MPGC21- DRAWN TO THE CROSS: Women, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea

By Colleen Donahue

This is our last study looking at some of the individual characters that were waiting at the cross. We look first at the "waiting women" and then to Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

Drawn to The Cross - Part V
(Women, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea)

The Women

Day 1- There was a crowd around the cross that had come for some violent entertainment. What did they do after seeing the Lord die?
Luke 23:48

Could some of these people have been the first core of believers when Peter preached after Easter?
Acts 2: 36-42

Day 2- Who stood behind the crowd watching things from a distance?
Luke 23:49

Luke makes a point to say, "including the women who had followed Him from Galilee."

Day 3- We can put a face on these women if we read three gospel accounts.
Matthew 27:56 / Mark 15:40 / John 19:25

1- There was Mary, Christ's mother.
2- There was Mary's sister
3- There was Mary, (wife of Clopas) of which nothing is known.
4-There was Salome, who was the mother of Zebedee's children named James and John (or Joses)
5- There was Mary Magdalene, the woman Jesus had cast seven demons from.
6- And Mark 15:41 adds that there were "many other women" who had come up with Him to Jerusalem.

Jesus did not die alone. These women along with John stood at the cross. Perfect love had cast out all fear and they were not afraid to stand with their Lord and even die themselves if they had to.

Day 4- What two things had these women done during the days of Christ's ministry?
Matthew 27:55 / Mark 15:41a / Luke 8:3

Day 5- These women loved Jesus and were willing to hang in the background as servants just to be near him and learn from him like his twelve disciples. To follow Jesus these women had to leave their homes and hit the road just like the disciples. They gave up all that was near and dear to them in what they called home. In truth they fulfilled the most basic conditions of discipleship.
Matthew 16:24 / Luke 14:26,33

Day 6- No doubt in "providing for Him" they had given whatever money they could as well as their skills at cooking and laundry. It had been their privilege to give and there was no reluctance.
2 Corinthians 9:7

Scripture doesn't specify what these ladies gave to provide for Jesus but we do know from Jesus' own words that they were well rewarded.
Matthew 6:1 / Matthew 19:21

Day 7- How these woman must have comforted Jesus as He looked out in His agony and saw them at a distance. He would in turn soon fulfill his promise to be with them for the rest of their lives and into eternity.
Matthew 28:20b

These women represent many of us that are faithful followers -- unknown to the world but known to God.

Mary Magdalene

Day 8- Mary Magdalene had been amongst the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee.
(Matthew 27:56) She had been healed by Jesus at one of his services. What happened to her when Jesus healed her?
Luke 8:1-2

Day 9- To be demon possessed means that a person through sin and disobedience has made room for Satan and his demons (unclean spirits) to take over their life. Whenever this happens the person becomes inflicted and enslaved in some way. We aren't told how they afflicted Mary Magdalene but we can see how another man was affected who was demon possessed.
Matthew 8:28 / Mark 5: 1-5

People stayed clear of demoniacs and they became as isolated as lepers.

Day 10- These demons bound a person in some way so that they could not function as an ordinary person. When Jesus healed a person bound by demons the result was always freedom and a return to normalcy.
Matthew 9:32-33 / Matthew 12:22

Day 11- It is not hard to understand why Mary had loved Jesus so much. She had been healed of not one but seven demons! They had controlled her life and she had been their slave. Those who have been forgiven much will always love much.
Luke 7: 47

Day 12- If you have been someone the world categorizes as the "scum of the earth" then take heart by Mary Magdalene. If Jesus sets you free then you are truly free!
John 8:32

Day 13- This freedom will turn you into the greatest lover of God and men as it did Mary Magdalene. She spent the rest of Christ's life showing her gratitude. How?

1- She ministered to Jesus during his ministry years.
Mark 15: 40-41

2- She ministered to Jesus by her presence at the cross. She publicly stood in support of her Lord that most others now condemned.
John 19:25

3- She showed her gratitude by her presence at the tomb. Even in death she had to be near the Lord.
Matthew 27:61 / Matthew 28:1

Day 14- Mary's love was rewarded. After the Lord's resurrection, He appeared to her first and gave her the most wonderful revelation she could have ever received -- He was alive!
Mark 16:1-9 / John 20:11-16

Day 15- She then became the first witness to the most wonderful news in the world -- then and now.
Mark 16:10 / John 20:17-18

Day 16- Mary Magdalene came to genuine repentance and faith in Christ because of God's kindness and grace.
Romans 2:4 / Ephesians 1:7 / Ephesians 2:4-9

Her gratitude knew no bounds. She had been forgiven of so much and love now poured from her freed heart.

In truth we are all like Mary Magdalene. Our sin and bondage may be different but we too have been forgiven much. Are our days spent poured out in love for Jesus?

Nicodemus -- Born From Above

Day 17- At a time when all the Jewish leadership plotted to put Jesus to death, there was one man among them who was "open" to this unusual teacher from Galilee. His name was Nicodemus. Who was this man?
John 3:1

Under the cover of night Nicodemus came to Jesus anonymously. As a member of the Sanhedrin his life stood as an example to others. He wanted to make sure what this Rabbi taught was true. At the same time he was seeking light in his own darkness. There was something missing in his religious life of legalism. He had heard and even watched Jesus perform miracles. What had he concluded so far about Jesus?
John 3:2

Day 18- We might be doubtful of words spoken (anyone can do that) but miraculous deeds that back up those words is quite another. In the end it is always what we do (rather than what we say) that will draw others to God.
John 5:36 / Matthew 5:16 / 1 Peter 2:12

Day 19- We do not know if Nicodemus had planned to say more to Jesus after John 3:2 but Jesus came straight to the point with him.
John 3:3

Did these words, "You must be born again" spark a memory in Nicodemus? They should have. For as a student of the Old Testament they should have brought to mind the prophetic yearning in Ezekiel and King David's yearning for a new heart.
Psalm 51:10 / Ezekiel 36:26-27

Day 20- As a spiritual leader, Nicodemus was not very perceptive. He looked at things only in the physical realm and returned Jesus a question.
John 3:4

Jesus' answer to his "how" question was that the Holy Spirit would be within a heart doing his free work of grace.
John 3: 5-8

Day 21- Still puzzled Nicodemus asks again "how can this be"? (John 3:9) To this Jesus gives one of the greatest answers ever written.
John 3: 10-21

Let's break these verses down so that we can understand what Nicodemus was left thinking about.

First, Jesus gives a rebuke. If we hear and see truth but refuse to accept and act on it then we cannot progress in the spiritual life.
John 3: 10-12

In the next verse Jesus gives a clear statement about where He came from.
John 3:13

Jesus then gives a prophecy about himself reminding Nicodemus of a similar Old Testament condition for salvation.
John 3:14 / Numbers 21:4-9

Jesus then tells us what will happen if we believe in him.
John 3: 15-18a
Can you find four different things? Notice the promise of eternal life is mentioned twice.

What happens if a person WON'T believe in Jesus?
John 3:18b

Day 22 - Finally Jesus lays out what is happening in regards to man plain and simple. He says, "This is the verdict" or "this is the condemnation". A verdict comes from the findings of a jury (in this case the jury of Heaven) on issues of fact submitted to it for a decision.

Why do men reject Jesus Christ (the light of the world)?
John 3:19

Why will men refuse to come to Jesus (the light)?
John 3:20

What is the condition that brings men to Jesus (the light)?
John 3: 21a

Once a man comes to Jesus and begins walking in the light what will be evident to the person and all that witness his or her life?
John 3:21b

With those words still ringing in Nicodemus's ears Jesus leaves him.

Day 23- We next encounter Nicodemus at a Sanhedrin meeting. The leadership had tried to set a trap to condemn Jesus. After the Pharisees spoke contemptuously that no intellectual from their ranks had believed in Jesus it was time to speak up.
John 7: 45-52

Nicodemus appealed to their humanity, common decency and justice. But they were not open to reason. At this point we would have liked to see Nicodemus step out in courage and conviction but his conversion was not yet complete.

Day 24- When the Sanhedrin had their mock trial for Jesus we don't know if Nicodemus was absent, if he was there speaking quietly on a personal level to other members or if he was just silent. We do know that Jesus' words had begun a change in his soul that was brought to completion at the cross. Nicodemus -- now a disciple -- along with Joseph of Arimathea (another secret disciple) made their confession of Jesus by a final act of love.
John 19: 38-42

Joseph of Arimathea

Day 25- We'll look at one more man that was drawn to the cross called Joseph. He is reported in all four of the gospels but little is known about him. In these verses there are five things we learn about him.
Luke 23: 50-51

Being a member of "the council" meant being a member of the Sanhedrin (the supreme judicial and ecclesiastical council for the Jewish people). Could he and Nicodemus have intervened on behalf of Jesus at the trial? As it was a mock trial it was quite probable that Caiaphas hand picked a selected number to be present leaving these two suspect men out -- although we don't know that for sure.

Day 26- As a devote Jew, Joseph was looking for the hope of the Messiah. But like Nicodemus, as one of the Jewish leaders, he had to be sure about Jesus and his teaching before he could publicly proclaim his support. What did he become?
John 19:38

Yes, he wanted to be sure but he also feared his colleagues who were out to kill Jesus. He would be aligning himself with a condemned man and as such might be condemned himself. Joseph had not been ready for that.

Day 27- But the events at Calvary had stirred Joseph's heart and his will to action. He went to Pilate to ask for the Lord's body and Mark records HOW he did it.
Mark 15:43

Then, as we read in John 19: 38-42 he and Nicodemus carefully prepared the Lord's body (at great expense) and laid him in Joseph's own tomb. What a fantastic picture we have of two men from the Sanhedrin who had been drawn to the crucified Christ and had become his disciples.

Day 28- The only sad tale of Joseph is that he gave Jesus a tomb when he was dead but was silent when he was alive. Christ's death broke his heart by love and his final actions showed that Jesus' words were already coming true.
John 12:32

Final Note: It could well have been that it was Joseph who gave the gospel writers all the information about the trial because none of the disciples were there.

Next Study: MPGC#22

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