Mark names for us three women standing vigil as Jesus died, from a distance watching over the cross. These were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and Salome. We know that Jesus’ mother was there from other gospel accounts as well and Mark mentions many other women who had come up with Him to Jerusalem as well. This gathering of women take the role of Jesus’ caretakers as they had during His life and ministry, literally from the very beginning.
Mary, mother of Jesus: What was it like to raise the Messiah know Him to be the Messiah and what’s more, the Son of God? What was discipline like, for child-like disobedience isn’t always sin? What was it to help Jesus through His awkward adolescence? And then to watch with pride as the crowds followed, and with anger as the elders tried to tear Him down? What went through her mind as she watched at the cross? “Blessed are you among women,” the angel had said. I wonder if Mary doubted that, this woman who’s very name meant, “bitter”.
Mary Magdalene: When Jesus cast 7 demons out of this Jewish woman, she devoted her life to Him in thanks. She is mentioned 12 times in the gospels, more than most of the other disciples. She stands at the cross, and we know she will weep in the garden as she encounters the risen Christ. Our oversexualized culture will try to make a lover out of her, but that is a cruel twisting for a woman who’s very name meant “bitter” due to her lot in life as a poor girl in a culture ruled by Roman soldiers with wandering eyes and hands.
Mary the mother of James the Lesser and Joseph: With her husband Alphaeus, this Mary supported Jesus during His ministry and gave up her son to be an Apostle. We know little else, yet this quiet, unobtrusive woman, yet again named “bitter”, was given the place of privilege to bear witness to the end of sin’s power.
Salome: With a name that means “shalom” or “peace”, Salome is assumed to be the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John, the “sons of thunder”. Salome and Zebedee raised their boys to be fishermen, and then sent them off without a word to follow this new Rabbi who eventually would prove Himself to be the Messiah. With her request to allow her sons to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand, we find a woman seeking a better life for her boys, and a woman of faith who stuck with Jesus to the end.
Loyal and humble, caretakers and witnesses, “bitter” and “peace”, these woman stand vigil, watching as the disciples couldn’t, and bearing witness to the source of our faith, the death and ultimately the resurrection of Jesus Christ.