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 our Lord 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 they realized He 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?
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!
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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).