And certain women
Mary of Magdala
This woman has “suffered much at the hand of many” commentators; preachers, painters, and poets, ancient and modern.
It is high time to do something to remove the foul stain which has so long rested on her fair fame. In the various notices of her history in the Gospels she exhibits” a character as pure and as devoted from the very first as any in the Gospel pages—a character not displaying merely the reflex action of a repentant spirit, but the faith which worketh by love.” She was—
I. A GREAT SUFFERER HEALED BY CHRIST (Luk_8:2).
II. A GREAT MINISTRANT TO CHRIST (Luk_8:2-3; Mar_15:41).
III. A FAITHFUL ADHERENT TO CHRIST. She follows Him to the last, and is one of the women who played such a prominent part in connection with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Saviour (Mar_15:40; Joh_19:25).
IV. A SINCERE MOURNER FOR CHRIST (cf. Mat_27:61; Mark Joh_20:1-2; Joh 20:11-18).
V. AN HONOURED MESSENGER OF CHRIST (Joh_20:17-18; Mar_16:10). (T. S. Dickson, M. A.)
The ministry of women
We know very little about the women of this little group. Mary of Magdala has had a very hard fate. The Scripture record of her is very sweet and beautiful. Demoniacal possession was neither physical infirmity nor moral evil, however much it may have simulated sometimes the one or the other. Then as to Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, old Church tradition tells us that she was the consort of the nobleman whose son Christ healed at Capernaum. It does not seem very likely that Herod’s steward would have been living in Capernaum, and the narrative before us rather seems to show that she herself was the recipient of healing from His hands. However that may be, Herod’s court was not exactly the place to look for Christian disciples. But, you know, they of Caesar’s household surrounded with their love the apostle whom Nero murdered, and it is by no means an uncommon experience that the servants’ hall knows and loves Christ, whom the lord in the saloon does not care about. And then as for Susanna, is it not a sweet fate to be known to all the world for evermore by one line only, which tells of her service to her Master.
I. LOOK AT THE CENTRE FIGURE—THE PAUPER CHRIST—AS THE GREAT PATTERN AND MOTIVE FOR US OF THE LOVE THAT BECOMES POOR.
1. The noblest life that was ever lived on earth was the life of a poor man, of one who emptied Himself for our sakes.
2. Think of the love that stoops to be served. It is much to say, “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister”; but I do not know that it is not more to say that the Son of Man let this record be written, which tells us that “ certain women ministered to Him of their substance.”
II. Look at the complement of this love—the love that stoops to be served, and that is THE LOVE THAT DELIGHTS TO SERVE.
1. There is the foundation. “Certain women which had been healed of their infirmities.” Ah! there you come to it. The consciousness of redemption is the one master-touch that evokes the gratitude that aches to breathe itself in service.
2. Do we not minister to Him best when we do the thing that is nearest His heart, and help Him most in the purpose of His life and death?
III. THE REMEMBRANCE AND RECORD OF THIS SERVICE. Just as a beam of light enables us to see all the motes dancing up and down that lay in its path, so the beam from Christ’s life shoots athwart the society of His age, and all those little insignificant people come for a moment into the full lustre of the light. The eternity of work done for Christ. How many deeds of faithful love and noble devotion are all compressed into these words: “ Which ministered unto Him.” It is the old story of how life shrinks, and shrinks, and shrinks in the record. How many acres of green forest ferns in the long ago time went to make up a seam of coal as thick as a sixpence? Still there is the record, compressed, indeed, but existent. And how many names may drop out? Do you not think that these anonymous “many others which ministered” were just as dear to Jesus Christ as Mary and Joanna and Susanna? How strange it must be to those women now I So it will be to you all when you get up yonder. We shall have to say, “Lord, when saw I Thee?” &c. He will put a meaning and a majesty into it that we know nothing about at present. When we in our poor love have poorly ministered unto Him, who in His great love greatly died for us, then at the last the wonderful word will be fulfilled: “Verily I say unto you, He shall gird Himself and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Self-devotion of women
The reckless rapture of self-forgetfulness, that which dominates and inspires persons and nations, that which is sovereign over obstacle and difficulty, and peril and resistance, it has belonged to woman’s heart from the beginning. In the early Pagan time, in the Christian development, in missions and in martyrdoms, it has been shown; in the mediaeval age as well as in our own time; in Harriet Newel and Florence Nightingale; in Ann Haseltine as truly and as vividly as in any Hebrew Hadassah or in any French Joan of Arc. You remember the Prussian women after the battle of Jena, when Prussia seemed trampled into the bloody mire under the cannon of Napoleon and the feet of the horses and men in his victorious armies. Prussian women, never losing their courage, flung their ornaments of gold and jewellery into the treasury of the State, taking back the simple cross of Berlin iron, which is now the precious heirloom in so many Prussian families, bearing the inscription, “I have gold for iron.” That is the glory of womanhood; that passion and self-forgetfulness, that supreme self-devotion with which she flings herself into the championship of a cause that is dear and sacred and trampled under foot. It is her crown of renown, it is her staff of power. (Dr. Storrs.)
And certain women