This Sunday and the week ahead is that of the Myrrhbearing Women. The significance of these women to the Gospel message cannot be overstated. Their role in Christ’s mission is revolutionary, yet too often overlooked. Perhaps their story is overlooked because it is so revolutionary; it illuminates Christ’s radical message to each one of us, compelling us to a standard of love that is not comfortable or even reasonable for our individualistic, capitalist society. While we might think that Christ’s example of living was possible because he was God, the women around Him were historical people—female people—living in a time and religious culture that gave them no rights, status, or authority.
Theologians maintain that the evangelists included the actual names of some of the myrrhbearers, as proof that the resurrection account was real. At that time, no one would think of women announcing anything of public note. If the story was fabricated, men would have been placed in the account to make it more credible. But on the third day after Christ’s death, the men closest to Him stayed hidden together in a locked room. Because of Sabbath rules, the body of Jesus was quickly entombed and the expected rituals of anointing could not be performed until after the Sabbath day. For this reason, at dawn, the group of women who—contrary to cultural norms—had been Christ’s friends and followers, ventured out to fulfill the burial rituals due to a loved one.
Ordinary women, before sunrise, walking out where both the Roman authorities and their own Jewish community had tortured and executed their innocent friend. Imagine their danger, their vulnerability. Imagine their fear. Imagine their pain and grief.
Their courage and strength is astonishing. Yet, it is in each one of us. It is generated and fueled by incommensurable love: love embodied in Christ and living in us when we follow His example. Driven by love, the myrrhbearers were first to know that Christ is risen, the first to announce the salvation of the world.
In this Paschal time, when our world is fraught with division, distrust, and pandemic exhaustion, we can look to the grieving women drawn by love, hurrying towards a tomb in the grey dawn, only to find light, hope, and unfathomable joy.