As Jesus was dying there were many people around him. Two of them we see in all accounts were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph. But who were these two women?
Mary Magdalene is spoken of in several places, and she played an important role after Jesus resurrection. She was a convert to Christianity after she had been exorcised of seven demons. (Luke 8:2) Contrary to popular opinion, nowhere in the bible does it ever say or even hint that she was a prostitute as she is often portrayed. I do not know how this myth arose as there is no scriptural basis for this common assertion. She became one of several women who had been healed of infirmities or demon possession, and travelled about with Jesus and the disciples attending to their needs from their own means.
As for the second Mary standing afar and watching the Lord die, her identity is a little more of a mystery. The bible in this section says she was the mother of James and Joseph. Two people were named James who are referred to in the early church. These two early disciples were James the brother of John and sons of Zebedee, and James the elder who wrote the book of James in the New Testament. It is clear this woman was not the mother of the two brothers for their mother, the wife of Zebedee also stood with the two Mary’s watching the Lord die.
There is another place where the mother of James and Joseph is mentioned. When Jesus returned to his own country and among the people he grew up with, they were amazed at the works and teachings he was giving. They said of him, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?” (Matthew 13:53-56) This second Mary looking on from afar at the Lord dying was Mary the mother of Jesus.
Jesus is often portrayed as an only child, but here we see that he had at least four brothers and two or more sisters, for the writer refers to “sisters” being plural. Joseph and Mary had other children after Jesus birth. Jesus was of course the Son of God, Mary being the vessel used for his birth. But Joseph was the father of the others who thus were half brothers and sisters to the Lord in the flesh. Paul spoke of James in this way, “James, the Lord’s brother.” (Galatians 1:19) Matthew also wrote of an event saying, “…his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.” (Matthew 12:46)
From these and other scriptures it is clear that Jesus was not an only child, but he had a family here on earth. Also we can now see that this Mary standing afar and watching him die was his earthly mother. One cannot begin to imagine her anguish as a mother, but she too would receive great joy when he arose.