Who Was Present at the Cross?

G. Campbell Morgan

Who Was Present at the Cross?

Women at the Crucifixion

We take it then for granted that four women are mentioned as being present at the crucifixion of the Lord.

In John we see two pairs, the unnamed women, the mother of the Lord and her sister; and the two women who are named, Mary of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

  • "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." (John 19:25)

As Luke records, there were many other women, but these stand prominently out, as having been most closely associated with Him.

  • "A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him." (Luke 23:27)
  • "But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things." (Luke 23:49)

Roman Soldiers, Two Criminals, and the Roman Centurion 

All the evangelists speak of the presence of the soldiers, and of the two malefactors crucified one on either side of Jesus.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke draw special attention to the centurion in charge of the carrying out of the crucifixion, and they give some account of how he was impressed in the presence of the Crucified.

  • According to Matthew he said, "Surely he was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:54)
  • According to Mark, "Surely this Man was the Son of God" (Mark 15:39
  • According to Luke, "Surely this was a righteous Man" (Luke 23:47

Let me at once say that there is no contradiction between Matthew and Mark on the one hand, and Luke on the other. It is almost certain that the centurion said both of these things. It is certainly conceivable that as this man watched Jesus on the Cross, he gave utterance to more than one sentence, and we believe therefore that while Matthew and Mark chronicle the statement which impressed them, Luke chronicled what appealed to him, and was in perfect harmony with his whole scheme of teaching. The accounts are rather complementary than contradictory.

Chief Priests and Jewish Leaders

The presence of the chief priests is recorded by Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke making no reference to them. Matthew, Mark, and Luke refer to the scribes, elders, or rulers, comprising the Sanhedrin, while John ignores their presence.

  • "In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him." (Matthew 27:41)
  • "In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. 'He saved others,' they said, 'but he can’t save himself!'" (Mark 15: 31)
  • "The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, 'He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.'” (Luke 23:35)
  • "The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, 'He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.'" (John 19:21)

Multitudes and Disciples

Luke, who wanted to show the universality of the work and relation of Jesus, declares the presence of great multitudes of the people.

  • "A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him." (Luke 23:27)

John alone tells us that the disciples were also there, and he only, moreover, refers to the fact of his own presence, and this in order that he may record Christ's committal of His mother to his care.

  • "When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, 'Woman,here is your son,' and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.' From that time on, this disciple took her into his home." (John 19:26-27)

Standing back and gazing out upon that mixed multitude, we notice the women, the soldiers, the malefactors, the centurion, the chief priests, the members of the Sanhedrin, the group of His own disciples, and in addition to these, the vast multitudes of people from the whole surrounding country. All sorts and conditions of people are gathered to the Cross, representative crowds, the whole scene being a picture and a prophecy of how, through all the centuries, every sort and condition would be gathered to the uplifted Cross of the Son of man.

Adapted from The Crises of the Christ, Book V, Chapter XXIV, by G. Campbell Morgan.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock/kasiawronska


Originally published September 13, 2010.