It’s Easter time, and like every Easter I read the last few chapters of each Gospel in an attitude of remembrance and gratitude for my Savior, for all that He’s done for me, and for all that I can now do because of Him; I love this time of year. This year, I decided to do something a little different. I decided to focus my attention on the women surrounding the events of the Cross: His death, burial, and resurrection. I found it fascinating to learn from these women. Some were positive, some …not so much. But all of the women surrounding the Passion Week of Christ hold truths and principles that we can apply to our lives TODAY.
Mary of Bethany (Matthew 26:6-13)
Mary must have been a very passionate woman, the kind with contagious faith, whole-hearted devotion, and a zealous fervor to show God her love. Mary of Bethany should not be confused with the woman who acts similarly in Luke 7. That woman was a former harlot from Galilee; Mary was a virtuous woman from Judea. She’s mentioned quite a few times in the Gospels. The most common of her stories was in Luke 10 when she and her sister, Martha, took Christ and his disciples in for the day. You know the story: Martha was working, and Mary was worshiping. And not much changes when we see them again the day before Passover. (Matthew 26: 6-13, Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8) So, Martha is busy serving with a better attitude, undoubtedly learned from her mistakes, and Mary…Mary is doing something beyond comprehension, the unthinkable. Mary takes an alabaster vial filled with costly perfume, something that cost her family a year’s worth of wages to afford, breaks it, and begins to anoint Christ’s head and feet. This is an act of pure love. You see, Mary had been listening. All that time at Christ’s feet, hanging on His every word, did not go to waste. She knew! She knew what He was about to face. She knew the turmoil that He had predicted. She believed Him when He said He must die. And instead of waiting till He was gone to show her devotion, she worshiped Him now as she poured out a year’s worth of work onto her Saviors’ head and feet. She did not give what was of little to no sacrifice. No. Her worship was personal and costly.
I look at Mary of Bethany, and I am humbled to the core. Oh, what passion! What love! What sacrifice! Mary wasn’t thinking globally when she acted out her love for her Savior. She didn’t know her actions would be recorded for the entire world to see. She wasn’t thinking of the cost; she wasn’t concerned with what people would say. She didn’t care about how it looked. She was concerned with one thing and one thing alone: Jesus Christ. I sit here and I wonder why it’s so hard for us to sacrificially give to the One who redeemed us. Why do I hold on so tightly to my time, my day, and my money? What is it about those three things that I find myself so unwilling to yield? How this world would change if we, as woman, caught some of Mary’s passionate faith and demonstrated it to the watching world around us.
The two girls who confronted Peter (Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:55-62; Mark 14:66-72; John 18:25-27)
The next women you find in the story of the Passion Week are not widely talked about when one retells the narrative. They are the two servant girls, servants of the high priests, who confront Peter and thus, bring about his denial of Christ. They were the little tattle-tails. Scripture isn’t clear as to whether they were intentionally being antagonistic in their questioning of Peter or if they were just simply curious and wanting to connect the two. However, given the surrounding circumstances, it was probably to draw attention to themselves or Peter. There were making a bad situation worse by creating drama and bringing the focus to themselves. The two girls were not concerned about what was happening to Christ. Their focus was elsewhere. While Peter stood riveted by the events surrounding him, these girls saw an opportunity to call out a man and make a fool out of him. And that’s exactly what they did. Satan used them as a tool in orchestrating the lowest moment in Peter’s life.
What about us? Have there been times in our lives that our focus, instead of being on Christ, was on the demise of another? In a sense, these girls did nothing wrong. They didn’t make Peter lie. They didn’t force him to curse and deny His Savior. It wasn’t their fault. And yet…. Can we shamefully relate? Have we ever put someone else down so that we would look or feel better? Have we ever sought the attention of the crowd and sacrificed the dignity of a friend to get it? If so, then we have been a tool in Satan’s hands to discourage, malign, and destroy. I want to encourage you: go make it right!
Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19)
There is only one Gospel account that records the story of the next woman, and there is only one verse on her. “While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” That’s it. That’s all you get on her. And while we must be careful of reading more into the text than what is there, we can see some clear things from this one verse. First, we can see that Pilate’s wife was aware of who Jesus was. The word she uses to describe Jesus, “innocent,” actually comes from the word for righteous, dikaios. She knew. She may not have known everything about this Man, but she knew He was righteous. Second thing you can easily pull from this text about Pilate’s wife is that she feared God. “HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH HIM!” Can you hear the panic in her words? There is a sense of coming doom, of awe and respect that you can hear in this one message. “Pilate, don’t mess with this man if you know what’s good for you!” That could be another way of saying it.
On some levels, we should be comparing ourselves to this woman. Can you see a lack of fearing God that often shows up in your life? Maybe you’re not afraid to mess with God every now and again. Maybe you should be.
The women at the cross (Matthew 27:55-56; Luke 23:27-28, 48-49; John 19:25-27)
There are several women that accompany Jesus to the cross and the tomb. It’s interesting to note these women because that they were among the few who didn’t abandon Christ as soon as trouble arose. The multitudes who were singing his praises a week earlier had all deserted him, but not this solid group of women. While it’s hard to distinguish who was all there, since they were all called Mary, there is one thing that is certain: they were there for Jesus. “Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.” These women had been there throughout Christ’s ministry, and now they followed Him to the cross to encourage Him through this hard time. What a comfort that must have been to Christ, to look down and see these sweet ministering women that had been so faithful over the years, lamenting and mourning his death.
Are we that type of encouragement to those hurting around us? Do we walk through the deep waters with someone, or do we bail when the water starts rising on them? I want to encourage us all to learn from these women. Stand by each other in those hard times; cry with each other; pray for each other. Be a support like these women were to Jesus Christ during his darkest hour. You never know what it can mean unless someone else has been that support for you during your darkest hour.
Mary Magdalena (John 20:10-18)
The story of Mary Magdalena has always been a favorite of mine. Here is a woman who was once so bound and held captive in her sin and Christ had set her free. It’s no wonder she followed him and his disciples around all over Galilee ministering to them. She owed Christ her freedom, her life. This was the least she could do. John’s telling of Mary’s encounter with the risen Lord always brings a well of tears to my eyes. Can you empathize with her grief? She had lost the one man who cared about her soul. She had just watched him suffer the cruelest of deaths. She had witnessed the throngs of mockers spitting and reviling her Savior, and now she had returned to his grave to mourn his going, and to finish the job of preparing his body for burial. And he wasn’t there. He physically wasn’t there! It was so confusing. Amidst the tears, a man came and asked her why she was crying. Thinking he was a gardener, she begs him to tell her where Christ’s body is so that she can do what she had come there to do. Then, “Mary,” Christ says her name. Immediately, she recognizes him! “Rabbi!” Can you imagine the emotions that ran through her at that moment, the questions that must have bombarded her brain? Christ then assigned to her the task of telling his disciples the news of his resurrection.
I love everything about Mary Magdalena’s story. I love how once Christ revolutionized her life nothing stayed the same! I love how when she followed Christ she followed him all the way to the cross and the tomb. I love how she respected the Sabbath even though I’m sure her tears wouldn’t let her rest. I love how she returned to the tomb to finish the job. I love her emotions, how she lamented over the death of Christ. I love how at the sound of her name she recognized her Lord. I love the excitement she experienced as she ran to tell the disciples that Christ has RISEN!! The tomb could not hold HIM! He was VICTORIOUS!
Going over the lives of these women this week has been such a humbling experience for me. I have seen where I want to be and where I falter. May we all learn from the truths and principles these women represent. May they change our view of Easter and our lives forever.
HAPPY EASTER! Christ is RISEN! He is risen INDEED!