faith in Christ as part of Herod’s household! The man who had John the Baptist beheaded has believers in his midst. Isn’t scripture rich?
Salome is another one of the followers Jesus had healed (Luke 8:1-3). We do not know if it was a physical or emotional or psychological illness. It is really not important. She was healed by the Messiah and she knew it and followed Him, returning to Him her love and devotion.
Mary, wife of Cleophas, would have been Jesus aunt. Cleophas would have been Mary’s, the mother of Jesus, brother. She would have been well known to Jesus from birth. This Mary may have been there to support Jesus’ mother during her time of profound grief and loss. A shoulder to cry into, an arm to lean upon, a comfort to Jesus mother’s hurting heart despite her own sorrow.
These women formed a community. They have shared good times and bad. They have shared confidences and a common goal: support the ministry. Now they are supporting Jesus with their presence, supporting each other in sorrow, and these women will be friends for life having shared this experience no one else will fully comprehend. Death does this. It binds hearts.
Who has stayed by your side during times of great sorrow, distress, and grief? When life falls apart a friend is often closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24). We raise each other up!
You Raise Me up by Selah