SCRIPTURE: Matthew 28:1-10
The Resurrection of Jesus
1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Martin B. Copenhaver shares that “Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth and Matthew’s account of Jesus’ resurrection provide identical words of reassurance, which, when read together, seem to wrap the entire gospel narrative in those words: ‘Do not be afraid.’ According to Luke, those are among the first words the angel Gabriel utters when he approaches Mary with the news that she has found favor with God and will bear a son named Jesus (Luke 1:30). Later, when Mary’s son is born, they are the first words offered to the shepherds in the field: ‘Do not be afraid’ (Luke 2:10). Then, according to Matthew, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary find the tomb of Jesus empty and the earth shakes, presumably shuddering under the awesomeness of what has just happened, an angel uses the same words to reassure them: ‘Do not be afraid’ (v. 5). When the women leave to tell the disciples what had happened, Jesus himself appears before them and, after a brief salutation (‘Greetings!’), his next words are the same: ‘Do not be afraid’ (vv. 9, 10).”
Do not be afraid. I bet there are a lot of people right now who want to feel that way. There is a lot of fear right now because of the pandemic and the unknown. And yes, there are many people telling us not to be too afraid because if we do the right things, we will get through this, we also have a lot of people telling us how much we should be afraid. Somehow, I think there needs to be a “happy medium”. I do not think we should have no fear of this virus as we know it has taken many lives and is very dangerous. I think we need to be responsible through our social distancing, washing our hands, etc. But I do not think we should let the fear grow to the point that it overwhelms us. And that can be hard because there is so much unknown right now. We need to turn to Jesus and his words to his followers, “Do not be afraid.” We need to follow the guidelines of our health organizations. And if we do those things, we too will get to leave our “tombs” and be able to join together again in-person for fellowship, worship, and love.
Can you think of a time that someone said something like “Do not be afraid” to you, and did so with authority, like Jesus does for Mary and the other women or the disciples? Can you think of a time that someone said something like that to you and you believed it?
All-powerful God, you alone know what the future holds. As humans, we like to feel like we are in control, and when we don’t feel that way, we tend to feel fear. Help us to turn back to you. Help us to trust in you. Help us to be responsible to our neighbors in our social distancing and how we work through this time of pandemic. Amen.