Knowing that Jesus’ death is not the last word about Him, it is hard to get a sense of the hopelessness the disciples felt as He hung on the cross. Even our Lord Himself experienced abandonment when He died, as seen in His cry in Matthew 27:46. Yet He did not lose hope in His Father altogether as He suffered divine judgment for the sins of His people. Scholars have long recognized that New Testament figures had in mind the entire context of the passages they cited, even if they did not quote them in full. Jesus’ lament over His forsakenness is a quote from Psalm 22:1, which concludes with confidence that God will hear the psalmist’s cry (vv. 24, 26). Jesus’ use of Psalm 22 reveals that though He had to suffer for a time, He knew that He would finally be vindicated.
The pain Christ experienced on the cross would only have been heightened by the absence of His closest friends. His disciples left Him in His hour of need (Matt. 26:47–56), although John later changed His mind and returned to see His master die (John 19:25–27). Not all of Jesus’ companions, however, deserted Him at the time of His death. As today’s passage tells us, many women remained at the scene until the end, supporting Him from a distance because only the Roman soldiers could come right up to the cross (Matt. 27:55–56).
We know little about these women except that there were many more of them than the three Matthew names. Mary Magdalene provided financial support to Jesus’ ministry and had been demon possessed before she met Him (Luke 8:1–3). The “mother of James and Joseph” is likely Mary the mother of Jesus because His mother was there at the cross (John 19:25), and Christ had brothers named James and Joseph (Matt. 13:53–55). It also may be that the Salome we read of in Mark 15:40 is “the mother of the sons of Zebedee” in Matthew 27:55–56. This might make her Jesus’ aunt, as John 19:25 says His mother’s sister was also present at the cross, even if the fourth evangelist does not name her.
Whatever the case may be, it is plain that the women who followed Jesus were those who were most faithful to Him. Their loyal love was rewarded when they were the first to hear of Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 28:1–10).
John Calvin says the women’s “eagerness for instruction led them to withdraw from their country, and constantly learn from the lips of Christ…they spared neither toil nor money, provided that they might enjoy his saving doctrine.” How eager are we to learn from Jesus? If these women could travel from Galilee to be with Him, can we not devote some time each day to call upon Him in prayer and study His Word?
For further study:
The Bible in a year: