Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
One of the striking features of the story of Jesus’s crucifixion is the sorry way in which most of his disciples abandoned him. Peter’s denial of Jesus gets the headlines in Mark 14:66-72. But most of the other disciples abandoned Jesus as well (14:50). They are noticeably absent from Mark’s account (and those of Matthew and Luke, though John mentions “the disciple whom Jesus loved” as present with the women at the cross; see John 19:25-27).
Though the twelve who had followed Jesus most intimately abandoned him when he was arrested, many of his followers stayed nearby. These, according to Mark, were all women. “Some women were watching from a distance,” including “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome” (15:40). These women had been close to Jesus. Mark notes that they “had followed him and cared for his needs” (15:41). Additionally, “many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there” (15:41).
What a contrast between the male and female followers of Jesus! While the men scattered, the women stayed nearby.
Mark doesn’t explain why the women remained when the men departed. But we can imagine some of what motivated the women. When we remember the way Jesus had ministered to women, related to them, and included them among his followers, it’s not surprising that they stayed with him to the end. He had honored and empowered them far beyond anything they had experienced in their lives. Their love for him and loyalty to him makes perfect sense.
It makes less sense, of course, that the male disciples abandoned Jesus. Mark doesn’t tell us why this happened, either. But he does underscore the faithfulness of the women who were part of Jesus’s entourage. And this faithfulness encourages us to imitate their example, no matter our gender. When our faith is being tested, when we are criticized or attacked because of our relationship with Jesus, it can be tempting to desert him, at least for a while. Yet, the more we consider what Jesus has done for us, the more we remember his love and mercy, the more we will be like the women in Mark 15, remaining with Jesus to the end.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever been tempted to desert Jesus, at least for a moment? Why? What were you afraid of?
What helps you to be faithful to Jesus even when your faith is tried?
Are you facing a situation right now where you are tempted to back away from your commitment to Jesus?
Gracious Lord Jesus, as I read the excruciating account of your death, I’m impressed by the faithfulness of the women who had followed you. While the male disciples disappeared, your female followers stayed close by to the end.
I want to be like these women, Lord. When my faith is tested, I want to remain faithful to you. When I am criticized, perhaps even tempted to hide my Christianity for a few moments, help me to be bold in telling the truth about you and my relationship with you.
Today, I want to also pray for believers in places of the world where they are endangered because of their faith. Help those who face harassment, imprisonment, or even outright persecution and martyrdom, to be faithful to you. Give them strength and reassurance by your Spirit. May they be like the women in Mark 15, faithful to the end. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Faithfulness in Small Things
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