Spiritual Growth and Encouragement for Christian Women

The Women at the Cross: Faithful to The End

  • Kathi Macias & Jeanine Norris Crosswalk.com Contributors
  • Updated Feb 20, 2024
The Women at the Cross: Faithful to The End

Who were the Women at the Cross?

Through the centuries and across the continents and cultures, women have walked in the shadow of Eve's curse, pronounced upon her by God Himself: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16).

Even today, in many cultures women are subjugated to lowly positions simply because they were born female. And for those of us who are mothers, we can certainly relate to the sorrow and pain that can sometimes accompany childbirth and child-rearing. But the Crucifixion brings us all—male and female, black and white, old and young, rich and poor—to the equal ground when we kneel at the foot of the Cross.

When Jesus Christ hung on that Cross, paying the price for sin and spanning the great divide between heaven and earth, women who loved Him stood nearby, watching and no doubt weeping. Though these women realized Jesus was different from anyone else who had ever lived and had so hoped He was the promised Messiah, it seems even His mother may have questioned the outcome of the horrible event they witnessed. Here are the stories of the women at the cross.


Salome, wife of well-to-do fisherman Zebedee and mother of the "Sons of Thunder," James and John, was one of those women who stood watch during that cruel execution. How she must have rehearsed her many memories of Jesus and the interaction they had over the years!

It is believed that Salome, whose name means "peaceful," and her family were friends of Jesus even before He began His public ministry at the age of thirty. Very possibly Jesus visited them in their home, where Salome cooked for Him. And when He did launch out into public ministry, Salome gave up a life of relative comfort to follow Him, serving Him both in actions and financial support. She believed in Him to the point that she interceded with Him on behalf of her sons, asking for a special place for them in His future Kingdom. With Jesus hanging, beaten and bloody on the Cross, what would happen to her sons now?

Mary Magdalene

And then there was Mary Magdalene, the woman who loved much because she was forgiven much. Many have mistakenly identified her as a prostitute before she came to Jesus, but there is no historical evidence to prove that claim. In fact, there is ample evidence that a confusion of the many "Mary's" of the New Testament led to the common misconception.

Mary Magdalene is clearly identified in the Scriptures as the woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons. How grateful she must have been, and how quickly and completely she fell into line to follow her Deliverer! Mary Magdalene is not only seen at the foot of the Cross, maintaining her devotion to her Lord to the end but following to the sepulcher to confirm where He was buried. Then, on that great Resurrection morning, Mary Magdalene was the first to arrive at the open tomb and to proclaim to the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. Her joy was coming—but her grief was still overwhelming as she stood vigil on Golgotha.

Mary of Nazareth

And then there was Mary of Nazareth, wife (and most likely widow by then) of Joseph the carpenter. Whose broken heart could begin to compare to that of the woman who had carried the very Son of God in her womb and brought Him forth into the world in a lowly stable in Bethlehem? This grieving mother had raised her firstborn Son to adulthood, knowing that He was unique and yet anticipating the fulfillment of the prophecy that a sword would pierce her soul (

"and now the time had come. How could she bear to stand on that blood-soaked ground and watch the agony of her beloved Child, knowing there was nothing she could do or say to help Him?" ~ Luke 2:35

Did Mary know that after the Crucifixion would come the Resurrection? Quite possibly, to some degree, she did. But even if she knew it specifically, down to every minute detail, would it make her current pain any less? How does any mother stand by and watch her child suffer, regardless of the hoped-for outcome?

And yet they were there, all three of them. Were others present as well? Certainly, though only a handful are mentioned by name in the scriptural accounts. The "disciple whom He [Jesus] loved," believed by many to be John, the younger son of Zebedee and Salome, was there and was commissioned by Jesus Himself to care for His mother, Mary, after His death. The rest of the disciples, according to the Scriptures, had fled for fear of being arrested as Christ's followers.

But the women didn't run away. Was it because they were braver or more committed than the men who had followed Jesus? Possibly, though it may have been that the women weren't as likely to be arrested. Regardless, they were there, and they remained faithful…not just until Christ's death, but even afterward.

On Sunday morning, they showed up at the sepulcher, ready to anoint His body, but instead found that the huge stone that had sealed the tomb was rolled away. Jesus was no longer in the grave, but had risen…just as He said! The women who had mourned His death would now have the privilege and joy of announcing His Resurrection.

Women. Living in the shadow of Eve's curse…or redeemed by the promise and fulfillment of Christ's Resurrection? From the Garden of Eden to the hill of Golgotha to the open tomb—and to our very hearts—comes the Easter message that the ground is level at the foot of the Cross, that forgiveness is ours for the taking, that Resurrection Life is available to all who will choose to walk in it, and that our place around the throne of God has been sealed by the Blood of Jesus for all eternity.

Hallelujah! He has risen indeed!

Kathi Macias (www.kathimacias.com) is the author of thirty books, including Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today (New Hope Publishers, 2009) and its Spanish edition, Madres de la Biblia Hablan a las Madres de Hoy (Casa Creacion, March 2010).

How Do We See Women and Motherhood at the Cross?

"And a sword will pierce your own soul too." luke 2: 34

During this Lenten season, my husband and I had the extraordinary honor of watching our 11 year-old son, Shane, play the part of Jesus in the school’s Passion Play. Anyone who has a child this age knows that being stripped to a cloth, in front of classmates, school students and the community, is intimidating and vulnerable. No easy task for a ‘tween.

My husband and I were proud that Shane wanted to play Jesus. We would support and encourage him. In the end, though, it was up to him to carry through with the task. 

As we sat in the church, I said a prayer to give Shane the strength to fulfill his role with dignity, caring and faith. When he began his walk, bent over with carrying the cross, I began to think about the heartache that Mary endured that day. My eyes filled with tears as I watched Jesus’ story unfold, and imagined Mary’s pain. 

I could not even fathom her incredible strength. I was merely watching my son carry out his responsibility to his school community. Mary watched her son carry the responsibility of all God’s people.

When the robes were torn from Shane’s body, and he stood with only the cloth, the rest of his body exposed, I felt his vulnerability. The spotlight shone on him as others looked on, and I knew the fears that would race through his mind. Would others laugh at him?  Would kids tease him later about his lanky body?  Was he brave enough to trust whatever was in store for him? 

As a mother, I wanted to run to the altar - to shelter and protect him from any hurt feelings. Every ounce of my being was saying, “Please, God, let this be easy for him. Please let others be kind.” As Shane stood under the hanging cross, during the reflective song, I marveled at how Mary could be so strong. 

How she must have wanted to cry out! This was her baby! The hands that were now pierced with nails were the same baby hands that Mary had once held tightly in her own. The head that now held a crown of thorns was the same head that had napped on her shoulder. The feet that took their final journey were the same feet that took their first steps in front of her. Mary was witness to all the wondrous miracles that God gives to mothers – but, she was also witness to the agony of watching her child die. 

This year, I realized that, just like Christmas, Mary was also part of the miracle of Easter. She is an inspiration to all mothers. Mary was part of the enormous sacrifice that Jesus made for us. As his mother, she followed him on His last journey so He would not be alone. 

She could not hug him or take away his pain, but she could look into his eyes with love. Mary’s presence told her baby that she would never abandon Him. As she was with him in the beginning, she would be with him in the end. God had given his Son the gift of a beautiful mother, and she would ease his burden. It was all that Mary could give - and it was enough. 

The Passion Play reminded me how blessed I am, as a mother. In the end, I was wrapped in my son’s hug. I smiled as he smiled, knowing that all was well. Others had supported him – he was surrounded by kindness, friendship and love. I said a prayer again, this time in thanksgiving for what I had been given. 

In our lives as mothers, we are asked to watch our children carry their own crosses. The cross may be enormous or simply part of the trials of growing up. Mary has taught us that our children may stand alone with their crosses, but a mother’s love will always ease the burden.

(First published as "Motherhood at the Foot of the Cross" by Jeanine Norris on April 7, 2009. Jeannine Norris is the author of tonight you are my baby: mary’s christmas gift, available through HarperCollins Children’s Books).

Further Reading:

How Old Was Mary When Jesus Died?

6 Lessons We Can Learn from Mary Magdalene's Faithful Life

Who Were the Women Who Followed Jesus?

What Is the Significance of the Women at the Cross?

Why Did Only the Women Go to Jesus’ Tomb?

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/jgroup

This article is part of our larger Holy Week and Easter resource library centered around the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!

What Lent and Why is it Celebrated?
When is Lent? When Does Lent Start and End?
What is Ash Wednesday?
What Is Palm Sunday?
What is Maundy Thursday?
What Is Good Friday?

What Is Easter?
What is the Holy Week?
Easter Prayers