On this the third Sunday after Pascha, we celebrate several people who were connected to the final events in Jesus’ life and were important witnesses to His death and glorious Resurrection from the dead.
First among those commemorated today were the Holy Myrrhbearing women whom we know from the Gospel came very early in the morning to anoint the body of Our Lord. Also commemorated with them is Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who helped bury the body of Our Lord in Joseph’s own tomb. These men and women are commemorated on this Sunday for their faith, courage and devotion to the Lord.
From the first part of the Gospel for today, Mark 15:42-47, we hear about how Joseph asked for the body of Jesus, after all “he was a good and honorable man”, and did not agree with the other members of the Sanhedrin, concerning their decisions and actions regarding the crucifixion and death of Jesus upon the Cross. They were, both Joseph and Nicodemus, actually “secret disciples” of the Lord, who at this juncture decided to forgo ridicule from their fellow members of the Supreme Council begged Pontius Pilate to give them the body of our Lord. Imagine this was at the exact same time that the actual disciples had already scattered fearing retribution. This great emotional feeling of love and belief, no doubt of Joseph and Nicodemus, has been so beautifully expressed in the words of the Vesper hymn which we so tearfully sing while carrying the Holy Plaschanitsa.
This then brings us to the women who following the burial of Our Lord, decided to courageously go to the Tomb and anoint Jesus’s body with oils and spices, which was the custom of the Jews at that time. Their only concern was how would they remove the great stone away from the tomb, but that no longer was their concern, for when they arrived they were greeted by an angel who had told them that Jesus, whom you are looking for, is Risen!
Therefore, the Holy Myrrhbearers were the first to hear of His raising from the dead, the first to hear the good news of the Resurrection that He foretold. This is beautifully written in the 2nd half of the Gospel of Mark 16:1-8. They loved the Lord so much that they risked everything to serve His last earthly needs, for He said while He was yet alive, “The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them” John 15:12-13.
So it was Jesus Himself who set the pattern of love and service, exemplified by the Holy Myrrhbearers, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, when He said, “I am the good shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep” John 10:11. And when He said, “Love one another, just as I love you”. John 15.
So let us celebrate this day, the nameday of our parish women, and remember our charge by the Lord to love and help serve one another as He did for us!