“The Women Who Followed Jesus from Galilee,” Liahona, Mar. 2022.
In 1883, Helen Mar Whitney wrote that “in the life of Christ, [we can] see the devotion that was shown by woman. She was last to linger at the Cross, and was first at the Sepulchre.”1 Although Sister Whitney did not specify which women she was describing, included among them are the women who followed Christ from Galilee. Luke describes these women, writing that Jesus “went throughout every city and village, preaching … : and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed … , Mary called Magdalene, … 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; emphasis added).
The phrase “many others” implies a group of significant size. Many faithful women were with Christ. These women teach us to build up the kingdom of God and to be present with those who are suffering. They teach us to be brave and to stay close to Christ even when things are hard. Perhaps most importantly, they teach us that through Christ we can leave the darkness and come into the light.
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna,2 and the many other women who followed Christ were not passive; rather, they actively and materially supported Him in His ministry (see Luke 8:2–3). Joanna is specifically mentioned as being married to Herod’s steward, likely meaning that her husband was in a position of means and authority for King Herod Antipas, the ruler in Galilee.
As these women accompanied Christ in Galilee, they likely heard many of His sermons, listened to His parables, and witnessed miracles such as the healing of the woman with an issue of blood and the woman who had had an infirmity for 18 years (see Luke 8:43–48; 13:11–13). They were probably present at the feeding of the 5,000 and many other miracles (see Luke 9:12–17; 14:1–4). As Christ’s Galilean ministry drew to a close, some of these women followed Him on a weeklong journey to Jerusalem (see Matthew 27:55–56).
Consider for a moment the fact that these women came with Christ from Galilee and were present at His Crucifixion. While the scriptures do not specifically speak of their participation in other events of the final week of the Savior’s life, it seems likely that they were present at the triumphal entry, heard His teachings in the temple, and perhaps participated in other events.
Luke records that this group of women was present at Calvary: “All [Christ’s] acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding [the Crucifixion]” (Luke 23:49). Matthew refers to this same group of women, recording that at the cross, “many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children” (Matthew 27:55–56).3
Think of the deep sorrow felt by these women at the cross as they watched the Savior suffer. We all have times when those we love experience tragedy and we are powerless to do anything about it. Although the women at the cross could not change the situation, they remained present with the Savior in His excruciating pain. Their examples show us that one way “to mourn with those that mourn” (Mosiah 18:9) is simply to be with those who suffer.
These women also provide an example of bravery. For them to remain at the cross may have put them in danger, given that they were associated with an individual whom Rome had executed. What Camille Fronk Olson wrote about Mary, the mother of Jesus (who was also present at the cross), is true of these women as well: “Standing by Jesus in what others perceived as a shameful predicament, Mary also communicated that her fear of God was greater than her fear of man. Whatever accusation a bystander could fling at her, Mary’s quiet stance communicates that unlike others of his disciples, she would not deny her association with Jesus.”4
This group of many women not only were present at Christ’s death but also “beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment” (Luke 23:55–56). Given the danger they faced from the Jewish authorities or the Romans, these women could have prepared to quickly leave town. Instead, they prepared spices for Christ’s body (see Luke 24:1). Even though their future was uncertain, they remained close to where Jesus was. Referring to the Saturday after the Crucifixion, Christian author Max Lucado asks: “When it’s Saturday in your life, how do you react? When you are somewhere between yesterday’s tragedy and tomorrow’s triumph, what do you do? Do you leave God—or do you linger near him?”5 These women teach us to stay close to Jesus, even in difficult times.
“Why seek ye the living among the dead?
“He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee” (Luke 24:5–6).
The women “remembered his words,” returned, and “told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest” (Luke 24:8–9).
The Apostle John tells us that Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the resurrected Savior (see John 20:11–17). This is perhaps particularly remarkable when we remember that Luke recorded that earlier in Mary’s life, she had been possessed by “seven devils” (Luke 8:2). Perhaps in this we can see that Mary went from a very challenging circumstance to becoming the first human witness of Christ’s Resurrection. This suggests that when we connect with Jesus Christ, He can help us leave the dark and come to the light. Whatever challenges we have had in the past, we can find joy in coming to Christ now.
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and the other women who followed Christ from Galilee are powerful examples of disciples who assist in building God’s kingdom. They teach us to be present with those who are suffering, to be brave, and to not leave Jesus—even when times are challenging. These women, witnesses of the resurrected Christ, teach us that through Him, we can leave the darkness and come into the light.
In 1893, Latter-day Saint Lu Dalton penned the following lines that capture the strength of these women who followed Jesus Christ:
First to greet lovingly man at his birth,
Last to forsake him when dying,
First to make sunshine around his hearth,
Last to lose heart and cease trying.
Last at the cross of her crucified Lord,
First to behold him when risen,
First to proclaim him to life restored,
Bursting from death’s gloomy prison.7