When describing the scene at Jesus’ death Matthew 27:55 says, “Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.” Actually, all four gospels record the women watching from afar. In John’s Gospel, some even make their way through the crowds to bravely stand near the cross. Since reading Matthew earlier last week, I can’t stop thinking about these women.
Who were they? What was it that kept them at the horrific scene while all the men, save one, ran for cover? What can I, as a woman, and we, as Christians, learn from our dear sisters?
Luke 8:1 tells us that there was a large group of women who traveled with Jesus and the disciples as they ministered in different towns and villages. “After this, Jesus traveled 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 Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” So, while Jesus and the disciples were ministering to large crowds, these women, from extremely diverse backgrounds, were behind the scenes serving and supporting the ministry in remarkably significant ways. They all had one thing in common. Their lives were radically changed by their encounter with Jesus, the Son of God.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to serve in Jesus’ ministry? In the midst of a culture that could be downright hostile to women, Jesus affirmed them. He talked to them when no one else would. He explained the deep things of God. He taught them. When he looked at them, they never had to feel insecure, inadequate, or self-conscious. He acknowledged their worth. He appreciated them. He called them by name. Oh, how they must have loved their Rabboni! Jesus completely liberated them to serve him with all their heart, mind, and strength. When Jesus was near, they experienced the full acceptance and favor of God. When they were around him, they were at their best. What’s more, as the leader, he would set the example for the other disciples to follow. These women were treated right! The more I think about it, the more I realize this is the kind of ministry all churches should aspire to be like. Treat the women right! Free us up to serve!
At Jesus’ crucifixion (and the events leading up to it) the men didn’t too well. When Jesus took front-and-center for the darkest hour in history, all their big talk proved to be just that – talk. But the women were different. They wouldn’t budge. They quietly stood at a distance with their Jesus in full view. How could they leave him? As they sympathetically fixed their eyes on him, they had a birds eye view of the whole scene. They observed all the players. They could probably tell you which Roman soldier was the most sinister. They could identify who in the crowd had once received healing from Jesus, but now mocked the Lord as he hung on a cross with his flesh hanging off. They watched while strangers and passerby’s entertained themselves at the Lord’s expense. They heard the taunts, “Come down from the cross and save yourself.” They watched the self righteous chief priests and teachers of the law harden their hearts and silence their conscience. They felt the stab in Mary’s heart as righteous Simeon’s prophecy came to pass, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Even though all their hopes and dreams of tomorrow were violently dashed in a single bloody day, the women of Galilee would not waiver. They would remain steadfast and loyal.
So, what can these women teach us today? Devotion. Commitment. Loyalty. May God produce in us the same devotion that these women had for the Lord. May we love him like they did. May our worship never become rote or obligatory, but let it come from a heart that is full of affection and overflowing with adoration. May we serve in our ministries as if we were serving the Lord himself. And, in the face of the world’s hostility to the Jesus we love and adore, may we stand like our sisters, the women of Galilee, faithful till the bitter end.