And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
(Matthew 27:51-56 ESV)
Yesterday we saw that even the most hard-hearted people can be affected by the gospel message when we saw the Roman centurion and his men turn to faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. But these soldiers were not the only ones at the cross when Jesus died.
Also there were many women who looked on from a distance. Unlike the Roman soldiers, these women had followed Jesus from Galilee. The twelve disciples weren’t the only ones who followed Jesus around as He preached. Many other people did including women, some of whom are specifically named in this passage [Luke 8:1-2].
It’s interesting to note that of the eleven remaining disciples (Judas had already left the group and may have already committed suicide by this time) only John is mentioned as being at the cross [John 19:26]. The other ten weren’t there.
These women showed more dedication to Jesus than His disciples, who not only promised they would never leave Him but promised they would die with Him if necessary [Matthew 26:33-35].
The disciples were afraid of being arrested for their association with Jesus. Being males they would certainly have been under more suspicion than these women. The Roman government would never have considered these women to be insurgents, even if they did follow Jesus. Therefore they could linger around without raising concern.
Their love for Jesus compelled them to support Him in His most trying time while others didn’t. It’s easy to imagine them praying for Him as He hung on the cross.
As a result these women served a greater purpose. After everyone else had gone home, these women were still around [Luke 23:48-49]. They saw that Jesus was dead. They saw Jesus’ body taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb [Luke 23:53-55]. They knew exactly where the tomb was and returned to it a couple of days later [Mark 15:47; Luke 24:1].
These women are our witnesses that Jesus really died. They are our proof that Jesus’ body wasn’t switched with another or that Jesus swooned on the cross (as many critics, including Muslims, profess). These women are our proof that His body was placed in a tomb whose whereabouts were known. And, as we’ll see in a few days, they are our proof that the tomb was empty three days later.
But the reason they hung around wasn’t to be witnesses for us 2,000 years later. It was because of their love for Jesus. Jesus had ministered to them in the preceding three years. He had taught them (along with all the others) and even drove out demons from Mary Magdalene [Luke 8:1-2]. They were therefore dedicated to Him.
But by doing so these women unwittingly served a greater purpose. They became the proof that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the third day.
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