“But, by the cross of Jesus were standing his mother and the sister of his mother, Maria the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdalene.”
In the midst of the jeering and of the hatred, in the midst of the mockery and humiliation, stand the women. And when it comes to the role these women played, we tend to both make too much of them and make too little of them at the same time. We make too much of them when we venerate them, as the Roman Catholics do with Mary and we also make too much of them when we see them in a kind of pastoral role and use their example to justify ordaining women to positions of teaching and authority in the church as many mainline denominations do. Yet, we make too little of them as well, when we fail to see the significance of their role as they care for and minister to our dying Lord. We make too little of them when we forget that several of these women, who were from wealthy households, bankrolled Jesus’ public ministry for three years. And, when we relegate women to second-class roles in the life of the church (recognizing that Paul is clear that women ought not to hold office), we make too little of the role of the “helpmate” to which God has assigned them. This final error is one ironically committed most often by feminist movements within the mainline churches who think that unless they can hold every position in the church, that they have no place in the church.
Here are these women, surrounded by frantic crowds who are angrily mocking Jesus and capable of much violence, and despite the risks that might be present, they remain by Jesus’ side. There is much to be said when it comes to the comfort of friends as one dies, even if all they do is sit there quietly or hold a hand. There is something rather sad associated with the event of dying alone. And these women are present to assure Jesus that he will not. We also know that John is present, but we get ahead of ourselves. The rest of the disciples, though, seem to have fled into hiding, fearing that they would be captured next. It had been a harrowing week…and the previous 12 hours had been a nightmare.
Though Jesus never married (the wedding of the Lamb will not take place until the number of the church is complete), he was blessed with helpers both in life and comforters in death, indeed, identifying with us as people in our time of need.