The Women of Holy Week, Part 4: The Women Wait


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

“The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, 
and they saw the tomb on how his body was laid. 
Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. 
On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” 

– Luke 23:55-56

The final hours of the first Good Friday had been frantic ones. 

Most of Jesus’ disciples had abandoned him, leaving the few remaining, mostly women, with a body to bury. According to Jewish law, no work could be done once the sun set, so they had to hurry. 

Thankfully, Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus, donated a tomb for the burial, and Nicodemus, a Pharisee, donated myrrh and aloes to cover the stench. Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb, but the important job of preserving it with spices would have to wait until the Sabbath was over. 

Anyone who has observed a traditional Jewish Sabbath knows the strange tempo of hurriedness followed by stillness that fills the hours just before and after sunset. All meals must be prepared ahead of time, all tasks completed before the day of rest begins. Whatever one has left undone at sunset must remain undone for a full 24-hours.  One cannot cook or lift or mend or conduct business, and so without adequate preparation, one can feel displaced, incomplete, even helpless. 

What a terrible Sabbath this must have been for the women who followed Jesus! It was their traditional role as women to anoint a body with perfumes and spices, but they hadn’t had time. They had been busy finding a decent place to bury their friend and teacher so that his body would not have been left to the elements by disinterested Roman guards. They must have felt such a heavy, powerful sense of incompleteness, such a profound lack of closure. Their work was not yet done, but still, they had to wait. 

Did they pray together? 

Did they sit in stunned silence, eyes tired and heavy from weeping?

Did they rehash Friday’s events in agonizing detail? 

Did they whisper about that story the rabbi once told of a temple being rebuilt in three days? 

We have little information about what the women did on this, the darkest day in Christian history. Only Mark gives us a glimpse of what was being discussed in the hours leading up to Resurrection Day: 

“[The women] had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 

They were worried about the logistics. 

They had no idea how, without the help of men, they could move away that heavy stone. 

But as soon as the blue light of dawn seeped through the windows in the morning, the women rose and, in an act of radical friendship and faith, went to the tomb anyway...

***

The Women of Holy Week, Part 1: Why the Women Matter

The Women of Holy Week, Part 2: The Woman at Bethany Anoints Jesus 

The Women of Holy Week, Part 3: Mary's Heart is Pierced (Again) 

 

 

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