At that time, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Today on the Orthodox calendar this is called the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women and the Gospel posted above is the one read at Divine Liturgy on this Sunday. This is a rich Gospel passage and we have much to learn from it.
1. Joseph of Arimathea was chosen to bury the body of Jesus so it would not look like the Apostles took the body down and hid it so they could say he had been risen.
2. The women, whose faith was strong, much stronger than the men who were all hiding, was imperfect because they went to the Tomb to prepare his body for corruption.
3. There is a spiritual significance to the tomb where no one had been laid before. Christ death was like that of no other person. A death without corruption, a death leading to victory over the grave itself.
4. The tomb fulfills the image of His birth in the cave (see Luke 2:7)
But the two most striking things to learn from this Gospel passage today has to do with the women and with Peter.
The women were going to the tomb to prepare his body. The men were in hiding so the task fell to the women. The women were the first ones to witness the resurrection! Sin came into the world through the actions of a woman (Eve). Christ came into the world through a woman (Mary) now the resurrection will be announced to the world from the lips of women! This shows that order has been restored to the world. That which had been broken through sin has been restored.
No Peter is another story all together. Peter denied Christ 3 times. Peter was filled with shame and guilt. As St. Theophylact put it, “Peter would have said of himself, ‘I denied the Lord, and therefore I am no longer His disciple.'” The angels command to go and tell his disciples and Peter shows that Peter has been forgiven. We are all forgiven!
The stone has been rolled away from tomb not so Jesus could rise from the dead but so the women, and us, could look into the tomb and see that He has risen from the dead. There are no obstacles between us and seeing the risen Lord. All we have to do is look and we will see Him.