They Served Christ in Love
Good Friday Mark 15:40,41; Luke 23: 55,56
They Served Christ in Love
Today is Good Friday. Today is the most solemn day of the church year. On Good Friday, more than on any other day, we see our Savior's love, because today of all days, we see just how much our salvation cost Jesus. On Good Friday we see Jesus going to the cross for us. This afternoon, we are going to look at Christ on the cross through the eyes of three women who were there. We will see that Jesus' love was not lost on them, in fact, Jesus' love had a tremendous effect on their loves. Throughout those terrible hours of the first Good Friday, three women stood by Jesus. This afternoon, we will see They served Christ in love. I. During his life and ministry. II. During his death and burial.
In the text for today, we met the three women in question. Their names were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome. These names may not mean a great deal to us today, but all of these women had a connection to Christ. Mary Magdalene had been healed by Jesus. She had been possessed by seven demons, and when Jesus cast those demons out, it changed her life forever. For the second Mary, her connection to Christ was through her sons, especially her son James. James was one of the two apostles of Christ named James. He's not the more famous James who was the brother of John, but he was one of the twelve. His mother also was a follower of Christ. Salome also was connected to Christ through her sons. Her sons, apparently, were James and John, the sons of Zebedee.
These three women, and many others, some of whom are named in the Scriptures, most of whom are not, served Christ in love during his life and ministry. Mark tells us that "in Galilee these women had followed him." We realize that when the Bible speaks of "following Jesus," it refers to being a disciple of Jesus. These women had something in common with you and me -- they had faith in Christ as their Savior. They understood Jesus' call to take up our cross and follow him.
These women are not the women who were weeping for Jesus as he carried his cross out to Calvary. Remember Jesus told those women to weep for themselves and their children because judgement would come upon them. These women trusted in Christ as their Savior. The tears they no doubt shed on that first Good Friday were shed because their Lord was dying before their very eyes.
Mark tells us that these women had cared for Jesus' needs in Galilee. Remember, Jesus and his disciples were not paid by a congregation for their ministry. Jesus spent his time preaching and teaching. The disciples were really students in Christ's seminary. As a group, they were dependent on the charity of others. God provided Jesus and his disciples with these faithful women to support his ministry. Understand, these women supported Christ's ministry because they recognized him as the promised Messiah. They had heard him preach and teach and the Holy Spirit had planted faith in their hearts. So they served Christ in love during his life and ministry.
Don't underestimate the importance of the service of these women. It was God's way of providing for Jesus' human needs. But it was much more than that -- Jesus demonstrated that he could feed his disciples like he fed the five thousand, if that were necessary. The support that these women gave was God's way of allowing them to participate in the Gospel ministry of Christ. God let them be a part of Jesus' work. Every time Jesus called a sinner to repentance or announced that the Messiah had come, these women were a part of that work -- because God wanted them to be.
These women served Christ in love during his life and ministry. They continued that service right up to the end of that ministry. Mark says that they "had come with him to Jerusalem." These women made that last trip to Jerusalem with Christ. Luke descrobes that trip for us. "As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." Jesus made no secret of were he was going or why. Again and again, the gospel writers tell us that Jesus told his disciples plainly that he was gong to Jerusalem to die for their sins. On that first Easter, the angel reminded these women that they had heard Jesus say these things. They had come with Jesus from Galilee and they had seen his resolve to make that last trip to Jerusalem. They may not have understood it all, but they had to know that this was Christ's must important work of all. They served him in love as he went to Jerusalem to die.
My friends, we are like those women. We serve Christ, our Lord, in love just as they did. Of course, we can't make that trip to Jerusalem in the same way that they did, but we serve Christ in love when we follow Christ our Lord. Disciples of Christ hear his Word and live that Word. Disciples of Christ recognize that Jesus went to the cross on Good Friday to pay for our sins. Disciples of Christ trust that the payment that Jesus made is our payment. Our sins were forgiven and now we are free from guilt and fear. Free to serve Christ in our hearts and with our lives. So we too can serve Christ in love by supporting his ministry here in Elkhorn and throughout the world. We support that ministry when we share our Christian love with each other and with the workers God has given us. Our encouragement, our prayers and our efforts for our congregation support the work of the Kingdom. When we give as these women gave, of our time, our talents, our love, we make the work of First Lutheran Church our own. We make the work of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod in Milwaukee and California and Africa and Russia our own. Today, of all days, let us resolve to serve Christ in love.
Those believing women served Christ in love during his life and ministry. But today, we want to focus especially on the service these women gave him on that first Good Friday. They served Christ in love during his death and burial.
The women are almost unique in their role on that first Good Friday. They were among the very few there that dark day who were there to support their Savior. There were a few others. Christ's mother was there. John was there. The thief on the cross was there. But they were a definite minority. In fact, Mark tells us the women stood "at a distance." Probably because it was considered improper for women to be present at the crucifixion of a criminal. In fact, John tells that later they were standing with Jesus' mother "near the cross." Apparently, their love for Jesus and his mother overcame whatever fear may have held them back. In that culture, their presence at the foot of the cross was the only public testimony they could give to their Lord. Isn't ironic, that of all the people who could and should have stood up for Christ on that horrible day that we call Good Friday, the only ones who would were the ones whom no one would listen to? Women, who had no real say in the decisions that were made -- who in fact probably could not even have attended the trial -- and a thief, who was being executed. That was all in accord with God's plan. Isaiah said, "He was despised and rejected by men." The leaders, the bulk of the people, everyone who could have made a difference either rejected him or held their peace. The women gave the only testimony that they could have given in that place and time. They stood by their Savior. They served their Savior in love even at his crucifixion.
What a contrast between these women and nearly everybody else! Where were the disciples? Only John is specifically mentioned as being present at the crucifixion. If the others were there, they seem to have made sure that they weren't too conspicuous. The contrast to the Jews is even more striking. The leaders of the Jewish church, the men whom God had called to teach his people about the coming Messiah, openly mocked Christ, while these women accepted him in faith for what he was. It must have torn their hearts to hear those harsh words, "Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" "He saved others, but he cannot save himself!" "He trusts in God! Let God rescue him now if he wants him!" Christ was despised and rejected by men. But that little group of women served him in love, even at his crucifixion.
It must have been a horrible day for them. It was certainly a day like no other before or since. We have to wonder how much they understood. Did they realize why Jesus was dying? He had certainly told them, but they don't seem to have clearly grasped it on that first Easter morning. They may have heard Jesus' words from the cross. They were there when the sun stopped shining. They surely felt the earthquake when he died and may even have heard the centurion declare, "Surely this was the Son of God." Whether they clearly understood it or not, they were present for the most important event in human history. They witnessed Christ's payment for the sins of the entire world. They heard and saw how great our burden of sin really is. They witnessed the magnitude of God's love.
You and I have witnessed that same saving love of God. We have heard the message that Jesus died to pay for our sins. We know that we are forgiven, because of what happened on that first Good Friday. In love, let us commit ourselves to serving Christ, day by day, with our lives and with our testimony -- no matter how little the world may think of what we have to say, no matter what the personal cost may be.
Christ's love for those women left its mark. These women, who had faithfully served their Lord through his life and ministry, stood by him through his crucifixion and death. And now they had one last act of loving service to perform. Their Lord was dead. Someone had to take care of his body.
The humble, serving love of these women perhaps reached its greatest length at that moment. They willingly stepped forward to do the dirty work. They showed what true love is all about. When I was in college and my first years at the Seminary I worked in nursing homes. I can tell you from personal experience, the job these women volunteered for is a difficult and unpleasant one. But they didn't want to miss what they thought would be their last act of love and service to their Lord.
Again, what a contrast! The disciples only concern at this point was for their own lives. Until well into Easter Sunday, the Eleven were still cowering behind closed doors, for fear of the Jews. Only Joseph and Nicodemus summoned the courage to be seen as public followers of Christ. They fulfilled Isaiah's words that Christ would be assigned a grave with the rich in death. But it was left to these women to deal with the unpleasant details of carrying that burial out.
How fortunate it was for them. In this account we see an example of God blessing the humble, loving service of Christians. These pious women were unable to complete their duties before the Sabbath began, so they hurried to the tomb early Sunday morning. There God blessed them. They were the first people to hear the refrain that has forever changed the world: He is risen! If you think that the humble service these women performed was demeaning or unimportant, consider the value that God put on it. What a privilege God granted those women! They were the first to tell another Christ is risen.
God values our loving service to him and his church. God doesn't expect or ask every Christian to climb into the pulpit or to lead a Bible Class. But he does ask us to use the gifts that he has given us to serve him and the church. On Good Friday, we can't miss the incredible love that God had for us. As redeemed, blood bought children of God, let us dedicate our lives to serving Christ. God will bless that kind of humble service in ways that we can't even begin to imagine.
My dear Christian friends, those women served Christ in love though his life and ministry and through his death and burial. They learned first hand that Good Friday is Good because it is not the end of the story. They learned the same lesson that we have learned. Good Friday would be horrible without Easter Sunday. Without Easter Sunday, Good Friday would tell us only how horrible our sins really are. But Easter tells us that our sins are forgiven. Easter is what Good Friday is all about. Amen.