2. The Women Around The Cross


In our last lesson, we mentioned some people whom we thought could have or should have been at the cross of Christ but weren’t.

There was a woman who had ten kids and another one on the way and as we can imagine her life was hectic. One day her three-year-old daughter was continually clinging to her mum’s legs and so her mum said, Lynn, ‘what are you doing?’ to which her daughter said, ‘I was at Sunday school and the teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, but I can’t see Jesus, so I’m walking in yours’.

Today we’re going to focus our attention on the women who were present at the cross of Christ, especially, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus who certainly followed in the steps of Jesus.

‘A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23:27-31

These women who were full of sympathy, were heartbroken as they wept for Jesus as He made His way to Golgotha. Jesus reveals some disturbing news to them, He said that they were soon to cry for themselves.

He’s obviously speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. Despite feeling the way they did, these women were there. They didn’t run as they looked on with sadness, they didn’t run because they cared.

‘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. As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.’ Matthew 27:55-61

Some of these women were the very ones who helped with Jesus’ burial and watched His tomb.

‘But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.’ Luke 23:49

‘The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.’ Luke 23:55

The women from Galilee were there and stayed near the cross. It was these women who were the last ones at the cross and the first ones at the tomb.

‘Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.’ John 19:25

John mentions Jesus’ mother, her sister and the two women named, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene all stood near the cross.

‘Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.’ Mark 15:40

Mark tells us that Mary, the mother of James and Joseph were at the cross.

‘It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.’ Luke 24:10

Luke tells us that Salome, the mother of James and John, were there, as was Joanna.

Mary Magdalene

‘After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out.’ Luke 8:1-2

Imagine what Mary’s life was like, imagine how she was being tormented not just by one evil spirit but by seven. I would imagine she didn’t have a life, she couldn’t work, worship and she certainly wouldn’t have any social life.

She probably didn’t have any friends, who would want to be around someone who is possessed by evil spirits?

But imagine how her life would have changed when Jesus healed her?

‘When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.’ Mark 16:9

Well, we don’t have to imagine because the One who healed her has now become the One she follows and loves deeply. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene.

Her life and her faith both have a lot to teach us about following Jesus.

1. Don’t let your past define who you are today.

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Many people incorrectly assume that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, but there’s no Scriptural proof of that anywhere. Whatever her background was, she suffered greatly before meeting her Saviour.

But Mary isn’t defined by who she was before Jesus. All that matters is who she became after discovering Him. Don’t let anyone define you based on your past, you’re in Christ now, you’re a new creation now.

The old self has gone and you are a new person now, that’s all that really matters.

2. Jesus is now your all and all.

‘After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out. Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.’ Luke 8:1-3

After Jesus healed Mary, Jesus became the centre of her life. Mary Magdalene was obviously a wealthy woman, and she along with the other women helped to support the Gospel out of their own means.

She was grateful for what Jesus had done, she not only followed him but her love for Him is seen in her generosity to help.

‘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.’ Matthew 27:55-56

It’s not surprising that she’s one of the women present at the resurrection of Jesus. Mary’s love and faith in Christ is a great example for us all. She didn’t just get healed by Jesus and then go back to living a normal life, oh no!

Jesus changed everything for her and when Jesus cured us of our sin, He changed everything. He changed our identity, He changed the way we live and think, and He becomes our all in all.

3. Don’t underestimate how God can use you.

‘But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.’ 1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Paul here speaks about how the Gospel is foolishness to the world.

And when we think about how women were seen and treated in the first century, it would certainly appear foolish to choose someone like Mary to share that Gospel message with others.

In a time when women were seen as secondary citizens with no real rights and no authority, Jesus chose Mary as the first person who would see Him after His resurrection.

Adam Clarke says the following, ‘Let it be remarked that Mary Magdalene sought Jesus more fervently and continued more affectionately attached to him than any of the rest; therefore, to her first, Jesus is pleased to show himself, and she is made the first herald of the Gospel of a risen Saviour.’

This is the most important event in the history of mankind, and Jesus made a woman the first witness of His resurrection.

‘Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” John 20:17

But not only that, He tells her to go and tell the disciples.

‘But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.’ Luke 24:11

And as we know, the disciples didn’t believe Mary or any of the other women. The point is this, God can use you, despite how weak you are, despite how foolish others think you are.

Mary, The Mother Of Jesus

‘Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.’ John 19:25

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was standing sorrowfully by the cross. We shouldn’t be surprised that she was there, after all, she was His mother, doing what any loving mother would do.

Despite many abandoning Jesus, Mary couldn’t abandon her son. I’m sure she didn’t fully understand why all this was happening to her son, but she was at the foot of the cross.

Every Jewish girl prayed to be the mother of the Messiah and Mary must have been so nervous but excited that God had chosen her to bear and raise His Son.

How would have felt if Gabriel appeared to you and told you, that you are going to give birth to the Son of God?

Wouldn’t you feel some kind of pressure at the thought of raising God’s Son?

It wasn’t as if God had many other sons, Jesus was the One and only Son of God.

‘Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.’ Luke 1:66

Mary must have thought to herself, ‘what kind of person will this child turn out to be?’

What an experience she must have had in rearing Him. Jesus’ adopter father, Joseph was faithful in what he was asked to do.

How would you have felt if Simeon said to you, ‘And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ Luke 2:35?

I’m not a mother, and I can’t even begin to imagine what those words must have felt like to Mary. And I’m sure as Mary witnessed her son being pierced, she would have remembered Simeon’s words. She too was being pierced in her soul.

‘When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.’ John 19:26-27

Imagine what she was thinking when her dying Son told her that the disciple whom, He loved, was to take care of her.

What about John? Only John went the entire distance out of all the apostles but notice that He never says a word to Jesus. Jesus speaks to His mother, Mary and John and tells them to look after each other but John never says a word, why?

We don’t know why possibly because he’s overwhelmed with the events which are unfolding before His very eyes. Maybe he’s speechless because the very One he’s been following for the last three years, despite hanging on a cross, is still thinking about others.

Mary didn’t receive a divinely privileged position, but she was greatly blessed.

‘As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” Luke 11:27

Her Son became her Saviour and the Saviour of the world. And there are a few lessons we can learn from Mary.

1. Mary sacrificed.

‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.’ Romans 12:1

Just as you can’t have devotion without obedience, you can’t have obedience without sacrifice. Mary surrendered to God’s plans not only for her own life but also for the life of her child.

We often forget that not only did God sacrifice His One and only Son, but Mary sacrificed her firstborn son. Her sacrifice was personal, someone very close to her heart. Mary sacrificed a very close part of her, her Son, what have you sacrificed for the Lord lately?

2. Mary had a living hope.

‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ 1 Peter 1:3

Although Mary stood and watched her son die on the cross, she hoped that He would rise again.

She witnessed Jesus endure intense ridicule, opposition, and crucifixion, but she never gave up hope that she would see Him again. And that hope she had in her son again was based upon His rising again from the grave.

3. Mary was devoted.

‘They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.’ Acts 1:14

Many people get confused between devotion and obedience. Many people can be devoted to something but not obedient to it. Mary was faithful to her Son and, later, to His church.

Mary’s devotion to Jesus is seen in the fact that she still followed Jesus and was obedient to Him after His resurrection. After the Book of Acts, Mary drops out of the picture.

The women who were present at the cross of Christ played a significant role in the early days of the church. And the women in the church today, still play a significant role.

And I want to encourage all our women to keep on sacrificing and hang on to that living hope as you continue to devote yourself to God and the work He has for you.

Don’t let your past define who you are today, don’t underestimate how God can use you and continue to allow Jesus to be your all in all.