2 Apr 2018

Easter Monday - The Holy Myrrhbearers

Matthew 28:8-15
So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests* had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, ‘You must say, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.
In Orthodox Christian tradition the Myrrhbearers are the individuals mentioned in the New Testament who were directly involved in the burial or who discovered the empty tomb following the resurrection of Jesus. The term traditionally refers to the women with myrrh who came to the tomb of Christ early in the morning to find it empty. In Western Christianity, the two women at the tomb, Three Mary's or other variants are the terms normally used. Also included are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who took the body of Jesus down from the cross, embalmed it with myrrh and aloes, wrapped it in clean linen, and placed it in a new tomb.

The women followed Jesus during his earthly ministry in Galilee, providing for him and his followers out of their own means (Mark 15:41). They remained faithful to him even during the most dangerous time of his arrest and execution, and not only stood by the cross, but accompanied him to his burial, noticing where the tomb was located. Because of the impending Sabbath, it was necessary for the burial preparations to be brief. Jewish custom at the time dictated that mourners return to the tomb every day for three days. Once the Sabbath had passed, the women returned at the earliest possible moment, bringing myrrh to anoint the body. It was at this point that the Resurrection was revealed to them, and they were commissioned to go and tell the Apostles. They were, in effect, the apostles to the Apostles. For this reason, the myrrh bearing women, especially Mary Magdalene, are sometimes referred to as "Equal to the Apostles."

The Myrrhbearers are traditionally listed as:

  • Mary Magdalene
  • Mary, the mother of James and Joses
  • Mary, the wife of Cleopas
  • Martha of Bethany, Sister of Lazarus
  • Mary of Bethany, Sister of Lazarus
  • Joanna, the wife of Chuza the steward of Herod Antipas
  • Salome, the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee
  • Susanna
  • Joseph of Arimathea
  • Nicodemus

There are also generally accepted to be other Myrrhbearers, whose names are not known.

Myrrhbearers - Josephine Preston Peabody

Three women crept at break of day
A-grope along the shadowy way
Where Joseph's tomb and garden lay.

With blanch of woe each face was white,
As the gray Orient's waxing light
Brought back upon their awe-struck sight

The sixth-day scene of anguish. Fast
The starkly standing cross they passed,
And, breathless, neared the gate at last.

Each on her throbbing bosom bore
A burden of such fragrant store
As never there had lain before.

Spices, the purest, richest, best,
That e'er the musky East possessed,
From Ind to Araby-the-Blest,

Had they with sorrow-riven hearts
Searched all Jerusalem's costliest marts
In quest of,--nards whose pungent arts

Should the dead sepulchre imbue
With vital odors through and through:
'T was all their love had leave to do!

Christ did not need their gifts; and yet
Did either Mary once regret
Her offering? Did Salome fret

Over the unused aloes? Nay!
They counted not as waste, that day,
What they had brought their Lord. The way

Home seemed the path to heaven. They bare,
Thenceforth, about the robes they ware
The clinging perfume everywhere.

So, ministering as erst did these,
Go women forth by twos and threes
(Unmindful of their morning ease),

Through tragic darkness, murk and dim,
Where'er they see the faintest rim,
Of promise,--all for sake of him

Who rose from Joseph's tomb. They hold
It just such joy as those of old,
To tell the tale the Marys told.

Myrrh-bearers still,--at home, abroad,
What paths have holy women trod,
Burdened with votive gifts for God,--

Rare gifts whose chiefest worth was priced
By this one thought, that all sufficed:
Their spices had been bruised for Christ! 


On the third morning
The women came first,
Somehow knowing in their wisdom
As women often do!
Anxious with sorrow,
Walking in the stillness of night
Just Before dawn
And the movement of day.
They came,
Looking for their Lord.
Where they found the stone turned,
Rolled from His tomb.
Their Lord’s body gone,
Taken away!

Two disciples came later, to learn
That this was more than an “idle tale,”
Of women, unbelieved.
When entering the tomb, they too saw
The linens that once wrapped His body,
Lying where he was laid. Then
Returned home in amazement,
Not recalling the scriptures
Or the words of Jesus,
Even the one whom he most loved.

While Mary stayed, weeping outside, to
See angels sitting in the tomb
Where once her Lord’s body lay.
Jesus speaks, calling Mary by name after asking;
“Woman, why do you weep?
Whom do you seek?
The living are not
Among the dead.”
She sees him now, Rabbouni, her teacher,
Moving to embrace him, at last knowing his face and voice.
He says; “Hold me not, for I must ascend to my Father.
Go, and tell my brothers, what you have seen and heard.”

He has Risen, He has Risen!
He has risen from the places of the dead and dying,
He has risen from the solitude of the tomb.
He has Risen, to his Father and our Father.
He has Risen, to his God and our God.
Hallelujah, Christ is Risen!

Let us rise as well, above the noises and distractions of life
to understand that God calls us too to death and resurrection.
Calling us to die immeasurable times;
To die daily in ourselves. 

Let there be a death to our egos and selfishness,
A death to our poverty of spirit and faithlessness,
A death to doubt, hopelessness, and sorrow,
A death to grief where grief can no longer be borne,
A death to intolerance and “the wish to kill,”
A death to violence and war, and fearful hearts,
A death to abused and unloved hearts.
Let there be a death to it all!
Let the illusion and suffering of life be washed away
by the Passion of Christ, creating in us the mind of Christ!
So that we me may join with Him
In many Resurrections,
Let there be Resurrections upon Resurrections
One after another and another,
Let there be Resurrections without end.

Ron Starbuck
Copyright 2010
Wheels Turning Inward
New & Select Poems
Accessed here 

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