IN those days, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the Kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if He were already dead, and summoning the centurion, Pilate asked him whether Jesus had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that He was dead, Pilate granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint the body of Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, Who was crucified. He has been raised, He is not here. Look, there is the place they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see Him, just as He told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Christ is risen!
On the third Sunday of Pascha we remember the first people who learned of Christ's resurrection - the holy myrrh-bearing women. Their love for their Lord was so strong that they did not completely abandon Him in the worst hour of His life. While most of the disciples, who were all men, ran away, the women, even though standing afar off, witnessed Christ's crucifixion. And the women were there when a prominent member of the Jewish Council went to Pilate, risking his career as well as possibly his life, Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph was a secret follower of Christ. When all hope seemed to be lost (their Teacher was dead after all), he bravely went to Pilate asking for the body of Jesus to give Him an honorable burial.
What's so risky about asking permission to do a funeral? Crucifixion was a capital punishment. The bodies of the criminals were given back very rarely, and then only to the family members. Pilate, however, realized that Jesus was delivered to be crucified out of Pharisaical envy, so very likely that's the reason why he allowed Joseph to take the body.
Why does Evangelist Mark mention that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid? Joseph did not bury Jesus in a cemetery, but in a cave in a garden. By saying that both Maries saw where the body was laid, Saint Mark implies that they knew where they had to return in order to anoint the body of Jesus. They didn't just go to some random cave, but to the exact cave where Joseph brought Jesus.
The women bought spices to anoint the body of Jesus, as was the custom to do for the funeral. The cave was not a permanent place of burial. There were two huge obstacles in their way - Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb (even though Saint Mark does not mention it, but we know it for a fact from other Gospel accounts), and the stone that was rolled against the door of the tomb. This mission the women were on was set up to fail almost from the beginning...yet, they still went.
When they arrived to the tomb, the stone was rolled away, and the guards were missing (from other Gospel accounts we know that there was an earthquake and the mighty Roman soldiers fainted from fear). Inside the tomb, the women encounter a young man (an angel), who announced to them that Christ is risen! "He is not here." He even invited them to check out the place were they laid Him.
And then the angel gave the women a very important task - he asked them to be the first apostles, the first preachers of the Good News that Christ is risen! So, the myrrh-bearing women became the apostles to the apostles. They were to tell His disciples and Peter that Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee, just like He told them. Recall that before His suffering and crucifixion, Jesus foretold His disciples at least three times (!!!) exactly what will happen to Him, meaning the arrest, the beating and scourging, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and their rendezvous in Galilee. All of this Jesus told them way ahead of time, but in times of panic and fear, they forgot.
Why did the angel single out Peter? It wasn't because he was special and the leader of the apostles (he was, or rather would be very soon). Peter is singled out because he denied Christ most emphatically, with curses and oaths, while others "simply" ran away. So, effectively, Peter lost his spot as a disciple, he needed to regain it, which he would do when he encounters Jesus, Who will question Peter three times (just like he denied Jesus three times) whether he loves Him.
Finally, the women ran away from the tomb in terror and amazement, they were rejoicing, yet scared out of their life, most likely. Saint Mark notes that they said nothing to anyone because they were scared. Eventually, very soon, they will tell the other disciples, and Peter and John would run to the tomb to check it out on their own.
As we can see, women showed an unbelievable resilience, at a time in history when women were definitely considered socially inferior to men. They did not hide behind locked doors, like the men did, rather they did things that seemed illogical at first (like going to a tomb with guard and a large stone in their way) because it felt like the right thing to do. It's very hard to argue with women's intuition :)
Yours in the risen Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest
29 Weaver Street
Little Falls, NJ 07424
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