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Women at the cross

April 2009 | by Paul Relf

Women at the cross

 

On more than one occasion, Jesus told his disciples that he would die and rise again, but they did not fully understand. They could not reconcile Christ’s death with their view of the Messiah. At the time of his arrest we read, ‘all the disciples forsook him and fled’ (Matthew 26:56).

 

When the crunch came the men ran away. But what about the women? How did they cope when Jesus was crucified? As well as the twelve disciples a number of women had become followers of Jesus. The trial with its injustices, and the subsequent crucifixion, must have been deeply traumatic for them. So how did they survive it all? Here are some answers.

 

They loved Jesus

 

We read about these women in Luke 8:2-3. Some, including Mary Magdalene, had been healed of evil spirits or infirmities. Jesus had accepted them as followers and, as a testimony of their love, they ‘provided for him from their substance’.

     Jesus was their Saviour and Lord, and such was their devotion that they had followed him to Jerusalem all the way from Galilee. So among the crowd at the crucifixion were not only Christ’s enemies and detractors but also these women, standing at a distance (Luke 23:49).

     What love they had! What loyalty! We can hardly imagine the grief and sadness they felt as they saw their Master die.

     Some were near enough to hear the words that Jesus spoke from the cross (John 19:25-27). Even the centurion and others were greatly affected by the sight and words of the suffering Saviour – how much more these women.

 

They watched the tomb

 

Joseph, a disciple of Jesus, was allowed to remove the body. He laid it in a tomb hewn out of rock. Did anyone else know? Yes, the women were watching. They had followed and taken note of the tomb and how Jesus’ body was laid (Luke 23:55-56).

     Why did they do this? It was surely their undying love for Christ. They returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils, seeking to show the same devoted care to his dead body as they had shown during life. But they couldn’t return immediately because it was the Sabbath and they rested according to the commandment.

 

They witnessed the resurrection

 

As soon as possible after the Sabbath they went to anoint the body of Jesus. They didn’t hang around; the Bible says it was very early in the morning (Luke 24:1). They set out at daybreak.

     Their main concern was ‘who will roll away the stone?’ (Mark 16:3). But even this seemingly insurmountable problem did not deflect them from their determination to anoint Jesus’ body. What did they find? The stone rolled away, the empty tomb, the folded grave clothes and the angelic messengers!

     They heard the amazing words: ‘He is not here, but is risen!’ The truth of the resurrection – of what they saw and heard – was sinking in. The angels reminded them of Jesus’ words and they remembered that he had promised to rise again.

     The distress and the confusion of the last few days was lifted – though how fully they embraced the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection at this stage we cannot tell. Their devotion to Christ urged them on. They had a message to tell. We read that ‘they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest’ (Luke 24:9).

 

What response?

 

But when they delivered the message the disciples dismissed their words as ‘idle tales’. Sadly, that is still the response of many today. Perhaps, like the disciples, we find the resurrection of Jesus too much to take in – the implications are certainly so challenging as to be life-changing!

     But think again of the women, with their unwavering devotion and above all faith in Christ. Their testimony is true; all the Gospels confirm the resurrection. As you read them what is your response?

     The Bible’s own statement is that ‘these [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:31).

Paul Relf