Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that He had said these things to her. John 20:11-18 Sunday of the 2nd Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
The first person to see Jesus after He rose from the dead was Mary Magdalene. In all of the Gospel accounts, she is among the first to go to the empty tomb. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Mary goes to the tomb in the company of one or two other women. In the Gospel of John, she goes alone. In all four Gospels, she witnesses the tomb empty of the Body of Jesus. In the Gospel of John, she encounters Jesus at the tomb, but supposes that He is a gardener. She doesn’t immediately recognize Him. He then reveals Himself to her. He reveals Himself to Mary Magdalene in the other Gospels as well. It is Mary who is the first to run to tell the disciples that she has seen the Lord, risen from the dead. Mary Magdalene has the title “equal to the Apostles,” because an apostle spreads the good news, and Mary was the “apostle to the Apostles”, she was the one who shared the good news of the Resurrection with them.
So, who was Mary Magdalene? It is probably first appropriate to answer who she wasn’t. Mary Magdalene was not the sister of Martha and Lazarus. She was also not the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair at the home of Mary and Martha.
We read about Mary Magdalene first in the Gospel of Luke, 8:1-3: “Soon afterward Jesus went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Hero’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.”
Mary Magdalene was present at the cross of Christ, as we read in the Gospel of Matthew 27:55-56: “There were also many women there, looking on from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him; among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.”
And Mary was present at the tomb when it was sealed: “And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linin shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulcher.” (Matthew 27:59-61)
Little is known about her life after the Resurrection, though it is believed that she went to Ephesus and worked with St. John the Theologian to establish the church there.
Mary Magdalene shows another instance of countless examples of people who had some significant life challenges whom Christ chose to have important roles in spreading His message of salvation. Once demon-possessed, she is now considered “equal to the Apostles.” There are lots of examples of people whom God has allowed to have significant challenges—blind men, paralytics, Lazarus (whom he allowed to die) and these afflictions were overcome by the power of God and used for His glory.
Every person carries a cross, and every person’s cross can be used to further the message of the Gospel. I’m reminded of the healing of a blind man in John 9: 1-3: “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.’ God doesn’t cause our misfortunes. But our misfortunes can be turned into a positive witness for Him. And Mary Magdalene is another great example of that.
Seeing two angels inside the tomb, Mary was struck with wonder and not recognizing Christ, she asked Him supposing Him to be the garner: “Where, O Lord, have you laid the body of my Jesus?” But recognizing by His call that He was the Savior, she heard: Touch me not; tell the brethren I go to My Father. (Exapostelarion of the 8th Eothinon, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press).
Glorify God in your challenges today!
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