John 11:1-5 & John 12:1-11, et al — The Women in the New Testament whom Jesus Knew and Loved — LeGrand Baker

John the Beloved payed special attention to the story of Lazarus and his two sisters Martha and Mary, telling us “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus (John 11:1-5).” While these are the only women about whom we are told explicitly that “Jesus loved,” we also know that his entire life and all his dealings with people were an expression of his abundant love. Therefore, it seems appropriate that we look at other instances of Jesus’s interaction with women whom he, no doubt, also loved.

The first, of course, was his mother who knew from before his birth who her baby boy really was. She “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” until she shared them with Luke so he would write them and we could also know (Luke 2:19, 51). She stood at the foot of the cross where Jesus died, and was among those whom he met after his resurrection, to teach the ultimate mysteries of godliness, as is reported in the apocryphal Pistis Sophia.{1}

Elisabeth, Mary’s elder cousin and the mother of John the Baptist. We know nothing about her after Jesus’s birth, but they were family, and families are important. So unless there were geographic or other circumstances that prevented their close association, we may assume that she and her son were important to Jesus as he matured.

There was a prophetess named Anna who publicly rejoiced when she saw him as a baby in the temple, but we know nothing else about her (Luke 2:22-40).

There were many anonymous women who appear throughout the gospel accounts of Jesus’s life. These were those whom Jesus healed, or those who followed and supported him.

The 5,000 whom Jesus fed with just five loves and two fishes were all men, “beside women and children.” Even though the women were not counted, there were probably as many or more women among those followers as there were men. (Matthew 14:19-21)

Among the unnamed women whose stories are told are these:

The woman of Samaria whom Jesus asked for a drink and who testified to the people of her village that he was the Messiah. (John 4:5-44)

One who touched the hem of his garment, who was diseased with an issue of blood, and who was made whole from that hour. (Matthew 9:20-22)

A woman of Canaan whose “daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” To whom Jesus said, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” (Matthew 15:21-28)

Simon Peter’s wife’s mother whom Jesus healed from a fever. (Mark 1:29 – 33)

The woman with “a spirit of infirmity” who was healed on the sabbath day. (Luke 13:11 – 17)

There are short lists of women disciples in Luke 8:1-3 and Mark 15:40-41. Mark is quoted hereafter. Luke reads:

1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,
2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance. (Luke 8:1 – 3)

The statement in Luke, “And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,” is perplexing because its meaning is not explicit. As is frequently shown in the New Testament, those people did not understand the causes of sickness but frequently attributed illness to evil spirits. So the statement in question most probably meant that she had been healed of some physical illness or disability. Another possibility is that “seven” is a sacred number, meaning whole and complete. So “seven devils” might mean that she was cleansed from all spiritual impurities. But it probably does not mean that she had been “possessed” by evil spirits.

Another unnamed woman brought “an alabaster box” of very precious ointment.

36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.
37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment (Luke 7:36-38).

The story is told differently in Matthew.

7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.
12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial (Matthew 26:6-14).

Even though those women are nameless, the details of their stories are similar to when Mary anointed Jesus feet with a costly ointment. It is told by John as the conclusion of his account of the Savior’s raising her brother Lazarus from the dead.

1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,
5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.
8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.
10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;
11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus (John 12:1-11).

The other stories of woman occur either at the cross or at the sepulchre from which Jesus was resurrected.

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The Women at the Cross
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———– Matthew —————

55 And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:
56 Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children (Matthew 27:55-56).

———– Mark —————

40 There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;
41 (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem (Mark 15:40-41).

———– Luke —————

27 And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.
28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.
29 For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.
30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.
31 For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
………….
48 And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.
49 And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things (Luke 23:27-31, 48-49).

———– John —————

25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home (John 19:25-27).

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At the Sepulchre
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———– Matthew —————

59 And when Joseph [of Arimathæa] had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.
61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre (Matthew 27:59-61).
…………………
1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me (Matthew 28:1-10).

———– Mark —————

45 And when he [Pilate] knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.
46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.
47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid (Mark 15:45-47).
…………………..
1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.
5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not (Mark 16:1-11).

———– Luke —————

53 And he [Joseph of Arimathæ a] took it down [the body of Jesus], and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.
54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.
56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment (Luke 23:53-56).
…………………
1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.
3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
8 And they remembered his words,
9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not (Luke 24:1-11).

———– John —————

1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
…………….
10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.
11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord (John 20:1-20).

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FOOTNOTE

{1} Pistis Sophia is an apocryphal that tells of the eleven apostles, and their wives, and Jesus’s mother Mary, and Mary Magdalene meeting together to pray. They were joined by the resurrected Savior who taught them many things.
A translation by G. S. R. Mead is available on the website of The Gnostic Society Library.
Hugh Nibley has written an excellent summation and explanation in Appendix IV of The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment.

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