Jesus—His Life and Message: The Death of Jesus (Part 4)
May 10, 2022
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: The Death of Jesus (Part 4)
Each of the four Gospels speaks of the women who were present at Jesus’ crucifixion. The Gospel of Matthew says:
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.1
The Gospel of Mark tells us that when [Jesus] was in Galilee, [the women] followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.4 One author commented: One of the interesting and unusual features of Jesus’ ministry was the presence of several women who numbered among the disciples. Although they “were serving” Jesus and the other disciples, they also sat at his feet and were taught, even as were the men (Luke 10:38–42). This is why Mark says they “were following him,” which implies discipleship.5 Later, it will be the women who first see Jesus after His resurrection from the dead.
The Gospel of Luke mentions that besides the women who were nearby, all his acquaintances were there as well. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.6 Commentators suggest that the acquaintances who stood at a distance along with the women were Jesus’ disciples, most likely a broader group than just the Twelve (now eleven). They may have observed from a distance because they felt that it was unsafe to be too close.
The Synoptic Gospels7 describe the women standing at a distance from the place where Jesus was crucified, while the Gospel of John says they were standing close to the cross.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.8
According to John, four women were present at the crucifixion—Jesus’ mother and her sister, Mary Magdalene, and Mary of Clopas. It seems that while the women were standing some distance from where Jesus was crucified, at some point they, along with the disciple whom Jesus loved, moved closer to the cross. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom he loved, He spoke, first to His mother. “Woman, behold, your son!”
He then spoke to the disciple whom he loved. Five times in the Gospel of John we see mention of the disciple whom Jesus loved.9 Though he is never specifically identified, the early Christians, as well as most Bible commentators today, agree that this disciple was the apostle John. Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. Jesus was preparing for His departure from this world and was setting things in order, making sure that His mother would be cared for. The disciple immediately obeyed Jesus’ command and took His mother into his home.
Some may wonder why Jesus needed to bequeath His mother to one of His disciples rather than to one of His brothers. Perhaps it was because at this time His brothers were not believers. Earlier in the Gospel of John we read that not even his brothers believed in him.10 It wasn’t until after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven that His brothers believed. They joined Mary and the disciples in the upper room to wait for the Holy Spirit.
When they had entered, they went up to the upper room … All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.11
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”15
All three Synoptic Gospels speak of the darkness which came over the land and of Jesus crying out to His Father. The account from the Gospel of Matthew will be used here.
The crucifixion began at the third hour (9 a.m.). At about the sixth hour (noon), darkness came upon the land and remained until the ninth hour (3 p.m.). The word translated as over all the land can mean “over all the earth,” but “over the entire land of Israel” is the most likely meaning. The cause of the three hours of darkness is not explained, and it is understood to have been caused supernaturally, as a part of the events leading up to Jesus’ death. One author writes:
Darkness is associated with judgment in several places in Scripture, and it appears that we are to understand it here as pointing to God’s judgment on sin that is linked with the cross.16
After hanging on the cross for about six hours, Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In the Gospel of Mark we read this question in Aramaic, the original language: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”17 One author comments: This is not just a cry of pain, but an anguished appeal to God which reveals for a moment something of the mental and spiritual torment of the “cup” Jesus had accepted in Gethsemane. The words are taken directly from the opening of Psalm 22 … the psalm expresses the spiritual desolation of a man who continues to trust and to appeal to God in spite of the fact that his ungodly opponents mock and persecute him with impunity. In the end, the psalm turns into joyful thanksgiving for deliverance.18
And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”19
Though Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” it seems that some who heard Him misunderstood what He was saying. One author explains: In Hebrew, the word for “my God” is not so very different from the word for “Elijah,” and some of those near the cross thought that Jesus was calling for Elijah.20
There was a jar full of sour wine standing there, and one of the bystanders who was watching (or possibly one of the soldiers) ran to get Jesus something to drink, apparently to the objections of some of the other onlookers. One author explains: It seems rather that one person at any rate was trying to help the sufferer by giving him a drink and that the others were simply waiting to see what would happen.21 They didn’t have to wait much longer.
(To be continued.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 Matthew 27:55–56.
2 Mark 15:40.
3 John 19:25.
4 Mark 15:41.
5 Evans, World Biblical Commentary, Mark 8:27–16:20, 511.
6 Luke 23:49.
7 Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
8 John 19:25–27.
9 John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20.
10 John 7:5.
11 Acts 1:13–14.
12 1 Corinthians 15:7.
13 Acts 15:13–22.
14 1 Corinthians 9:5.
15 Matthew 27:45–46. Also Mark 15:33–34, Luke 23:44–46.
16 Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 720.
17 Mark 15:34.
18 France, The Gospel of Matthew, 1075–1076.
19 Matthew 27:47–49.
20 Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 722.
21 Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 722.