In church on Palm Sunday, as I was listening to Luke’s version of the Passion, it was difficult not to notice the irony of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and how he heard the Hosannas from the people. Just a few days later, he was abandoned by most of them. But not all.
As Jesus carried his cross to his place of execution, Luke notes that he stopped to speak to some weeping Jerusalem women. This reminded me that women played key roles in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus…and that they were loyal when many others disappeared. There are so many examples in the four gospels.
Later in his account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Luke mentions women observing the centurion saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.” Women followed Joseph of Arimathea, who removed Jesus’ body from the cross and laid it in the tomb. They made plans to return and anoint the body. When they did come back, “on the first day of the week,” they discovered that he had risen, as he said he would. These women, who included Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James, told Jesus’ followers, including the remaining eleven apostles, but no one believed them. Only Peter got up and ran to the tomb.
Mark’s Gospel mentions the presence of Jesus’ mother, and of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and Joses, and an additional woman, Salome. “There were also many other woman who had come up with him from Jerusalem,” this gospel writer reports. Mark also mentions that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection, but that when she tried to tell the others, nobody believed her.
Matthew tells an even more exciting story. He puts Mary Magdalene and another Mary at the tomb when the angel of the Lord rolled the stone away from the mouth of Jesus’ tomb.
Finally, the gospel of John tells of Mary Magdalene’s discovery of the empty tomb and how she ran to get Peter and “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” The men rushed to the tomb and discovered that indeed Jesus was no longer there. Then they returned to their homes.
But not Mary Magdalene. She stood there weeping, then peered into the empty tomb and saw the angels. When they asked why she was crying, she said. “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.” Then she turned to see Jesus, whom she did not initially recognize. But when she did understand, this great woman rushed to tell the other disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”
Just imagine how that little band of Jesus’ female friends felt watching almost everyone abandoning him. And yet something in them kept them nearby. Even after his death, they went about caring for his body. Maybe they held a tiny flame of faith that he would rise as he had promised. In any event, they stayed close. That flame of faith may have burned high and it may have burned low, but the flame never went out. And their faith was rewarded.
The women did not abandon the Lord. The women held on. The women were the first to learn and spread the good news of the Resurrection. That’s something to think about these days.
A Blessed Easter!