Faces Around the Cross – #2 – The Women and John

Read MARK 15:33-47.

          For various reasons, The Bible has a bad rap among some women.  Feminists believe it encourages a masculine culture that oppresses women.  The fact is, it was written in a masculine culture without approving it at all.  Those who know history can see that the Bible practices a much more respectful attitude toward women than was in use among the cultures of the day.

          Even so, there’s no pleasing some people.

          Consider the husband who         was advised by his psychiatrist to assert himself.  “You don’t have to let your wife henpeck you.  Go home and show her you are the boss,” the good doctor suggested.

          The husband took this advice to heart.  He hopped in his car and rushed home.  There he slammed the door, shook his fist in his wife’s face, and growled, “Woman, from now on, you’re taking orders from me.  I want my supper right now, and when you get it on the table, go upstairs and lay out my best clothes.  I’m going out with my friends and you are going to stay home where you belong.  And here’s another thing.  Do you know who’s going to comb my hair, adjust my pants and tie my bow tie?”

          “I certainly do,” the wife said calmly, “the undertaker.”

(Joke from Healing through Humor, Charles & Frances Hunter, Creation House, 2003, p. 21.)

          As we continue our look at the faces around the cross, we will see a group of women and one man standing at a distance. Their presence is significant and instructive for us today.

Who were these women?

          Mary the mother of Jesus (see John 19:25).

          Jesus’ care for His mother, even while dying, shows His love for her. Her caring for Jesus is demonstrated in being present at this awful moment. This is a moment of tenderness in an otherwise brutal and violent scene.

          An entire book could be written about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and several have!  Sufficient for our purpose is to note that Mary’s presence at Jesus’ crucifixion is the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy 33 years earlier that a “sword” would pierce her heart.

          Mary Magdalene (aka “Mary of Magdala”).  (See Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25.)

          Magdala was a fishing village on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, named from the Hebrew word for “watchtower;” migdol.

          Luke 8:2 tells us that Jesus cast seven demons out of her.  For that reason and because Mary Magdalene is often identified with the unnamed woman in Luke 7, a woman described as “A SINNER,” people assume Mary Magdalene had an unsavory reputation, but it isn’t really justified.

          Mary, mother of James (aka “the Younger”) & Joseph (aka “Joses”). (See Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40.)

          Matthew 13:55 lists the half-brothers of Jesus as being James, Joseph, Simon and Judas.  Because two of the four names are the same as these verses, some suppose this Mary is the mother of Jesus. 

          This is what I believe, but I am more convinced by another reason.  If this is not Jesus’ mother, then, according to Matthew and Mark, Mary did not witness her son’s crucifixion.

          The mother of Zebedee’s sons (aka James and John).  (See Matthew 27:56.) This is the woman who approached Jesus and asked Him to grant that James and John sit at Jesus’ right and left hand when He came into His kingdom, the ultimate “stage mom” in  Matthew 20:20-28.

          Salome in Mark 15:40.

          Some believe Salome is the name of the mother of James and John.  This seems like the most reasonable explanation as it harmonizes Mark with Matthew and John.

          Salome was also the name of the daughter of Herodias.  It was her dancing that got her mother’s wish for the head of John the Baptist.  I doubt this was her, but wouldn’t it be interesting if it were?

          The Gospels have only this one reference to Salome, but she becomes a major figure in later documents that were not included in the Bible.

          Mary the wife of Clopas in John 19:25.

          The language here is unclear (it literally says “Mary of Clopas”). Is this Mary is the wife or daughter of Clopas?

          Many assume this Mary is the third Mary on our list, the mother of James and Joseph. Others identify her as Mary’s sister, which would make James and Joseph His cousins.

          Mary’s sister/Jesus’ aunt in John 19:25.  Bible commentators identify this woman with Salome and/or the mother of James and John.  Which, if the latter were the case, John would have been Jesus’ cousin.

          Luke names 3 of Jesus’ female followers in 8:2-3; all of those named had been cleansed from demons. In his crucifixion narrative, Luke only notes that the women witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion from a distance; he does not name them there.  Matthew and Mark point this out too. The reason for this may have been modesty, safety, and/or custom.  John wrote that they stood near the cross.

          The women thus named were clearly not the limit of Jesus’ entourage.  He travelled with more men than the Twelve and more women than these seven.  These women were last to leave T cross & T first to arrive at the tomb; both honorable demonstrations of courage & devotion to Jesus.

         

Where were these women during Jesus’ ministry?

          Mark 15:41 = IN GALILEE THESE WOMEN HAD FOLLOWED [Jesus] AND CARED FOR HIS NEEDS.  MANY OTHER WOMEN WHO HAD COME UP WITH HIM TO JERUSALEM WERE ALSO THERE.

          Luke 8:2-3 names 3 of these women as part of a larger group and explains; THESE WOMEN WERE HELPING TO SUPPORT [Jesus and the Twelve] OUT OF THEIR OWN MEANS.

 

Why was John there?

          He is the only one of the Twelve courageous enough to be present at the crucifixion. Referred to here as THE DISCIPLE WHOM [Jesus] LOVED, his presence may indicate one of the qualities Jesus loved about John; his loyalty.

          Another book could be written about John – and several have! For our purpose, it is enough to note John received Mary INTO HIS HOME.  This phrase literally means “the things one owns.”  John provided comprehensive care for the mother of Jesus.  She became part of his household.

          It seems clear that Jesus’ adoptive father Joseph has died before this time.  As eldest son, the responsibility for His mother’s care would traditionally belong to Jesus, the male head of the household.  He saw to this responsibility before surrendering His life.

 

What happened later?

          Mark 15:47 names two of these women as following behind to see where Jesus was buried.

          Four of the seven were identified as going to the tomb on Resurrection Day.  I believe these four women need to be distilled from the previous list of seven as the four women who were named as attending the crucifixion of Jesus. Mary Magdalene in Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10; John 20:1. “The OTHER MARY” in MTW 28:1. I doubt Mary, the mother of our Lord would be referred to in this flippant-sounding way.  This makes me think that this is “Mary of Clopas.” Mary the mother of James is mentioned in Mark 16:1 and Luke 24:10.  This is a guarded way of referring to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Salome in Mark 16:1. as I stated earlier, this is the mother of James and John.

          On Pentecost, the birth of the Church. ACS 1:14 names only Mary the mother of Jesus among the women followers of Jesus.

 

How can we follow the example of these women?

          We can show our devotion to Christ.

          Though we call it “Good Friday,” there’s no doubt this was the worst day in history.  It was gory, violent, brutal, frightening and heart-breaking.  BUT – these women and John SHOWED UP. Showing up is always the first step, isn’t it?  It was devotion to Jesus that motivated these women and John to show up.

          We can have courage in spite of opposition.

          Crucifixion was the worst  opposition to Jesus’ teaching. It took courage to face that. Thankfully, you and I will never have to face anything this bad.  But we do live in a time when the Church is becoming increasingly irrelevant and in a culture openly hostile to the Christian message.

 

When opposition comes, are you going to be faithful and courageous?

          No one knows how they’ll do when the heat is on. BUT, it is unwise to wait until that moment to find out.  It is wise to prepare today; work in advance to strengthen your faith before opposition arises.

          1 John 4:18 = THERE IS NO FEAR IN LOVE. BUT PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OUT FEAR, BECAUSE FEAR HAS TO DO WITH PUNISHMENT. THE MAN WHO FEARS IS NOT MADE PERFECT IN LOVE. SO – if you want to increase your courage, start by loving more.  Love banishes fear because fear is excited self-interest while love is exalted interest in others.

 

          Courage and devotion can be manifest in a variety of ways.  If they appear when you need them or expect them, that doesn’t make them any less real.

          For example, courage was demanded of my wife and I on one occasion when we were on a sabbatical in England.  We decided to visit Harlech castle, a medieval castle on the northern coast of Wales.  Little remained of the place except the outer walls and four towers.  The keep, the inner part of the castle, was overgrown with grass.  Honestly, it looked like a garden with impossibly high fences.

          We climbed one of the towers to the top of the wall, because the travel guide said it was a great view. They did not exaggerate.  The wall was situated at the top of a cliff that dropped 250 to 3000 feet to the rocky shore below.

          Of course, I was scared witless.  I briefly contemplated saying, “Yeah, what a view! “ and then hurry down the way we came, down the winding stone stair case within the tower. But one of my mottos is “Never backtrack.” 

          So we walked along the top of this wall without any railings to the next tower, only to find that the stairs down were gone – the tower was basically hollow!

          With my motto still influencing me, I led my family to the third tower.  My four year-old daughter complained I was holding her had too tight, but I explained it was only out of concern for her safety.

          Both of the walls on which we walked tumbled down to the sea.  We discovered that the third tower was in a similar state of disrepair – no stairs here either.

          I couldn’t believe the British people would be so inconsiderate as to have only one means of getting up and down from these terrible high walls, so we proceeded on to the fourth tower.  Fortunately, this wall ended in only sixty feet in good solid ground.

          You guessed it.  The fourth tower had no stairs either.  My opinion of England suffered immensely.

          We had to go back the way we came!  To this day, about all I remember of Harlech castle is how far down it was to the pounding surf.

          Courage was needed and God provided it.

          On a much greater level, the same could be said of the women and John standing near the cross of Jesus. And, I trust, of you and I when our faith is needed.

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