March 23, 2017 • Life for Leaders
Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion I focused on the women who were faithful to Jesus even as he was crucified. Their example stood in contrast to that of the male disciples who deserted Jesus.
What enabled the women to remain faithful even at the risk of their own well-being? Why did they stick with Jesus while the men abandoned him? Mark does not answer these questions directly. But the text does suggest at least one reason why the women remained: they had each other.
We know the names of three women who stayed with Jesus: “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome” (15:40). Moreover, “many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there” (15:41). Many other women! Though Mark doesn’t say this explicitly, the most obvious reading of these verses suggests that these women stood near one another as they watched Jesus die. They weren’t alone, but rather they were faithful together.
I wonder if the male disciples were scattered, each one alone in his grief, fear, and shame. We don’t know this for sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this had been the case. Yet we do know that the women hung together, and in their community they found strength. They were able to remain faithful to Jesus because they were not alone.
You and I were created to live in community with each other. When we put our faith in Christ, we were brought into relationship not only with him, but also with our sisters and brothers in Christ. Like the women at the cross, we will find strength in hard times when we remain in close fellowship with other believers. We stand strong when we stand together.
This is especially true and especially needed when we find ourselves in difficult situations. I think, for example, of a woman I know who has been going through an extremely trying time at work. She has struggled with feeling overwhelmed, inadequate, and discouraged. Her boss has offered little in the way of affirmation. In fact, he keeps giving her more work than she can handle. What has kept this woman from quitting this job or falling apart altogether? Surely, it’s God’s grace at work in her. But it is God’s grace often in the form of sisters and brothers who offer encouragement, wise counsel, prayer, and heartfelt support. Because this woman is not going it alone, she is able to hang in there, even to thrive.
Honestly, I have a tendency to be a loner, especially when I’m stressed. May God give me the grace to be in deep community with others. And may God give you this grace as well!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you have gone through hard times, have you been able to share these with your fellow Christians?
Why do we sometimes try to go it alone?
What encourages you to reach out to others when you are going through difficult times?
Gracious God, thank you for the example of the women who remained by the cross until the end. Thank you for their togetherness, for the fact that they stood strong because they stood with each other.
Help us, Lord, to live in genuine fellowship with our sisters and brothers in the faith. When we’re going through difficult times, may they give us strength. And may we offer the same kind of support to them when they need it.
Thank you, O God, for not leaving us to live our lives alone. Thank you for the gift of genuine fellowship with our sisters and brothers in your family. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Investing in Jesus’ Work (Luke 8:3; 10:7)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.