More Than A Feeling - Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women

This Sunday we commemorate the Myrrh-Bearing Women, their unwavering faithfulness, and their discovery of the open and empty tomb of Christ. But before giving them the attention they are due, I want to talk about me.

*Coughs awkwardly*

I became an Orthodox Christian when I was a senior in high school. In typical post-pubescent fashion, I was a very passionate and excitable person, the sort of guy who liked to “go big or go home” (though not much has changed in this regard).

That really affected the way I saw myself as a newly chrysmated Christian. I wasn’t simply in the Church, I was in it to win it.  I wasn’t about to be just another lukewarm Christian. I was going to burn white-hot, like a firework, no matter how lame others might be.

How obnoxious.

The following year I attended Wheaton College, a Protestant Christian school in Illinois. I immediately began the process of being canonized for my evangelistic prowess, so I would forever be remembered as St. Christian, the Enlightener of the Billy Graham Center. I entered school a fervent defender of Orthodoxy – or perhaps, more accurately, a combative attacker of Protestantism.

And oh my, did I enjoy telling people why they were wrong.

I believed this taste for argument was from God. I thought I was simply “telling the truth in love.” But I realized that the better I got at out-arguing people, the worse I got at making (and keeping) friends.

My intensity put me at direct odds with others, and I didn’t like this. In retrospect, I could have (and should have) stopped being such a self-righteous jerk. But I didn’t. Instead, I chose to abandon my faith.

I chose to desert Christ as I had come to know Him in the Orthodox Church.

Assailed by feelings of loneliness, disappointment by my failure to persuade others to join the Church, I quit. My feelings took charge, and I left my Lord alone. My passion had faded.

I started out burning white-hot. I ended up burning out pretty fast.

The more I consider the Lord’s male disciples in the Scriptures, the more I realize just how much I have in common with them, particularly regarding their relationship with their feelings.

There are many examples in the Gospels where one or more of them display some kind of well-intentioned zeal or belief in the Lord:

James and John: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” (Mk. 10:35)

Luke and Cleopas: “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” (Lk. 24:21)

Peter: “Though all become deserters of you, I will never desert you.” (Matt. 26:33)

Thomas: “Let us also go, that we may die with him!” (Jn. 11:16)

If you think about it, even Judas, the prototypical betrayer of Christ was, at some point, one of Christ’s twelve dearest friends and most ardent followers. Yet he turned on Christ.

Though Judas wasn’t the only one to turn his back on Christ.  When Christ was arrested in the garden, all of the disciples abandoned Him (Matt. 26:56).

The disciples had followed Jesus for three long years. They had seen Him turn water into wine, walk on water, forgive sins, heal the sick, and raise the dead. These men had seen it all. They were with Him every step of the way. They were excited about what He was doing. Some of them were even casting out demons in His Name! After all, He was the Hope of Israel, the One they had been waiting for.

But then He was betrayed, arrested, tried, judged, crucified, killed, and buried, and their fervor, their zeal, their passion and excitement went to the grave with Him.

And He was alone.

Not even Simon bar Jonah (“Simon Johnson,” as Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon puts it), one of Christ’s three closest friends, stood by Him. The Chief Apostle, whom Christ nicknamed Peter or “Rock” (petra), “was the disciple who thrice denied even knowing Jesus, after boasting that he would never do such a thing. Peter, when he felt enthusiastic, imagined himself invincible, but he fell miserably when his enthusiasm waned. He readily mistook a rush of adrenaline for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit – a confusion rather common among individuals with too much adrenaline. Rock? Jesus surely recognized the name’s improbability in Peter’s case. The only time this ‘Rock Johnson’ showed any rocklike quality was on that memorable occasion when attempted to walk on water!”[1]

Just like me, Peter burned white-hot, then burned out pretty fast. 

But then, there were the Myrrh-Bearing Women:

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices, so that they might go and anoint Him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. (Mk. 16:1,2)

These three were part of a group of women that had been following Jesus during His public ministry and providing for Christ and His disciples out of their own pockets. Whatever their feelings may have been, the women were steadfast and were the financial backbone of Christ’s whole operation.

They poured out what they had. They gave to Christ without reservation. Because they loved Him. They loved Him to the end. Indeed, they loved him past the end.

Maybe they didn’t perform miracles like some of the others disciples did. Maybe they didn’t deliver any bold speeches or memorable sermons. Maybe they didn’t burn as white-hot as the male disciples. 

But that’s fine, because they didn’t burn out, either. 

They went to the tomb to care for Christ’s Body, even in the face of doubt and disappointment. Yes, their most beloved Jesus was dead now, but they continued caring for Him because that was just what they did all the time.

They weren’t flashy.  They didn’t command attention.  Yet they were steadfast. 

So, early in the morning, when others are probably still asleep, they go to the tomb of Christ expecting to find it just as they had left it: closed. But when they arrive, they find what they least expected; the tomb was open and empty.

But the male disciples? Where are they?

They are nowhere to be found. But, knowing this emotional bunch, they were probably feeling sorry for themselves for having wasted their last 3 years, bemoaning that they “had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place” (Lk. 24:21).

Their great excitement led to a great desertion. To a great burnout.

I’m afraid that I am far too much like the Lord’s male disciples. I am prone to getting amped up for my faith, boldly confessing Christ, and then falling away when my hopes are dashed or my feelings are hurt. I, too, desert Him when the going gets tough, or even when I simply am no longer “feeling it.”

But the Myrrh-Bearing Women?

They remain steadfast, offering Christ their spices, their prayers, and their love, because their love had stronger roots than adrenaline or excitement. Their love was more than a feeling.

They keep going. They continue ministering to Christ, even though they felt as much confusion, despair, anger, and fear as the Apostles. But they handled their feelings much differently than the Twelve did. Their love for Christ and their commitment to Him keeps them there, even though, by all appearances, Hope was lost forever.

Of course, keeping it cool and following Christ is extremely hard to do because we like our feelings. And we should. Our feelings are good, and they are gifts from God. But we can’t forget that, though feelings can be appropriately enjoyed and even productively used, they cannot be trusted as the foundation upon which we base our faith in Christ. In the words of Dallas Willard, “Feelings are, with a few exceptions, good servants. But they are disastrous masters.”[2]

Our zeal for Christ is good. But it will fade. The male disciples show us this.

And when it fades, we need to be ready. 

Perhaps rather than trying to “get excited about our faith,” perhaps we are simply called to continue to approach Christ’s Body, the Church, even when we don’t feel like it. Perhaps we, too, are simply to become the people who minister to and on behalf of Christ, simply because this is just…what we do. Because this is who we are.

Because we love Him.

Perhaps His Body, the Church, feels a little bit dead to us, too. But maybe if we just hang in there, continue giving ourselves to prayer, fasting, and participation in His Body, we will be surprised to find out that Christ and His Body are very much alive.

What do you think? Has Church ever felt dead to you or someone you know? What are some things that helped you? What are some things that didn’t? How can you follow the example of the Myrrh-Bearers? Comment below!

-Christian Gonzalez

[1] Patrick Henry Reardon, The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ (Thomas Nelson, Nashville: 2012), p. 42.

[2] Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart (NavPress, Colorado Springs: 2002), p. 122. 

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.


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