The Women of the Cross

Since early last summer, I’ve been leading a ladies’ Bible study. This week, since it is Holy Week, I prepared a lesson called “The Women of the Cross” to be followed next week by “The Women of the Resurrection.” I know, I know. They could use snappier titles.

But I thought both my male and female readers might like a peek at the lesson, which I’m adapting into a post. If you would like a copy of the short study for personal or group use, just hit me up at

The Women of the Cross

British writer Dorothy L. Sayers said: “Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized: who never made arch jokes about them…who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension: who took their questions and arguments seriously” (Are Women Human?, page 47).

It is imperative to read about Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, arrest, appearances before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, the road to Golgotha, and the crucifixion itself. Read Mark 14: 32-65, 15: 1-41.

When almost all the disciples, except John, ran away, there were a few women who remained at the cross with Jesus. It is significant that each Gospel mentions the presence of the women at the cross as women were often overlooked in this culture. I invite you to read the passages on the women of the cross yourself. Passages: Matthew 27: 55-56, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:27-31, 49, 55, John 19: 25-27)

By book, I broke down each woman mentioned.

Matthew: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons

Mark: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome, & many other women.

Luke: Women

John: His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene

Who were these women? How might each woman have been uniquely affected by Jesus’ life?

While Luke the physician only mentions “women,” the other three gospels mention Mary Magdalene, two mention Salome (she is also the mother of Zebedee’s sons), and curiously, only John mentions Mary, mother of Jesus. Obviously, bearing the Holy One and rearing Him must have made a huge impact on Mary’s life. In my preparation for the Bible study, I discovered that Mary’s sister, also named “Mary” who is the wife of Clopas is only mentioned once in all of the gospels.

Mary the mother of James and Joses (or Joseph) is a little trickier to identify. Since Jesus’ mother was definitely present at the crucifixion, she may be mentioned here as “Mary the mother of James and Joses.” We do know that Mary had other children, and that James (writer of the book of James) was a half-brother of Jesus and it would make sense to have Joseph, since Mary’s husband was named Joseph. (Note: It has been widely accepted that Joseph was deceased at this time.) Again, there are a lot Mary’s and James’, so we can only guess at the identity of this woman

Salome, also called the mother of Zebedee’s sons, the apostles James and John. (Yes, this James is a completely different James. Argh!) She asked Jesus to promote her sons to places of honor, and is present at both the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ.

Mary Magdalene, often incorrectly referred to as a prostitute, was the women from who Jesus drove out seven demons (Luke 8:3). An intimate friend of Jesus (not his wife or lover), Mary Magdalene’s life was changed profoundly by the Son of God.

How do you think each woman reacted to the trial and crucifixion of Jesus?

Mary, mother of Jesus: The baby boy who she cradled in her arms was now beaten and humiliated in front of all his followers. Maybe some of Mary’s friends were the ones shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” She was told that a sword would pierce her own heart, but who knew it could hurt so bad? How could she stand as they whipped the flesh off her son’s back, as they spit upon Him, ripped out his beard, and mocked him? It was nothing compared to the bullies on the playground. It was her own son.

Mary Magdalene: Here is the man the restored her mind and her life. She was once confused, wandering lost in a strange world as strange voices told her lies. But with His healing touch, she was free. Oh, how she loved Him, her teacher! He was wise, kind, and looked at her with love while others looked at her with disgust. Now they were looking at Jesus the way they used to look at her. She could not imagine how or why anyone would want to kill such a wonderful man—the Son of God no less.

Salome: While John was with her, she probably wondered about the safety of her other son, James. Where was he now that Jesus was being crucified? Hadn’t her sons told her about Jesus and all His wonderful miracles? Where was her son, who so boldly followed Jesus now? Was he safe? Were they doing the same things to him? O, Yahweh, protect him. And, Jesus, how she loved and followed Him! Maybe she glanced over at Mary, mother of Jesus and her heart ached. Salome knew all too well her son might be next.

Several of the Gospels mention there were other women present as well. Who were these women?

The “other women” could include Joanna and Susanna, who provided for the needs of Jesus and his ministry (Luke 8:1-3). Joanna is also one of the women who reports about Jesus’ resurrection.

Perhaps Jesus’ friends from Bethany, Mary and Martha, were present or the Samaritan woman or the woman who was once bleeding. There were so many women whose lives were touched by Jesus and His kindness towards women in a culture that saw them as little more than property (see quote on top.)

Where were all the men? His disciples?

John was present at the crucifixion while Peter denied Christ and hid away in shame. Mark mentions a young man who was following Jesus at His arrest, but then runs off without his outer garment (many believe this man to be Mark). Judas the Betrayer kills himself. Joseph of Arimathea manages to wrangle Jesus’ body from the authorities to have it buried in his tomb. As for the other men, we just don’t know. We can assume that the disciples may have been scattered and hiding or even hiding together because they could very well be next. Also, they thought he was the one who was to deliver the people, and here He was being killed like a common criminal among common criminals.

Stay tuned for the next installment, “The Women of the Resurrection.”

Here are a few questions for all you readers out there::

*So, what do you think about these women? What do you think their responses might have been to Jesus’ crucifixion?

*Do you think women and men react differently to the story of Christ’s crucifixion?

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