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Jesus' Aunt and
Mary, the Wife of Clopas

Two Unknown Women at the Cross

An excerpt from Jesus and Courageous Women
copyright © 2001 by Elsa Tamez

   I, Lydia,1 seller of purple cloth and leader of the Christian community in Philippi, have noticed a very particular version of the story of the women who remained near the cross of Jesus of Nazareth. I have called your attention to the courage it takes to stay near a crucified person and that the versions of the story differ as to which women stayed at the cross. For me, the most important thing is that they were women and that they give us an example of tremendous courage.

   It is curious that one of the versions of this story mentions Jesusí aunt (Maryís sister) and another Mary, the wife of Clopas. I have never heard anything about these women. They are completely absent from the stories about the life of Jesus of Nazareth.2

   From experience I know that women are generally not included in the stories, except for those credited with some great achievement that is impossible to omit. It doesnít seem strange to me that Jesus would have an aunt who was also part of the movement and who would have come to Jerusalem from Galilee with the other women.

   I would like to have known more about these two women. What, for example, motivated them to participate in Jesusí movement and led them to be so close to their leader, so that even at the moment of his death they followed him. Could it be that the aunt risked her life only to accompany her sister? Or perhaps she and the other Mary, the wife of Clopas, wanted to be in solidarity with Jesus, their leader, as he was condemned to death on the cross.

   The stories are silent concerning the existence of Jesusí aunt; they say absolutely nothing. But then, neither do they say much about Jesusís brothers and sisters, even though one of them, James, became a head of the church in Jerusalem after the resurrection. The stories are silent concerning Mary, the wife of Clopas, but neither do they say much about Clopas. I believe these were flesh and blood women who were very involved in the Jesus movement.

   Like them, there are many women who go unnoticed in everyday life, yet who set examples of struggle and resistance. We have much to learn from these women. It is important to mention them whenever we have the opportunity.

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   1"Lydia" speaks first-hand about her experiences as a follower of Jesus in study book Jesus and Courageous Women. "Lydia" is a fictionalized version of the seller of purple cloth mentioned in Acts 16:14-15: "A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.' And she prevailed upon us."

   In the study book, Lydia describes herself: "I, Lydia, will tell these stories. Iím from Thyatira and live in Philippi. I belong to the movement of Jesus, the Christ. I didnít know Jesus, the founder of this movement, personally. But from the moment I heard about him and his movement in Galilee through Paul and Silas (Acts 16:11-55), I decided to become a part of the Christian communities that were growing outside of Palestine. These communities carried with them the spirit of the movement of Jesus, the man from Galilee. I am a Gentile, converted to Judaism and now to Christianity. My life has changed radically since I began to participate in the Christian communities, which for me are an extension of the movement of Jesus."

   2This is the only place where Jesusí aunt is mentioned (Jn. 19:25). We know nothing about her or the wife of Clopas. A "Cleopas" appears conversing with a companion on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:18), but we donít know if this is the Clopas whose wife is mentioned.


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