As I prepare, with Christian believers across our world, to celebrate Easter this week I am especially mindful of the centrality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to our faith. Without His sacrificial gift of Himself, taking the place that we deserve because of our inability to provide for our own salvation from sin, our faith is meaningless and empty. The apostle Paul wrote about it in I Corinthians 15:3-4, a passage we often read during our observance of communion, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” Further he says in verses 14 and 17, “…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”
A few days ago I was challenged through something I read to go beyond the familiar and traditional aspects of this season and focus on something that would awaken a fresh appreciation for my beliefs. So, since my recent entries have centred around women, I decided to take a closer look at the women who are profiled in this very poignant story.
|Kutna Hora, Czech Republic|
The writers of all four Gospels take great care to mention the many women who were there during Christ’s crucifixion. Matthew 27:55-56 says, “Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for His needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.” - the disciples James and John. Mark 15:40-41 adds the name Salome – although it is uncertain who she was, some commentators suggest she may have been the mother of Zebedee’s sons. John 19:25-27 records that near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. We also know from Luke 23:27-29 that another group of women that Jesus addressed as “Daughters of Jerusalem” followed Him as He carried the cross toward Golgotha. They were mourning and wailing for Him, grief-stricken that the One they had followed so devotedly was being treated so brutally and was about to die.
I wonder why some of them were following “from a distance”? I couldn’t find any clear answer, but perhaps they were afraid of the possible repercussions from their association with Jesus, the One the Jews wanted crucified because He claimed to be the Son of God and a king. Maybe they just did not want to get too close in witnessing such a gruesome and horrible death. If I had been there, I would have found it too heartbreaking to watch the excruciating suffering of the One I dearly loved and had devoted myself to following as His disciple.
Why did these four writers make certain we knew there were many women there? In those days and culture, as still exists in many ethnic and religious circles today, women were considered unworthy to be present and participate in many events and practices. Their voice and opinions were not as highly respected, if even heard, as men. Their roles were clearly defined, certain laws restricted women’s activity, they were separated from the men during prayer and worship, they were to dress in certain ways, and were to be quiet in the presence of men. I am not criticizing cultures, ethnic groups, and religious groups for observing various practices that they follow with respect to women. However, I believe these four disciples of Christ were pointing out, as Jesus Himself often did in His ministry to women, that God considers women to be of great value and worth. We are His special creation whom He designed in His image with the capability, through His Son, Jesus Christ, to have a unique and meaningful relationship with Him.
|Salt carving in mine, Krakow, Poland|
He chose the virgin Mary to become the mother of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons, became a significant disciple of His and was the first to see the resurrected Christ. She and some other women were the ones who prepared spices and perfumes to anoint the body of Jesus after His death – a women’s job, but a very special and honourable one. Later, in the book of Acts, we discover that many of these same women were present in prayer – with the men! – as they awaited the promised Holy Spirit. Throughout the writings of Paul, he specifically names women who opened their homes for prayer and were instrumental in helping establish the early Christian churches and serving them.
With Christ’s death and resurrection, a new age of grace had been ushered in. No longer are there to be any dividing distinctions that would restrict anyone from finding salvation in Christ alone and serving Him with their gifts, abilities and personal uniqueness. I'm so glad, as a woman, that God sees me as worthy to be called His daughter and that I can serve Him with gratitude and love because of what He has done for me through Jesus Christ. Praise His name!
Until next Sunday,