As we read about yesterday, Mary Magdalene was present during Jesus’s ministry, at the foot of the cross, at his burial, and at his resurrection. She was the friend that remained, the one that refused to look away. She is mentioned a total of fourteen times in the New Testament, more than most of the apostles. She is almost always mentioned first, identifying her as an important person and leader in the community. The only list where her name is not first is when she is standing at the foot of the cross with Jesus’s mother.
How to be a Loyal Friend
But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
show up when everyone else runs away
Suffering is hard to bear witness to. No matter how good of a friend you are or think someone else is, when tragedy happens, people run. Think through your own life. In the hardest moments, were you surprised by who was and wasn’t by your side?
In the Gospels, we are told that Jesus was abandoned by the disciples. One betrayed him with a kiss, while the others ran. Peter, the very disciple Jesus would later command to build his church, denied even knowing him (Matthew 26:69–75). Only “the disciple whom he loved” is mentioned as being present at Jesus’s death (John 19:25–27), surrounded by the women who never left. But Magdalene was always nearby, likely with the women who followed behind weeping as Jesus carried the cross to Golgotha, and most definitely standing beside his mother, identifying as one of those closest to him in life (Luke 23:27). She showed up.
From the very first time she is introduced, Magdalene shows up and takes part in Jesus’s ministry. Grateful for her healing, she is transformed in both body and soul. Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan, an associate professor at Saint Vincent College, describes Magdalene as “one of Jesus’s success stories.” Her healing resulted in “faithful ministry as well as social reintegration, leadership, and recognition.”
Magdalene’s presence and the presence of those with her are the reason the Gospel writers had the eyewitness testimony they needed to write the details of what happened that day at the crucifixion. Jesus’s death and resurrection that followed would become our second chance, and Magdalene was there to bear witness to it all.
Watch Session Five
Jesus Gives Hope
When has someone shown up for you during tragedy? What are some ways you could be more proactive about simply being present for those you love when they are going through hard times?
I have two good friends who have really been present during my walk through infertility and continue to remember to reach out to me on Mother’s Day even now that we have stopped trying and are at peace with our childlessness.
I am drawn to suffering and always have been… I think of it as a privilege to stand beside people in their trials when everyone else runs away. In my experience, church people don’t like big feelings – they tend to excuse them away, minimize, and offer platitudes. Since experiencing this, I try to respond differently to my friends when they are struggling. I tell them that I don’t have answers, I’m grieving with them, and that they can share all of their feelings with me without judgment. It’s been amazing to see how many people I have grown close to just because I allowed them to feel whatever they felt and listened without agenda.
My cousin Doreen who is like a big sister has always been there for me during tragedy and sadness in my life. She listens and is always present. I am a problem solver and I sometimes need to just be quiet, and be present to listen to those I love without trying so hard to find the words to be helpful and loving. I am building a ministry of presence for those I love.
Back in September, I found out that my dad and step-mom were getting divorced. I found out early in the morning on my way to work at a restaurant, where one of my closest friends also works. I have a very hard time compartmentalizing and I just couldn’t separate my personal life from my work life; and, I broke down to my friend. She just stood there and listened, didn’t have to say anything. She then offered to have me over at her house that night so I didn’t have to be alone to my thoughts. She and her boyfriend cooked me dinner, and I spent the night there just chatting about life and eating good food. That’s something I will never forget: she was present. Of course, it could’ve looked differently if I wasn’t with her when I found out; however, she has always been that kind of friend. She knows when I’m feeling down, she knows when I just need a distraction. I am so grateful for her and I think this is a kind of friend we should all strive to be to others. She was there for me when I needed someone the most. She didn’t have to do anything crazy – I just hung out and ate food, that’s something we can all do! I think it is important to really listen to your friends and what is they need. I’m the type of person that just needs someone’s presence – you don’t necessarily need to give advice or talk, I just like when people listen. Other people may feel differently about that. It’s all about being observant and listening to others’ needs.
My sisters. The older ones especially. They helped in raising me.
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