When we think of those who followed Jesus, the first group that usually comes to our minds are the twelve apostles. Jesus selected them and they spent several years traveling with Jesus as he went from place to place healing and teaching. When we study the gospels, we quickly discover that there were many people in addition to the twelve who accompanied Jesus. When Jesus sent his disciples out on their own by pairs, he sent out around 70, not just the twelve (see Luke 10). At times there was such a great number of people surrounding Jesus that he would try to get away from the crowds to an isolated place, often to spend time with just the twelve or to pray (see Matthew 14).
When we get to the end of Jesus’ time on the earth, we find it is the twelve that he spends his last evening with (although Judas left and reduced their number to eleven). During this evening, Jesus continued to teach the apostles and even warned them that they would forsake him, as well. Peter immediately stated that although everyone might forsake Jesus, he would be faithful and stand with him to the last, even if it meant Peter’s own death (Matthew 26:31-35) – and all the remaining eleven said the same thing.
Yet what happened when the mob arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane? There was an initial show of bravado, when those who had swords drew them in Jesus’ defense and even attacked the high priest’s slave, cutting off his ear (which Jesus proceeded to put back on). When the eleven saw that Jesus would be arrested, they, too, fled (see Matthew 26:47-56).
We learn from Matthew’s gospel that Peter followed the mob at a distance and ended up in the courtyard where Jesus was subjected to a mock trial. But when he was questioned, he denied even knowing Jesus, just as Jesus had predicted earlier that evening. When the rooster crowed he left in tears.
It would seem that all had forsaken Jesus. But when we get to the scene of the crucifixion we discover that there was one group who were still with him – and remained with him until the end.
“Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and given him support were also there, watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee” (Matthew 27:55-56).
There was a group of women who had followed Jesus, helping to support him as he traveled – the idea seems to be that they financed what Jesus and possibly those with him needed. Although we have only a few of their names, Matthew tells us there were many women who remained near the cross while Jesus was dying.
When it was time to bury Jesus’ body, it was secret disciples who came forward – and we find the women were still there (see Matthew 27:57-61). They were also the first to see the risen Jesus (Matthew 28). Although it can be easy for us to overlook them, women of great faith were disciples of Jesus. Women who remained with him until the end, even after all the apostles fled.
And isn’t this what we see more often than not in our congregations today – women of great faith who are present week after week, taking care of so many things that need done, yet often not getting recognition for what they do. May we always be thankful for the women of faith who have been a good influence in our lives and continue to live faithful Christian lives as examples for all around to see.
Readings for next week:
2 March – Matthew 28
3 March – Romans 1
4 March – Romans 2
5 March – Romans 3
6 March – Romans 4