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 on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the Body. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.” And they remembered His words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. Luke 24: 1-11 Bright Friday—Feast of the Life-Giving Fountain
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
Continuing our study of the accounts of the Resurrection told in each of the Gospels, we encounter similar passages with subtle differences. Beginning with the first people to encounter the empty tomb, again it is the “women” who discovered the empty tomb. The “women” are not identified in the Gospel of Luke until the whole episode of the Resurrection has been told. In Luke 24:10, we learn that it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother James and the “other women” with them to give the good news to the Apostles. We do not know how many women this was in total, nor do we know if only Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, as is told in the Gospel of John and then told the other women who told the disciples. All of these are possibilities.
The encounter at the tomb takes place at early dawn, again in the context of taking spices to go and anoint the Body of Jesus.
As in the Gospel of Mark, the women find the stone rolled away, though there is no explanation of how this happened. They encounter TWO men rather than the one described in Matthew and Mark. And as in the Gospel of Mark, the women entered the tomb and then encountered the two men. In Matthew, the angel was sitting outside the tomb.
The men ask the women “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (In certain manuscripts the words “He is Risen, He is not here” are recorded.) The men recall for the women the words of Christ, “Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.” Their memory now brought back, they went and told what they had seen to the eleven disciples (with Judas gone from their number, the disciples numbered eleven), and to “all the rest” presumably the other myrrh-bearing women.
The response of the disciples was that their words seemed to be like an “idle tale” and the disciples did not believe the women. Some manuscripts add in a verse which reads “But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home wondering at what had happened.” So, Peter had both faith and uncertainty. He didn’t completely dismiss the claims of the women, in that he ran to the tomb to see for himself, but even he was perplexed by what he had seen and what it meant and he went home uncertain of what to make of what he had seen.
You can see a pattern developing here in the three Gospel accounts we have examined thus far. It is the women who go to the tomb. They exhibit great courage to make the journey. Despite all the foreshadowing Jesus did, telling them He would rise from the dead, when they actually see the empty tomb, the reaction of the women is fear, astonishment, and uncertainty. Even when the women are bold enough to tell the Disciples, the reaction of the Disciples is one of skepticism. There is no reaction of “That is awesome! Just how He said it would happen!” The fact that it had happened just as He said it would happen, still brings doubt and skepticism.
On the positive side, both the women and the disciples are eager to see more. They want to believe. They want more signs. Like Joseph of Arimathea, whom we discussed before, they are “seekers,” who haven’t’ found exactly what they are looking for, and perhaps aren’t even sure what they are looking for, but they are looking. This is the first step of faith—to seek knowledge of something you don’t completely know. These accounts of the Resurrection in many ways reflect our reaction to the Resurrection we have just celebrated. Some of us are still skeptical. Some are still confused. Some are still trying to figure it out. But if you are “still in the game,” still reading, still searching, then you match the women and the Disciples at the Resurrection. They still had a ways to go in their faith. And so do we. They glorified God and are recognized as saints, even though they were once skeptics and seekers. The glory of God and sainthood are still very much on the table for us as well.
The Myrrh-bearing Women, at early dawn drew near to the Tomb of the Giver of Life, and found an Angel sitting on the stone. And speaking to them, he said: “Why do you seek the Living among the dead? Why do you mourn the Incorruptible one, amid corruption? Go, and proclaim it to His Apostles.” (From the Praises of the Resurrection Orthros, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
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