Four Brave Women
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 19:24c And this is what the soldiers did.
The soldiers did their duty as if nothing extraordinary were occurring. “While they played with dice, He made His sacrifice” (Studdert Kennedy). Casting lots at the foot of the cross not only showed disdain for the victim, but also total disregard for the feelings of loved ones standing nearby.
These soldiers had likely crucified many rebellious Jews and saw nothing extraordinary about the man on the middle cross this day. Accustomed to hearing the cries of pain, they had grown callous. Their main desire was for quick death so that they could return to the barracks as soon as possible.
These soldiers are a classic example of the world’s indifference to God’s love demonstrated in Jesus. The world acts as if the death of Jesus does not matter. People in our age would still rather have material garments than God. They still prefer gambling for this world’s goods over receiving this world’s God, the Christ of the cross. Fortunately, these generalizations are not true of everyone.
John 19:25 Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Jesus was surrounded with not only contempt and ambivalence, but also with love. The first group of four, the soldiers, is a stark contrast to the second group of four, the women. Some think our text refers to three women. This is unlikely because it requires two sisters having the same name, “Mary.”
Parallel passages seem to indicate the “fourth” woman, the one described here as Jesus’ aunt, was Salome, wife of Zebedee and mother of James and John (MK 15:40; MT 27:56). If this is accurate, our author, John the Beloved, was Jesus’ first cousin.
It must have sobered Salome to look up and see what it means to sit on Jesus’ right and left in the Kingdom of God (MT 20:20). She was probably relieved two thieves were there, rather than her two sons.
In light of Matthew 27:55, Mark 15:41, and Luke 8:2-3, it is possible these women had made the clothes the soldiers were now gambling for. Jesus’ garment pictured the apathy of unbelievers, yet also called to mind the love of these ladies.
Judas had proven a traitor, Peter had denied the Lord, nine other disciples had scattered. John was the only disciple with courage enough to stand beneath the cross. The men had essentially disappeared, but many women were there. Heroism knows no gender distinction.
These people were here because of their love. Courage is always strengthened by great love. Love makes the object of its affection comfortable through life, and then after life places flowers on the beloved’s grave. Love clings to the beloved, and refuses to let go. God grant us a spirit more akin to that of the ladies rather than to that of the soldiers.
John 19:26 (Holman) When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.”
Suffering is proverbially selfish, but not in the case of Jesus. Even in pain, He showed compassion for others. At Calvary the Lord not only honored His Heavenly Father, but also His earthly mother. By taking care of His mother, Jesus set an everlasting example of the proper way to live out the fifth commandment.
As Mary’s oldest son, Jesus was responsible for her safe-keeping. He had nothing of this world’s goods to give her, not even the clothes off His back, but He did have a friend to whom He knew He could entrust her.
“Woman” may seem a cold word to use when referring to one’s mother. Jesus may have used this generic term to keep the soldiers from knowing her relationship to Him. A dying prisoner’s mother could be mocked or abused. The generic term may have been Jesus’ way of not causing His mother more trouble.
John 19:27a Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
Jesus was dying as a substitute for the world, and asked John to be His substitute as a son to Mary. Giving this awesome responsibility to John shows how much confidence Jesus had in His beloved disciple. Oh that the Master could place such trust in all His followers.
It is not strange that Jesus passed over His brothers and chose John as His mother’s guardian. His brothers had rejected Him. Later they would receive Him, but at this point, “Neither did His brethren believe on Him” (JN 7:5). Their hearts were not knit spiritually with their brother and mother.
John’s heart was riveted to Jesus, and therefore to Jesus’ mother. A part of Jesus’ work is to create a new brotherhood among us based on His own redemption. The redeemed are attracted to each other due to their loyalty to Jesus.
The life which truly binds people together is the one centered in Jesus. He is “the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love,” the reason we can have a “fellowship of kindred minds . . . like to that above.”
Jesus obviously felt spiritual ties are as important as physical ones. This is still true. When Ruth and I named someone in our will to be responsible for our children in case of our death, we naturally chose kinfolk, but also chose only those who are of the same spiritual persuasion as we are. The latter consideration was as important as the former. In fact, I can safely say, if none of our kindred were Christians, none of them would be named as guardians for our children.
John 19:27b And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
As a good disciple, John obeyed his Master, and took full responsibility for Mary. He immediately assumed the duties of his new relationship. It is interesting to note, if John was also caring for his own mother, Salome, then Mary would have lived with her sister (see notes on verse 25).
John did not worship Mary or make a shrine to her. He simply made a home for her. Poor Mary! She watched her son die. This was the sword piercing through her heart that Simeon had predicted (LK 2:35). Maybe her greatest sorrow has been the prayers offered to her for centuries that should have been offered to her precious Son. It must pierce her heart to see people robbing Jesus of His glory and putting it on her. She watched Him die in order to have the right to be our High Priest and sole mediator; she has also watched Him be denied these very honors by people who call themselves His followers.
John 19:28 After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, “I’m thirsty!”
Thirst commonly occurs in people suffering from open wounds. As body fluids are lost through the wounds, cells dehydrate, and the body craves water.
Water is the main request of the wounded on a battlefield. Other agonies are soon forgotten in this one. It is the cry that encompasses every other cry.
“I thirst,” Jesus cried. It was foretold His tongue would stick to the roof of His mouth (PS 22:15). A torment of Hell, violent thirst, was being borne by Jesus. Had Jesus not thirsted in our stead, we would all suffer thirst in Hell. He carried our thirst that we might not have to share the lot of the rich man who opened his eyes in Hell and craved in vain a drop of water to cool his burning tongue.
“I thirst” cried the One who said, “If any man thirsts, let him come unto Me, and drink.” The very “Fountain of living water” allowed Himself to know thirst that every one might come to the water and drink.
He who made rivers and sends rain let Himself reach this depth of affliction. Had He but spoken a word, clouds would have appeared to refresh His brow, and rivers would have flowed to His cross. However, He thirsted in order to give us the gift of the water of life that we might never thirst again.
John 19:29 A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on hyssop and held it up to His mouth.
When Jesus first arrived at Calvary He refused to drink vinegar mixed with gall (MK 15:23), a stupefying drink the women of Jerusalem kindly provided to lessen pain. Jesus refused it. He wanted to face His ordeal with a clear mind.
The drink mentioned in verse 29 was not drugged. It was an inferior wine which soured rapidly. It was heavily diluted with water, and was used by the common people, including soldiers.
A cup would not have been of much use to a man crucified; hence, a sponge was employed, lifted to Jesus’ mouth upon hyssop. One cannot help but feel that John mentioned this plant because of its connection with the Passover, which the Jews were celebrating at this very time.
In Egypt, the Jews used hyssop to put blood on the doorpost of their houses (EX 12:22). Because of hyssop-smeared blood the death angel “passed over” their houses.
The blood of a Passover lamb had saved people in Egypt; now the blood of God’s ultimate Passover lamb would save people throughout the world. “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” At the end of the hyssop, you will find the redeeming blood that cleanses us from our sin.