Fear And Joy (Easter 2023)
Sunday, April 9th, will be a very special day of worship: we will celebrate Easter– the Resurrection of Jesus. To learn more about our Holy Week activities see our schedule.
“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said...' So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples."
–Matthew 28:5, 8 (emphasis added)
“Afraid yet filled with joy....” Can those exist together, fear and joy?
Later, in verses 16 and 17, the Gospel of Matthew tells us:
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (emphasis added)
“They worshiped him” and some doubted. These are the disciples who walked with Jesus and are seeing him again – alive! How is this possible?
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
- Matthew 28:6-7 NIV (emphasis added)
Fear and Joy. Worship and Doubt. Action and Hesitation. They seem to exist side-by-side in this story. Even more than that, they might even exist (and often do) in the same person.
The way Matthew tells the Good News –and it is truly, amazingly, life-changing good news; the best news ever told– reminds us of a fact of every believer’s life. It is a life where we always go between worship and indecision, teetering between trusting God and being unsure if we can live as if his promises are true.
Our struggle is exactly what we find in the words of a Father who meets Jesus and asks him to heal his child: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Matthew shows us that Jesus always shows up and is present to his followers. When the women, when they are following the angel’s instructions to see where he had been lain – Jesus appears to them and is with them. When the women tell the disciples of Jesus’s command to seek him on the mountain – he appears to them and is with them. Now, all of us, might meet the risen Christ and teach others what he has taught: knowing he is with us, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
There will be times we are filled with fear: and we can also go in joy. There will be times where we doubt: and we can worship the true God. There are times where we are hesitant, and still be empowered to act.
How is this possible? It’s possible because the Resurrection shows us God is with us in Jesus Christ, and he is for humanity. Salvation is open to all who would follow him: however doubt-filled or afraid. Come and follow, come and see, come and celebrate!
Even though the poem is based on a different event after Jesus’s resurrection, Malcolm Guite, a Poet and Priest in the Church of England, describes these Resurrection paradoxes well. His poem, “This Breathless Earth” is full of the tension between fear and joy – hesitation and action, doubt and belief – and describes the great chance to share this good news we all have beautifully:
We bolted every door but even so We couldn’t catch our breath for very fear: Fear of their knocking at the gate below, Fear that they’d find and kill us even here. Though Mary’s tale had quickened all our hearts Each fleeting hope just deepens your despair: The panic grips again, the gasping starts, The drowning, and the coming up for air.
Then suddenly, a different atmosphere, A clarity of light, a strange release, And, all unlooked for, Christ himself was there Love in his eyes and on his lips, our peace. So now we breathe again, sent forth, forgiven, To bring this breathless earth a breath of heaven.
Christ is Risen!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.
See you Sunday.