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Don’t be afraid!

April 16, 2017

In the last week I have been forced to face the reality of death and the wonder of life, both at the same time. In this ministry you take many funerals but traumatic deaths and the deaths of people I know still shake me up. The death of three local teenagers just over a week ago, has certainly done that. I have also been privileged to see baby Josiah Rogers only a couple of days after he was born. It has been a week of joy and sadness, all thrown in together and shaken up. This is a time when I need hope. I need to hear, know, and feel inside the reality of Easter.

So let’s go to that story, as told by Matthew: The Sabbath was over, and it was almost daybreak on Sunday when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. Suddenly a strong earthquake struck, and the Lord’s angel came down from heaven. He rolled away the stone and sat on it. The angel looked as bright as lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards shook from fear and fell down, as though they were dead.
 The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was nailed to a cross. He isn’t here! God has raised him to life, just as Jesus said he would. Come, see the place where his body was lying. Now hurry! Tell his disciples that he has been raised to life and is on his way to Galilee. Go there, and you will see him. That is what I came to tell you.”

The women were frightened and yet very happy, as they hurried from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and greeted them. They went near him, held on to his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! Tell my followers to go to Galilee. They will see me there.” (Matthew 28.1-10 (CEV))

What hits me are the words of that angel to the women after he rolled away the stone. “Do not be afraid!”

Don’t be afraid the angel says to me; the bright Easter morning is here. Life is still be so full of fear, pain and darkness but for this moment at least I intend to follow the angel’s advice. I may well slip back into the fear and worry but now is Easter, the morning I have been preparing for throughout Lent. Now I see the gold and the light and the joy. Today, this morning, I know is the ‘morning that death was killed’, it is also the morning that fear was killed and worry too!

Today there is hope – bright and clear. There will be darkness in the future but today is bright. Today reminds me of the Christmas message that the darkness can never overcome the light, no matter how hard it might try. Today there is a glint in my eyes, even tired eyes like these. There is a joy inside that just wants to bubble up and flow over me. Hope for a new born baby and his parents. Hope for bereaved parents and friends. New hope for all!

This is how I imagine those women who visited the empty tomb. There had been so much darkness and horror for them, then they met Jesus again. He was alive, he is alive – they didn’t understand it – I don’t really understand it – but it was real – it is real. Jesus was so real that they cried and they laughed both at the same time. Some things I don’t need to understand, some things are best just enjoyed. Like a good wine, or a wonderful Easter meal. I say thanks to God and to the cook, but I don’t analyse it; no I experience it, I savour it, I enjoy it to the full. To cook a good meal I would need to know what order to cook things and for how long, but they aren’t the questions to ask as the wonder is placed in front of me.

Homer Simpson, from the Simpsons had a catch phrase, “Can’t talk – eating”. That is what it is like with Easter – ‘can’t think – loving, smiling, partying’. Thinking and puzzling come later. They come after I experience the reality once again. That way the theories never get in the way of the truth and the joy of Easter. I can understand all the theology of Easter but if it isn’t here in my heart then it is truly useless. Well it may save someone else but it would be just dust and ashes to me. I know for certain that this body may die but my life will go on, through the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

During Lent and Holy Week I have joined with Jesus in his pain and death, now I join with him in his triumph. Now I just want to bask in it the new life set free in me. It is like when my daughter was born. It was a long and difficult birth for Viv, but when it was over I just wanted to bask in it all. At that moment I didn’t want to know the science of life or of even that of child rearing. I just wanted to smile and let the joy of her new life sink into me. I just wanted to smile and thank God for giving her to Viv and me.

Today is such a day. A day for celebrations. The dark and the bitter will no doubt be a part of my life again. But I won’t be afraid because I have celebrated the conquering of pain and death. Jesus has let me sneak a quick look at the last page of my book and I know the ending. I know that any pain that I feel will be transformed by him, I know that my death will be no death at all but only the door to full life forever.

Now I look back to the words of the angel to those women at the empty tomb. I look again and I hear the angel say, “Now hurry! Tell his disciples that he has been raised to life”. I look back to Jesus’ words to these women and I hear, “Don’t be afraid! Tell my followers to go to Galilee. They will see me there. ” I read and I know that I can’t keep all this to myself, I mustn’t be afraid, I must go and let people know the wonderful news that I have:

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid of the future.

Don’t be afraid of death.

DON’T BE AFRAID!

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2 Comments
  1. Roger Key permalink

    Thank you – Christ is Risen! – We are Risen! Alleluia!

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