What does Mark 15:41 mean?
ESV: When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.
NIV: In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
NASB: When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and serve Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.
CSB: In Galilee these women followed him and took care of him. Many other women had come up with him to Jerusalem.
NLT: They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.
KJV: (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.
"Minister" is from the Greek root word diakoneo. It means to serve another, to provide food and other necessities. Jesus' ministry is unusual for the time in that He welcomes women. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna are among the many who travel with Him and support Him financially (Luke 8:1–3). When in Bethany, Jesus often spends time with Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38–42; John 11:1–16, 28–44; 12:1–8).
John is the only male disciple who witnesses the crucifixion, but many of the women stay. Jesus' mother, her sister, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the wife of Clopas stood near Jesus earlier (John 19:25). Mary Magdalene, John's mother Salome, and Mary the wife of Clopas are among the several who watch Him die (Mark 15:40). Mary Magdalene and Mary the wife of Clopas will follow to see where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus bury Jesus (Mark 15:47; John 19:39). Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas, Salome (Mark 16:1), and Joanna (Luke 24:10) will go to the tomb to prepare Jesus' body more thoroughly than Joseph and Nicodemus had time to. And Mary Magdalene will be the first to speak with the resurrected Christ (John 20:11–18).
Jesus also respects and cares for women His Jewish disciples would just as soon ignore. When a woman with an issue of blood dares to touch His robe, He not only heals her, He honors her faith and calls her "Daughter" (Mark 5:25–34). A Syrophoenician woman braves social convention and ethnic prejudice by begging Jesus' help to free her daughter from demons, and Jesus obliges (Mark 7:24–30). And a Samaritan woman, whom no respectable Jew would acknowledge, finds in Jesus a rabbi who will not only talk to her but accept her (John 4:1–45).
At least two women, Mary of Bethany (John 12:1–7) and another unnamed (Mark 14:3–9), anointed Jesus on the days the Jews anointed their Passover lambs. At this moment, the Passover lambs are being slaughtered for the meal that commemorates the Jews' escape from bondage. It is a group of women who watch God's Passover Lamb sacrifice Himself to free them from eternal slavery to sin and darkness (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Mark 15:33–41 is a raw and stark account of Jesus' death. Jesus feels separated from God and abandoned by His friends. The land is covered by darkness. The earth shakes and the tombs open (Matthew 27:52–53). Only too late does the centurion get a glimpse of what he and his men have done. Even the women who supported Jesus during His ministry have moved farther away. But when Jesus breaths His last, the temple veil tears, marking the possibility of our reconciliation with God. Jesus' death is also recorded in Matthew 27:45–56, Luke 23:44–49, and John 19:28–37.
After sham trials, Jesus is taken to the local Roman governor, Pilate. This is the only person in Jerusalem with the legal authority to have Jesus executed. Pilate is not fooled, and he attempts to arrange for Jesus' release. But the ruler's ploys fail, in part because Jesus will not defend Himself, and partly because the mob is intent on His death. Pilate offers a prisoner exchange in Barabbas, and even has Jesus brutally beaten in order to pacify the crowd. Eventually, he caves in and Jesus is crucified. Thanks to His prior abuse, Jesus survives only a few hours on the cross before dying. Jesus is then buried in a tomb belonging to a secret follower among the Jerusalem council.
After being unfairly judged, Jesus will now be unfairly sentenced and cruelly murdered. It's reasonable to say this chapter provides context for everything else contained in the Bible. From Adam and Eve until the last baby born in the millennial kingdom, every person other than Christ is stained with sin. Conscience, law, Jesus' direct leadership, even the indwelling of the Holy Spirit cannot keep us from sinning. Sinless Jesus had to die on the cross, sacrificing Himself in our place, so our sins could be forgiven and we could be reconciled to God. Beneath the violence, darkness, dishonor, and death is the love of God for all mankind (John 3:16). Jesus' crucifixion is also found in Matthew 27, Luke 23, and John 19. The next chapter describes the miracle of His resurrection.
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
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