Mark 15:40-41 “When Jesus died, there were women looking on from a distance…. When Jesus was in Galilee, the women used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came with Him to Jerusalem.”
We could almost miss it.
Mark has drawn little attention to the entourage surrounding Jesus during His ministry. Left to our own deductions, we might conclude that Jesus mostly had the twelve male disciples with Him, with crowds occasionally swelling to hear a sermon or get a miracle. But here, slipped in near the end of the Gospel, Mark makes a surprising note.
This surprises me at two levels. First that Jesus would allow it. Any renowned and respectable Rabbi would distance himself from the women, if for no other reason than they posed a constant hazard. Any woman who might brush against a man during her monthly cycle would render him ceremonially unclean. A responsible Rabbi would take no such risk. Women had no business traipsing around behind a notable Teacher.
But Jesus apparently permitted it.
That’s the first surprise; the respect He afforded women, the dignity He restored to them, and the value He placed on them. When people accuse Christianity of misogyny, they do not understand the extraordinary liberation that Jesus extended to the women of His day.
But a second surprise pops from the page at me. All these women … and not one accusation of impropriety?
Jesus had plenty of detractors and eventually they succeeded in demanding His crucifixion. They accused him of being a tool of the devil, of being a wine-bibber and a glutton, of being a friend of sinners, and of suggesting He might be the coming King. But nobody, not one person, said, “He’s a womanizer!” No one cried out “Pervert!”
In a culture that encouraged women to be at home, nobody seemed to think it odd or inappropriate that so many women left their homes, followed Jesus, and ministered to Him. If there had been even a hint of sexual indiscretion, the disciples would have exposed it. Who would give their lives for a rapist, a pervert, or a womanizer?
Even in death, Jesus’ purity and integrity remained intact.
In our own highly sexualized culture, His example sets an important standard for us. Men, are we above reproach in the respect and honor we afford the women around us? Are we beyond recrimination in our dealings with women?
This spiritually powerful Easter season climaxes this coming weekend. It invites us to a personal re-assessment, perhaps some fresh resolve, and always new levels of godliness with each other.