Matthew 27:54-56. “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying Truly this was the Son of God. And many women were there, beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto Him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.”
Have you ever wondered what this Gentile centurion must have felt, realizing what he had just taken part in, what had just been finished? I’ve wondered what he must have thought a felt just three days later when he heard the news that Jesus had risen from death. I have a pretty good idea that he went looking for Jesus, rejoicing when he found Him; I believe we’ll see that centurion in heaven.
What about the others who were there? What a solemn moment for all of them. The earthquake, the reding of the Temple veil (which of course they did not see, but were sure to hear of), and the opening of the graves. I don’t think it’s possible for us to understand the drama, the fear, the consternation.
And what about the women? Who exactly were they, and how could they stand to watch what had been done to Him? First, I want to say that these women showed more courage and dedication to Jesus than the men who had sworn to die with Him had shown. They were there, not hiding somewhere in the crowd, quaking in their sandals for fear of being arrested themselves!
Mary of Magdala, or Mary Magdalene: Jesus had cast seven devils out of her. She was totally dedicated to Him.
Mary the mother of James and Joses: We know only that she was the mother of James, whom Jesus chose as a disciple. She was also at the tomb when it was discovered that Jesus had risen.
Mary, the mother of Zebedee’s children: This Mary was the mother of James and John, the “Sons of Thunder” who followed Jesus during His earthly ministry.
From the Gospel of John, we know that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was also there at the crucifixion, as well as John himself; he also mentions other of Jesus’ disciples who stood “afar off.” Crucifixions were always well-attended, and there was surely a huge crowd present at this one.
The dedication of the women who were there is noted because of their courage, their love for Jesus, their apparent lack of concern for their own safety. They loved Him; they had ministered to Him out of their own funds whenever they could, provided shelter and food for Him and His disciples.
I can only think that they must have thought their world was coming to a horrible and heartbreaking end.