the women of holy week: community

The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb on how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. – Luke 23:55-56

All four Gospels show Mary Magdalene leading a group of women who accompanied Jesus through passion, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection, even though most of the men had fled.

When Jesus was crucified the women were there, bearing witness.

You may think the women stayed because it was less risky for them than it was for the men. Surely the Romans wouldn’t have crucified women, but in fact, they did. The Romans loved to drum up terror, and they crucified women and even the children of the crucified men in order to do just that.

So it was a risky thing.

It was a brave thing for the women to be there at the cross.
They watched as their beloved, their friend, their teacher was killed.

But then what happened?

What happened when it was over, when his body was dead?

By the final hours of the first Good Friday many of Jesus’ disciples had abandoned him. It was mostly women who had a body to bury. And according to Jewish law, no work could be done once the sun set, so they had to move quickly.

All meals must be prepared ahead of the Sabbath, all tasks completed before the day of rest begins. Whatever one has left undone at sunset must remain undone for a full 24-hours. There can be no cooking, no mending, no work.

It was the role of the women to preserve the body with spices would have to wait until the Sabbath was over.

Thankfully, Jesus’ body had been placed in a tomb, but I imagine that the women who followed Jesus felt pretty helpless.

I imagine their muscles were weak and shaking, their throats hoarse.

I imagine they wanted to scream or sleep or die themselves.

I imagine they were terrified, their thinking fuzzy, their hearts sore and heavy.

I trust they leaned on one another for support, the way women do.

Even though pop culture loves to tell us that women are in competition with one another, that women are vicious and stab one another in the back, that isn’t really true, is it?

Women together form a web, a net of safety.

Women see one another and nourish one another, and I suspect the women who followed Jesus shared a sort of communion with one another those hours after his death.

Mostly, we have to imagine what they did and said. Perhaps they prayed together, or went over the days events together. I imagine they were exhausted and anxious, defeated and impatient.

Did they whisper to one another, did they pray together, did they perform some private ritual of grieving?

Women speak differently in the company of other women, don’t we? When a man is in the mix, the energy shifts, the tone changes.

I believe the women would have come together, the way women do, speaking with words but also silently. They would have spoken with their hearts, their intuition.

They would have come to an understanding.

Mark tells us that in the hours leading up to the Resurrection:

[The women] had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?

That may sound insignificant, but it isn’t.

Listen to what they women are saying.

They had no idea how, without the help of men, they could move away that heavy stone, but they knew they had to do it.

In the morning, the women rose after what I suspect was a horrible, sleepless night, and in an act of radical friendship and faith, went to the tomb anyway.

They went to do what they could do, to do what had to be done.

They went in love and devotion.

They went not knowing the outcome.

In the wee hours, before it was fully light, they went.

I find a calm and quiet strength in that.