The Myrrhbearing Women
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen! Go quickly and tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus has risen from the dead!”
Who did the Risen Christ first appear to, and to whom did the angels proclaim the good news about Christ’s resurrection? Were they the twelve apostles? Were they the religious leaders of the day? Were they the well-educated scribes and lawyers? Who were the first to receive the privilege to witness the resurrection, and who then were called to share this good news with others?
They were women, simple Jewish women. Women, who according to Jewish traditions 2000 years ago, were not allowed to speak in public. Women who did not have full access either in the temple or in a synagogue. Women who were not allowed to be witnesses in courts of law. Women, who were considered second class citizens, and whose opinions were often dismissed and considered irrelevant by the social circles of their day.
Jesus chose to first appear to such “lowly” women and he entrusted to them the privilege to go and share the good news of the resurrection with others. In other words, these women became apostles to the chosen apostles. They were the first to discover the resurrection, and the first to preach the good news of the resurrection of Christ!
Why did Christ first appear to these women? Probably because they faithfully stayed by his side, even through his crucifixion. Unlike the twelve disciples, who betrayed, denied, and abandoned him, the women stayed faithful until the very end. They did not abandon him in his hour of need, or fear the threats of the Romans and the Jewish authorities. Thus, Jesus rewarded their faithfulness by first appearing to them.
Along with their faithfulness, however, maybe Christ gave the privilege to lowly women to be the first witnesses of the greatest miracle in the history of the world to set an example for the future Church. Our Lord entrusted the simple and lowly to go out and share the good news with others!
Too often in our Orthodox Church, many believers think that the priest alone has the responsibility to preach the gospel and share the good news of our faith with others. Yet what about each one of you? What responsibility, and I must emphasize privilege, do each of us have in witnessing our faith to others?
Sometimes I hear people say to me, “I wish I could convince my friend to come to church and talk with you. He doesn’t believe in God, but when I tell him to come to Church, he’s not interested. How can I get such people to come to Church and to speak with you?”
Well, today many people are hesitant to come to Church, but initially that’s OK. If someone won’t come to church, then let each one of us take the church to them. Each of us ARE the church, the people of God. And God’s Spirit can speak through each of us and share the good news with them!
Remember, the Church is the Body of Christ, the people of God, and each one of us is an integral member! Each of us, from those who think they are the lowliest, to the clergy and hierarchy, we all make up the church, and thus, we all have the privilege and responsibility to act as the Church and share our joyful and exciting faith with others!
Think about it – when was the last time you told someone – a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker – about the Good News of Jesus Christ? When was the last time we talked excitedly about our Lord’s resurrection? When was the last time each of us invited one of these people to Church?
Remember, the Christ’s victory over death is the greatest news the world has ever heard. Death itself has been defeated. We no longer need to live in fear of death, of sin, of the darkness and evil of the world. Christ is risen, and life is transformed! As Christians, we shouldn’t let a week pass, not even a day, without talking to others about this Good News of our faith!
Every baptized Orthodox Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ in their life, should be ready to imitate the myrrh-bearing women in today’s gospel. By virtue of our baptism, chrismation and participation in the Holy Eucharist, all Orthodox have received the good news, and are called to proclaim the gospel of salvation to others. Once we have received the good news of Christ, and experienced His power, then we are not only capable, but responsible to share this same good news with others.
The first Gospel reading each of us hear at our baptism is the Great Commission, where Christ commands his followers with these words: “All authority on heaven and on earth have been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” From the moment of our baptism we are called to go and be witnesses of our faith. We don’t have to be theologians, nor do we have to study at seminary to tell others about God’s Good News! We can simply begin by telling other people what God means to us, and what he has done in our lives.
Mother Teresa once said that sharing our faith is like “one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.” We are all beggars, and God has given us some food. Just as it would be a sin for someone who found a great amount of food not to share it with others who are starving, in like manner it is a sin for us to discover God, and then not to tell others about him!
St. Peter exhorts us in his epistle, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”
I understand that some of you may be shy or anxious to share your faith with others. Don’t worry! Jesus didn’t say that every person has to explain the most difficult theology of the church. He simply said, “Go quickly and tell others, ‘He is Risen’!” Tell others the good things Christ has done for you personally.
Mother Teresa would counsel her sisters, “Just go and offer God’s love to someone else. Smile at someone. Show them the joy that God has given you in your life. Don’t let anyone ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” In this way, we share the good news of our Lord.
So today, the myrrh-bearing women remind us of our evangelistic responsibility. Let us not simply say “Christos Anesti” on the night of Pascha, and maybe for the following 40 days. Throughout the year, each and every day, let us proclaim loudly and boldly “Christ is Risen!” and let us share all the good news that comes along with this statement to everyone we meet!
Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen! Krishti u Ngjall!