Vol. 11 No. 5 May 2009
Central to Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus. Paul correctly wrote, “And if Christ be not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! …If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19).
Throughout the Gospels, women were mostly in the background, even though some of them supported Jesus and the apostles out of their personal means (Luke 8:2-3). When Jesus faced the most important and trying circumstances of His earthly ministry, women stood by Him when men fled in fear (Mark 14:50). Their staying by Jesus during those dark hours made it possible for them to be able to be the first to tell the good news of His resurrection.
Jesus’ main effort during His personal ministry was to see that the apostles received adequate instruction to carry out their ministry and testify of His resurrection (Acts 10:40-41) after He ascended back into heaven. They were the only ones who are recorded to have been with Him when He revealed His impending death and resurrection. The only exception was when the Jews asked for a sign. Jesus responded, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19-21).
Jesus spoke to the apostles of His death and resurrection after the following events (Consider the context of the following verses to determine to whom Jesus was speaking.):
Even though nothing is recorded in the Gospels concerning the exact time He talked to women about His death and resurrection, He must have done so, for at the tomb after His resurrection, the angels told the women, “He is not here, but is risen! Remember how he spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’” (Luke 24:6-7).
Women at the Crucifixion
Women went with Jesus (Mark 15:41) when He went to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. They must have been in the city the night He was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11:23), following which He, with the twelve, observed the Passover, during which He instituted the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:14-20).
The next day, women followed Jesus as He was led from Jerusalem to be crucified at Golgotha, the Place of a Skull (Luke 23:27-33). During His crucifixion, “All His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee stood at a distance, watching these things” (Luke 23:49; Matthew 27:55-56); “…and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:41). Other women were nearer to the cross, “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25).
The apostles, except for John, were either lost in the crowd or at least no where to be seen. They, for fear of being identified with Jesus or being harmed by the Jews (John 20:19), may not have had the courage of the women to stand by Jesus during His crucifixion.
Women at Jesus’ Burial
Not only did the women remain to watch Jesus on the cross, but they also followed the removal of His body to the place where it was buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (John 19:38-39). “And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then, they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils, and they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” (Luke 23:55-56). Two of these women are specifically mentioned—Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses (Matt. 27:61; Mark 15:47).
Women after Jesus’ Resurrection
While the men were still in hiding for fear of the Jews (John 20:19), the women were busy doing what they could to prepare Jesus’ body after His burial. Early on Sunday morning, they went to the tomb to anoint His body with spices (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1, 10).
According to John Chapter Twenty, Mary Magdalene was the first after Jesus’ resurrection to:
Because of the King James Version’s translation of Verse Seventeen, some might think that Mary Magdalene did not touch Jesus. In the phrase, “do not touch” (Greek me mou aptou), “touch” is in the present tense, which expresses continuing action, thus is translated “do not cling” (NKJV; ESV) “stop clinging” (NASB) and “stop holding” (NIV).
A little later, as the other women were returning to Jerusalem, Jesus met them and greeted them. They came to Him and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him (Matthew 28:9-10). In obedience to the angels who spoke to them at the tomb (Matthew 28:7; Mark 16:7), they reported what they had seen to the eleven apostles and the rest of the disciples (Luke 24:9).
What a thrill we would have had if we could have been with women who were a part of the one hundred and twenty who were gathered together in Jerusalem (Acts 1:14) not long before the day of Pentecost. They would have recounted time and time again the events of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The excitement in their voices would have touched us as they repeated again and again how they had agonized and been crushed as they watched Jesus die, but how they were filled with unspeakable joy (Matthew 28:8) when they realized He was risen, and especially when they saw and touched and worshipped Him (Matthew 28:9) after His resurrection.
During the crucifixion, the men Jesus had chosen to be His special witnesses (Acts 10: 41-42) lacked the courage of the women to remain with Him during His crucifixion. Because of their dedication, they had the privilege to be the first to tell the good news of His resurrection. However, they were not given the responsibility to proclaim in public the message they shared in private with the frightened disciples who were hiding behind closed doors (John 20:19, 26).
Surely, their telling the good news to the disciples was not the last time they told others in private about Jesus’ resurrection. Paul told the people of Antioch of Pisidia concerning Jesus, “But God raised Him up from the dead. He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people” (Acts 13:30-31). These witnesses would have included the women who came up with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem (Matthew 27:55; Mark 15:41; Luke 23:49, 55). Probably, women were among the more than five hundred brethren—Paul uses brethren to include brothers and sisters in Christ—who saw Jesus at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6) that Paul mentioned as witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection.
The women who followed Jesus are great examples of remaining faithful to Jesus and serving Him when others feared for their lives. The devotion of these women may have encouraged the cowardly men disciples, who hid in the face of peril, to later preach the resurrection of Jesus under the threat of persecution and death. At least, they are an example to all Christians of serving Jesus even when all others let Him down.