The attitude of Jesus towards women broke many normal social standards. Women lived very restricted lives in first century Palestine and belonged to their husbands (like property). Their main purpose was to provide an heir but they worked very hard just to provide daily sustenence. It is hard in the 21st century to imagine grinding your own grain to make bread every day or to card the wool to then spin and weave into clothing for the family. They had no voice in the synagogue yet Jesus had women among his disciples. Many men and women listened to Jesus teach but there was an inner circle of women who followed him and provided for Jesus and the disciples needs. It is confusing since the name “Mary” was used so often by families. Here are some of the women who played a big part in the Easter story.
The beginning of Passion Week
Mary of Bethany was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. (Luke 10:39, John11) Oh how she loved sitting nearby and listening to Jesus teach. He didn’t rebuke her for not helping her sister to prepare for all the company. Martha appears to be the owner of the home so perhaps she was a widow and took care of her younger brother and sister. It was this Mary who annointed Jesus’ feet and Jesus said it would be remembered as a gift for his burial .
John 12:1–8 (ESV)
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him),………. complained about the waste of money….
The Women at the Crucifixion
All four gospels mention the women watching the crucifixion of their Friend, Teacher – The Messiah. They watched from a distance; Close enough to observe the horrific torture of Jesus but maybe far enough away from the angry mob and soldiers. Mary, his mother drew close enough for him to speak to her and then asked his closest friend John to take care of her. Deep tenderness is shown for His mother even as He is dying.
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebede.
Mary Magdalene appears in all four Gospels as a follower of Jesus (Luke 8:2) and at critical moments in Jesus’ story. “Magdalene” implies that she was from Magdala, a town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. In Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2, it states that Jesus had cast seven demons from her. She may have been a woman of means—Mark 15:40–41 counts her among the women who followed and provided for Jesus. This woman carried a deep debt of gratitude for the whole new life He gave her. She is the one to first see the resurrected Lord and it is recorded in all four gospels.
The account in Mark 15 adds the name of Salome as the mother of the apostles James and John, a.k.a. the sons of Zebede. He mentions another devoted follower named Mary the mother of James the younger (not the apostle) and Joseph. And to add to the group of Marys, Jesus’ mother, had a sister named Mary, the wife of Clopas, who is mentioned in John 19. These women provided food and shelter for twelve plus hungry men as they traveled with Jesus and perhaps they tended to their clothing and other personal needs. If you remember the account of Jesus teaching at Peter’s house in Capernaum, it was so packed that some men brought their friend through the roof for healing. Imagine all those people crowding into your home!
The Women at the Tomb
Mark 16:1–8 (ESV)
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Despite being so horrified at the turn of events and watching Jesus die a few women stayed to see his body taken from the cross and followed to see where it was laid. These women had to wait for Sabbath to end to prepare to mourn and properly care for Jesus’ body according to custom. What they found totally shocked them but they ran to tell the disciples what they saw and heard. Peter and John ran to investigate their unbelievable story for themselves and then went home. Mary Magdalene stayed behind totally confused and distraught.
Jesus is ALIVE
John 20:15–18 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
What can we learn from these women that were included as early disciples and founders of the early Church? 1. They were loyal servants who gave sacrificially to support the message of good news. 2. Huge social barriers were broken when a woman like Mary Magdalene was included in the group of women. 3. The disciples were a mix of men and women from different classes and backgrounds.Therefore the Church is made up of all types of people and should be fully inclusive.
How can you be a follower of Jesus? God loves us but hates sin and it separates us from Him. Jesus died to pay the price for our sin so we can have a new relationship with our Heavenly Father. This is the good news and hope of Easter that we too can have eternal life in heaven. The scripture tells us:
Romans 3:22–24 …the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
A simple prayer