Have you ever read a book and were so inspired by certain characters in the story? You saw and were encouraged by how they responded when they experienced extremely difficult circumstances?
As I have been studying the Passion Week of Jesus, He, of course, is the focal point of its importance in the life of a Christian. However, I also find myself amazed by the women who followed Jesus. What they must have experienced as they witnessed Jesus willingly walk through those days leading up to the cross!
As they approached Jerusalem and the crowds waved palm branches, Mary, his mother, and the other women may have remembered the prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
As a mom, Mary may have thought, “Finally, my son, is getting the praise and adoration He deserves.” But wait, Jesus is humbly entering the city, and she remembers His words warning that, “He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). Oh, my Jesus! I wonder if she remembered the prophecy of Simeon when he blessed Jesus and said to her: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own heart too” (Luke 2:33–34).
A sword will pierce your own heart, Mary.
I wonder if they worried when Jesus cleared the temple of the corrupt moneychangers and began to overturn tables—this caused great consternation to those who thought they were in charge.
The next day Jesus came to Jerusalem where the religious leaders challenged his authority. They tried desperately to find a way to arrest Him. Jesus warned His disciples that the Passover was two days away and “the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2).
While in Bethany, a woman came “with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume which she poured on Jesus’ head” (Matthew 26:7). Some of those present were indignant saying that this oil could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and given to the poor. They began to rebuke her very harshly. Oh, but listen, Jesus is speaking to them: “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare me for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:10–11).
This unnamed woman appears to be the first of Christ’s followers to prepare Him for His impending death by humbly anointing Jesus with her precious oil. For this, Jesus praises her! She honored Jesus by her actions and was misunderstood. After this, Judas Iscariot left the house to negotiate his betrayal with the Sanhedrin.
On Thursday, Jesus and His disciples shared the Passover together after Jesus lovingly and humbly served His disciples by washing their feet. He said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15–16).
After this Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane where He cried out to God the Father in agonizing prayer and yielded again to His will. Then Judas Iscariot betrayed Him with a kiss, and He was arrested.
The Passover was just about to be fulfilled by the Lamb of God.
Jesus endured false accusations, condemnation, mockery and beatings throughout the next hours. He was taken from one trial to the next, enduring ridicule and pain. After these unlawful trials, Jesus was condemned to death. He was abandoned by his disciples, including Peter, who denied Him three times. With a crown of thorns placed on His head, He carried His cross up the hill to Calvary and was nailed to it. He was crucified.
But look who stood at the foot of the cross: Mary, His mother, her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene, the one who experienced miraculous deliverance and freedom because of Jesus’ ministry. How Mary’s heart must have been pierced with sorrow and the deepest grief. These women stayed by Jesus even as He declared, “It is finished.”
How frantic these women must have felt after the disciples had abandoned Jesus and His body was taken down off the cross. I am sure they cried tears of thankfulness when Joseph of Arimathea, a secret follower, donated a tomb for the burial, and Nicodemus brought a large quantity of myrrh and aloes. The burial of His body was hasty and had to be completed before sundown. They wrapped Jesus in the linens with the spices and laid Him in the empty tomb. And who else was there? Matthew 27:61 says, “And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.”
Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb. The women also had prepared perfumes and spices to anoint His lifeless body, but they had to wait until the Sabbath was over. The long wait over the next 24 hours must have seemed endless for them.
What were their thoughts as they waited on this most horrible day after Jesus died? Their tears must have mixed together as they cried over their excruciating loss. Were they praying to understand what this all meant, this nightmare they had just experienced? The grief they must have felt as they waited for Sunday morning so they could complete the burial process of Jesus!
As Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome rushed to the tomb early at the break of dawn on Sunday morning, they worried how they would roll the stone away from the front of the tomb. How shocked they must have been to see that an angel of the Lord had rolled back the stone and “His appearance was like lightning, and His clothes were white as snow” (Matthew 28:3).
In John 20, Mary Magdalene stood in the garden by the tomb and the angels in white asked why she was crying. She responded, “They have taken my Lord and I do not know where they laid Him.” She was so distressed by the death of Jesus, and now His body was missing. She was overcome with grief. As she turned, she saw someone standing there who said, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She thought he was the gardener and asked him to tell her where the body had been laid. “Mary,” Jesus spoke her name. She knew Him! And she responded, “Rabboni” which means “Teacher.”
Imagine her excitement to see Jesus standing before her! He told her to go tell the others and she ran and made the announcement, “I have seen the Lord!”
These precious women stayed close to Jesus even when it was terrifying, when they did not understand what was going on and could have easily run away. It was their desire to lovingly minister to Jesus even after He had become their sacrificial lamb. Because of this, they were the first to know what He had said would happen was true. They were the first witnesses to the fact that He had risen!
They were true to Jesus in the very worst circumstances ever. I pray their actions and faithfulness inspire us. Their strength and love astound me! When we cry out to Jesus and yield daily to His leading, I pray we will hear His voice call out our name and know He is with us every step of our journey. May we respond that we have seen the Lord in our lives and trust Him with all that we are.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christine Barker grew up in Montana. She attended Life Bible College in Los Angeles where she met her husband Lonnie. They served in pastoral ministry in Colorado and Missouri. He then joined the Air Force and ministered as an Air Force Chaplain for almost 24 years. When her husband passed away in 2009, she traveled for over two years living with her four children and their families who were in Massachusetts, Alabama, California and Washington. In 2012 she came to San Marcos where she enjoys being near family and serves as The Father’s House lead pastors’ assistant. Christine has 14 darling, wonderful grandchildren (#15 is on his way)! She continues to notice His blessings along the way!