At Least One Person Waiting

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“What more could any of us want than to be known as the one who didn’t abandon the person we loved the most in their greatest moment of suffering?”

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“There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.”  –Mark 15:40

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary [the wife] of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” –John 19:25

We know very little for sure about either Mary the wife of Clophas or Salome the disciple. Salome only appears in Mark’s gospel as a witness to the crucifixion, and then as one of the women who comes to anoint Jesus for burial. Mary of Clopas is explicitly mentioned just once, in John’s gospel as another witness to the crucifixion.

Interesting ideas about the identity of these women come from other ancient sources and Christian tradition. (Richard Bauckham’s Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels is a great source for further reading.) However, precious little is actually established in the biblical texts themselves, which is precisely what makes these women so extraordinary for me right now. Their names are etched into history for one thing and one thing only: when Jesus faced His darkest hour and everyone else walked away from Him, they remained. That is all. We don’t know anything for certain about their lives, responsibilities, nor anything in particular about the role they played in the ministry of Jesus. All we know is that when Jesus was abandoned by everyone closest to Him, including His disciples save John, they chose to stay.

What an extraordinary witness. What more could any of us want than to be known as the one who didn’t abandon the person we loved the most in their greatest moment of suffering?

Nothing was to be gained for the women by staying around for the gore and terror of crucifixion. They could not alleviate the suffering of Jesus; they were not in a position to offer much in the way of tangible comfort, nor could they be comforted themselves. But still they lingered. The remarkable benefit, of course, is that they were also the first to know and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. But they didn’t know this yet. They only knew they could not walk away.

In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen writes, “A man can keep his sanity and stay alive as long as at least one person is waiting for him.” Mary and Salome were waiting for Jesus in their own way, even though they did not know He would return. And I can’t help but wonder if there was something in Jesus that drew comfort from knowing that, even in the moment when he joined the Psalmist in the feeling of being God-forsaken, these two devoted followers were still there—still waiting.

We all have different skills, different things to offer, different limitations. I know there are suffering people near to every one of us, and that what they need right now may be nothing more or less than someone who is willing to be with them—someone who will not be squeamish about their wounds. My sense is that when we are willing to stand by others through their greatest suffering, somewhere, somehow we will also bear witness to the reality of resurrection.

If we wait long enough.

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Jonathan Martin
I’m Jonathan Martin, and I lead the liars, dreamers, and misfits of Renovatus: A Church for People Under Renovation, in Charlotte, NC, where I live with my wife Amanda. I’m the author of the forthcoming Prototype: What Happens When You Discover You’re More Like Jesus Than You Think from Tyndale House. I’m a product of the “Christ-haunted landscape” of the American South, sweaty revivals, and hip-hop. My main claim to fame was getting my Aquaman, Robin and Wonder Woman action figures saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost at an early age. When I talk it’s mostly about the beauty of God, what an extraordinary thing it is to be called God’s beloved, and finding new ways to be human. I am unafraid to be seen walking my small dog Cybil.
Jonathan Martin
Jonathan Martin

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