Thursday of Holy Week, March 29. Note: Today is known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy is a Latin term meaning ‘command’. It is a day set aside to re-member Jesus’ command to serve one another as he served his disciples, based on the story in Jo
PREPARE TO LISTEN. Silence and stillness; pray: I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. (Psalm 116:1)
READ: Mark 15:40-41 Station 5: Golgotha. “Only the women”
40There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
Of all the layers of people around Jesus’ cross, only the women were his friends and disciples. Mark never wastes words, nor does he use incidents merely to move the story along smoothly. These two verses about the women have a purpose and therefore deserve our reflection. Too often we fail to see any ‘relevance’ in them and so skip them, thus missing the lesson these brave women can teach us. I mean, how many sermons have you heard on them? I don’t remember hearing one. I’ll also confess I’ve never taken time to live with and meditate on them myself—until now. At first reading, it seems all we have are the names of only three of the many women around the cross, and these names that aren’t helpful in identifying them. It’s natural for us to wonder, ‘Why bother?’
We know very little about these three named women. Mary Magdalene is the most familiar as she appears in other Gospels. Luke states she had seven demons exorcised from her (Lk 8:2). The second Mary mentioned could be Jesus’ mother. Mark, in an earlier story, named four of her sons (6:3), two of which are named here, thus suggesting the possibility that this was Jesus’ mother. Salome is unknown outside of this verse and Mark gives nothing to suggest her identity. Mark isn’t so much concerned with who these women were, as with what these women did. We do know they weren’t residents of Jerusalem. They had followed Jesus from Galilee where they had been consistent in their service to him. They do two things that mark a true disciple of Jesus—follow and serve him. Unlike the Twelve who deserted at Jesus’ arrest and are nowhere to be seen here at the cross, these women (the three who are named, and the many other women not named) have remained in faithful attendance to Jesus to the end. They witness his death. They will also be the first witnesses to his resurrection.
We can ask whether Mark, by recording this detail about the women, is subtly showing that the traditional world order of men at the top and women at the bottom, has been radically overturned by Jesus. Ched Meyers suggests that was so, writing, “It will be these women, the ‘last’ become ‘first,’ who will be entrusted with the resurrection message” (2015, p. 396). A sobering and also joyful thought.
We have here a story that elevates the role and status of women. They were the only ones, according to Mark’s account, who remained faithful followers and servants of Jesus to the end. So why does the church today keep women in inferior roles? What can you do to reverse this?
RESPOND TO JESUS IN PRAYER
Lord Jesus, help me be more like these women who remained faithful to the end, serving and following only you. Amen.
GO AND LIVE IN OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST, following and serving him as only the women did.