Matthew 27:45-56 (Part 5) – Steel Magnolias & The Cross

Posted: May 1, 2016 in 40-Gospel of Matthew
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Matthew 27:45-56 (Part 5)

Jesus Dies on the Cross

One of my wife’s favorite movies of all time is “Steel Magnolias”.  I have to admit it is one of my favorites as well. It is unashamed of its Southern-ness and it that very Southern aspect to it that gives the movie much of its profound power. One of the best quotes from the movie is when M’Lynn says,


“I find it amusing. Men are supposed to be made out of steel or something. Drum couldn’t handle it. He left. Jackson too. I just sat there. I just held Shelby’s hand. There was no noise, no tremble, just peace. Oh God! I realize as a woman how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life.”


Southern women! God love ‘em. They are a unique blend of gentility and strength. The post-Civil South from the mid-1860’s right up to say 60 years ago before the South began catching up to the rest of the country economically forged our women with both sense of beauty and grace yet at the same time a sense of strength and ruggedness. It is our women in the South that hold our culture together. They remind us of what is refined, what it chic, but yet they have amazing strength in times of trouble. Our women here in the South are made of layers. Outwardly, they are genteel and cultured and define everything beautiful that is my homeland but beneath the surface there is a wellspring of strength. Quite unique are these Southern women, both black and white, that we love and revere whose qualities that you can find nowhere else but here. God love’ em, the can say bless your heart and you think they have compliment you but really they’ve call you an idiot. Southern women, God love ‘em, that are what make the South a great place to be from. It is this combination of gentility and strength that I think of when I read the last two verses of this passage.


Let re-read this passage, Matthew 27:46-56, one last time before we move on to the next one tomorrow:


45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]


47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”


48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”


50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.


51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.


54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”


55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[d] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.


Notice that Matthew, in closing this verse, makes special mention of women, those of Jesus’ following that were there at the crucifixion. That’s what makes me think of that famous speech near the end of Steel Magnolia after Shelby’s funeral. It seems that the men, the disciples of Jesus, have scattered to the wind, except for John. But it is the women that are here. When M’Lynn in Steel Magnolias says she was there to the bitter end with her daughter, you think of the strength of women who come to together for one another in times of crisis and help each other through it where is men tend to deal with such things without that strength in numbers. Women seem drawn together in times of crisis and pull through even in the face of pain and ugliness. Whereas Luke’s gospel features women prominently within its pages (because of Luke’s position as a physician he had a focus on women, children, and the downtrodden), Matthew’s purpose was different. He was writing to a mainly Jewish audience and was trying to prove to them that Jesus fulfilled all the biblical prophecies of the Messiah – trying to say to them “Hey dudes, Jesus is the real deal! He is the Messiah! So, from Luke, we would expect this statement about the women being present at the cross. From Matthew, it is an unexpected inclusion in the text. It must mean that it was really noticeable to Matthew that the women were present but the men were not. That they were the Steel Magnolias was noticeable to Matthew as he reflected on the events of the crucifixion. He and most of the disciples could not handle the situation. We only hear of the reactions of Peter, John, and Judas. Peter handled it poorly and disappears. We only see John briefly in the courtyard of the trial and then not again til the cross. Judas kills himself. The rest are not mentioned until after the resurrection. But here we have the women of Jesus’ entourage.


We know from Luke that women played a prominent role in Jesus ministry and some even helped finance the costs of ministry (Luke 8:1-3). It was unusual for the times that Jesus would allow women such unprecedented access to the ministry of the Lord. Jesus treated women with dignity and respect. He understood their make up as the nurturers of life, as the well-spring of emotion that makes our lives beautiful, as the wellspring of emotion that helps us deal with bad things in life whereas men attempt to bury things and not deal with them. He treated women with respect because they too were created in the image of God. In an age where women had little rights in society and weren’t even considered reliable witnesses in court, Jesus puts women right in the middle of his ministry. Thus, the early church allowed women greater equality than they would find in the world outside the Christian faith.


So, here they are at the cross. The men can’t handle it. They are gone. The women are here. Together, they are facing the ugliness of the crucifixion. Together, they are facing the hard time. Together, they are letting their emotions show. Their Savior, their Leader, their Master has just died. They are feeling the pain and they are dealing with. But they are present. They are facing the ugliness and not running from it. They are here and Matthew notices. Matthew makes it a special mention. Matthew makes the women of Jesus ministry important. He recognizes their inner strength and beauty standing at the cross when none of Jesus’ other followers would be here.


As we approach Mother’s Day, and as we think of the Christian faith, we thank God for our women in the faith. They are our treasure. They are our beauty. They are our strength. We should revere our Christian women for they are created in the image of God just as we men are. We must celebrate them and encourage them. God created women to be exactly what men are not and vice versa so that we would complement one another. We need the quiet strength of our women. We need their eye for what is beautiful and nice. We need their emotion. We need their passion. The church needs our women. Jesus gave them respect. So should we. They are our steel magnolias. Beauty combined with strength. They are there to lift us up in times of trouble. They are there in times of trouble when others can’t take it. There were there at the cross when no one else would be. Let us demonstrate love and respect for the women of our faith and recognize that they are a necessary part of Jesus’ ministry to the world. They are our steel magnolias!


Amen and Amen.


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