What are you afraid of? In the natural world snakes and spiders top the polls for common fears. There are many things we can fear, from claustrophobia to open spaces, from crowds to loneliness, there is a phobia for almost anything. Clowns, bumble bees, storms, heights, the list is endless.
But what really tops our fears are loss of freedom, the unknown, pain, disappointment, misery, loneliness, ridicule, rejection, death and failure. At times it might be more specific – the loss of a particular friend or family member, our own death, the future of our job, the payments on the mortgage.
Fear often drives our behaviour, and not in a positive sense. Peer pressure will force many to engage in activities they think are wrong, for fear of rejection or bullying. A worker will bend the truth at the direction of his boss, for fear of loosing his job. Fear makes us self defensive and protective.
There was no shortage of fear on Good Friday and the days following. The disciples were fearful of what might happen them following Jesus’ death. They faced apparent failure, at least ridicule and rejection, if not outright persecution and death. They were handling deep disappointment, and facing an uncertain future without their teacher and Lord.
Only a small women had the courage to face up to their fear and visit the tomb. They went without hope or expectation. They simply wanted to complete a decent burial which had begun in hamster on Friday afternoon, before the Sabbath stopped them.
Fear continues as the earth trembles and the stone sealing the tomb is moved. The guards begin to fear – for their jobs, or maybe even their lives. Perhaps these dramatic events stirred up even more within them. In fear they flee, and later agree to accept money and support a Concorde story of grace robbery to hide the truth.
The angel speaks to the women and tells them not to fear. Then the risen Jesus says to them, do not be afraid. In wonder and awe they run from the tomb with the message of resurrection.
Our world today is no less fearful than ever before. Terrorist atrocities are occurring frequently, and in more unexpected places. Political and economic instability fuel our fears. Old certainties are eroded, and a new world order is augured in, leaving many fearful and uncertain.
To every situation of fear the risen Jesus speaks, offering hope of overcoming failure, defeat, death. He offers hope of renewal and resurrection where all seems lost. This is not easy hope, and many cannot accept it, or choose not to accept it or believe it.
Carrying and proclaiming the good news of resurrection was not easy for those first disciples. They soon discovered that it led them into living the way of the cross, but they also found that the awe and winder they felt at the truth of the resurrection enabled them to overcome all their fears.
How did 12 peasant fishermen, farmers and tax collectors – 12 humble followers of Jesus multiply to encompass one person in three across the face of the earth? It was through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This was the defining moment where even time itself was divided into BC and AD. No other single event has had such an impact on the world.
It is amazing to think that Jesus never wrote a book, yet there are more books written about him than any other subject in the world. He never composed a song, yet there is more music written about him than any other person in the world. He never painted a picture or carved a sculpture, yet there are more paintings and sculptures of him than of any other human being. He never travelled more than a few miles from his home, yet his followers are to be found in every corner of the globe, in every nation, tribe, country and culture.
All of this happened because the gospel is good news, it brings hope to our fears, it gives us purpose in our lives, it frees us from all that binds us. The stone rolled away from the tomb is symbolic of the stones that Jesus rolls away in our lives, the hurts, the pains, the anger, the bereavement, the sadnesses, and ultimately, the sin. When we trust in Jesus crucified and risen, we find a new purpose in life.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who visited the tomb were worn with grief and sorrow. In an instant they were transformed, sent by the angel to proclaim the resurrection and preach to the disciples. As followers of Jesus, it is our joy, our duty and our privilege to go into the world with the good news, saying, I have seen the Lord. Easter is good news for all people – the poor, those in the margins of society, all who are struggling in any sense, all who need to hear good news, because Easter is about God breaking into this world with hope. Sin and death can do their worst, but they cannot contain him. Jesus is alive, and God’s kingdom is coming on earth as in heaven. We are his witnesses in this village, in this community.