LESSON 91.

WOMEN WERE WITNESSES, TOO.

742.     Please center your thoughts on a little group of women who came out of Galilee with our Lord, and followed Him from place to place in His ministry. They are first mentioned clearly in Luke 8:2-3 as “Mary called Magdalene, . . . Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, Susanna, and many others.” Those that are mentioned by name here are probably the women of comfortable means, “who ministered unto Him of their substance.” Three of the “many others” can be identified: “Mary the mother of James and Joses; and the mother of Zebedee’s children” (whose children were James and John, and the mother’s name Salome, Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40); and the mother of Jesus, frequently mentioned.

743.     Now let us recapitulate: (1) Mary of Magdala, probably a woman of wealth who had been insane; her name stands as security, so to speak, for every penitent “Magdalen” (though there is no proof that she was ever impure in life), because of the words,¾“out of whom went seven demons.” (2) Joanna, wife of the steward of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, a woman of the high social caste. (3) Susanna, of whom we know nothing but her name, but probably a person of means, (4) Mary, the Lord’s own mother. (5) Mary, the wife of Cleophas (Alphaeus), described also as “the mother of James and Joses.” Very reliable tradition declares Cleophas was Joseph’s brother. (6) Salome, wife of Zebedee, mother of James and John, a sister of Jesus’ mother. From the expression “many others,” we infer that the number of women who accompanied Jesus in His three years’ ministry, was not inconsiderable.

744.     They must have witnessed most of His miracles; heard most of His discourses; seen His sufferings, and known His claims,¾that He was the Messiah. These women had no more lofty ambition for themselves than to minister unto their Lord. To be sure, the mother of Zebedee’s children, the aunt of Jesus Christ, is shown as asking for a high place for her sons in Christ’s kingdom (in Matt. 20:21); but it is evident she was pressed into this service by her sons,¾since the Lord answers, not her, but the sons: “Ye know not what ye ask”; and “When the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the brethren.” This shows that they did not hold the mother culpable. Mark does not even mention the mother, as voicing the request of the sons (Mark 10:35). No, these women who followed the Lord had no wishes of their own to be gratified. Their service was a disinterested one.

745.     When Jesus was about to be received up into heaven, He gave His disciples a strict injunction not to go forth to witness for Him, until they received the spirit of prophecy (Acts 1: 4, 5, 8). It was to be given to them. (1) Because they had witnessed His life on earth; (2) To enable them to give forth a recital of all they had witnessed, with “power,” and (3) The possession of that Holy Spirit was proof to others, that they were witnesses chosen of God to give testimony. For these reasons is it said that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” Revelation 19:10. That Holy Spirit was not poured out upon any, on that day of Pentecost, save Christ’s own chosen witnesses to His birth, life on earth, death, resurrection and ascension. These numbered one hundred and twenty persons (Acts 1:15, 2:3). Not each one was a witness of all these events, but each had a part to tell.

746.     A witness has no other business, as a witness, but to give a simple recital of what the witness has seen. Jesus Christ would not, in fact could not, choose as witnesses for certain events in His career on earth, those who had not witnessed those events. Imagine the anger of a judge, who calls up a case in court, to find that the complaining parties have not brought a single witness of that which had been complained of,¾only a lot of eloquent pleaders. He would say, “Away with these! One intelligent child is of more value to me than a hundred eloquent men, if that child saw something, or heard something. You cannot witness to what you never saw or heard. I want evidence; I do not want talk.” Jesus Christ could not make use of any as His witnesses, save as they witnessed concerning what they saw. Even He had no choice at this point; the witness to an incident must have seen that incident, and heard what was said.

747.     We proceed at once to show what the women who accompanied Him out of Galilee saw and heard, which His male disciples did not see and hear. (1) The Virgin Mary “went with haste” far away from Nazareth, when she knew she was to become a mother; and many, therefore, especially Elizabeth and Zacharias, would know that her child was not Joseph’s, as well as of her chaste reputation. But who save the Virgin herself could give “the testimony of Jesus,” as regarded the appearance of the Angel Gabriel, to talk with her face to face, and as the Christ’s incarnation as the very Son of God, having no human father, but “conceived of the Holy Ghost?” The doctrine of the Incarnation, as fulfilled (it was prophesied of) rests, for human testimony, wholly on the word of the Virgin, corroborated by the dream of Joseph (Matthew 1:20).

748.     (2) Passing by the fact of the women from Galilee witnessing a large share of the miracles which Christ wrought, hearing His discourses, so as to be able to repeat them, and His claims to be the Messiah (the account of much of which, as given by women, must have found its place in the writings of the Gospel),[1] we come to the incidents of the crucifixion. We are plainly told that when Christ was arrested, in company with the eleven, all “forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56); and it is certain they were so afraid for their own lives that none of them summoned courage sufficient to appear at the crucifixion, save John. He was there a part of the time. But John withdrew when Jesus committed His mother to John’s care, taking her away from the dreadful sight. He returned later.

749.     What John did not see, he does not tell; therefore, the events of importance described by the three Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke, that are not found in John’s Gospel, rest upon the testimony of the women,¾for it is certain that only John was an eye witness of the crucifixion. Matthew 27:56 speaks of Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and Salome as “beholding afar off,” but when Jesus spoke to His mother and John, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary with the mother had drawn nigh in the darkness, and “stood by” the cross (John 19:25). John then withdrew with the mother.

750.     Of the Seven Words uttered by the dying Lord, John records but three. These two women, both named Mary, must have had “the testimony of Jesus” as regards the other four: the prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34); the promise to the thief, “Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:43); the cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34); and the prayer, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46). And of the events in connection with the crucifixion, the women alone must have testified how the passers-by railed on Him (not recorded by John); how one thief on the Cross addressed Him in penitence, the other one mocking; and the giving of the vinegar to Him. After these events, John returns, and after His death Joseph and Nicodemus also appear in connection with Christ’s burial. Bear in mind, therefore, that of the Seven Words of the Lord on the cross, four secured their place in the Gospels and in the teaching of the Church on the witness of women only.

751.     Yet the women linger; and when the body is laid away in the tomb, “The women also, which came with Him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and HOW HIS BODY WAS LAID” (Luke 23:55). Evening came on (Matthew 27:57); the last service to the dead body was performed; the stone closed over the tomb, but yet “There was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre” (Mt. 27:61).

(To be Continued)

Notes:

[1] There is credible tradition that St Luke got much information for his Gospel from the daughters of Philip.

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