Each Gospel mentions a handful of people at the cross. Luke is the most general in mentioning “all His [i.e., Jesus’] acquaintances and the women who had followed Him from Galilee” (Luke 23:49). Matthew and Mark mention many women as well (Matt 27:55; Mark 15:40).
As for Luke’s acquaintances, the individuals who were present and are easy to identify were Mary Magdalene (Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25), Mary the mother of James and Joseph (Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40), Mary the mother of Jesus (John 19:25), and John (John 19:26; “the disciple whom He loved”).
Other individuals that are not so easy to identify are those who may be mentioned by different names in different Gospels. These names or designations are the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matt 27:56), Salome (Mark 15:40), Jesus’ mother’s sister (John 19:25), and Mary the wife of Clopas (John 19:25). The identity of all the above may hinge somewhat on whether the grammar of John 19:25 identifies one or two women in the phrase “his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas.”
From that phrase, if there are two women (Jesus’ mother’s sister and Mary the wife of Clopas), then it is possible that Jesus’ mother’s sister is Salome and the mother of the sons of Zebedee, which would mean that James and John were Jesus’ cousins.
If there is one woman (Jesus’ mother’s sister who is Mary the wife of Clopas), then it is possible that Salome is still the mother of the sons of Zebedee but not the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus, which would mean that James and John were not Jesus’ cousins.
The grammar of John 19:25 seems to indicate that Jesus’ mother’s sister is the same as Mary the wife of Clopas in that the word “and” precedes and follows “his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas” but does not lie between “sister” and “Mary,” which would indicate two different women. This conclusion would mean that James and John were not Jesus’ cousins.
To be precise, one man and six to eight women at the cross are identified as witnesses to the crucifixion of Christ. Many other women were mentioned as well. May we follow their example and stay close to Christ even when we share in the worst of His sufferings.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.