April 1, 2018
By Bishop Grant Hagiya, Los Angeles Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 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 […] Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
In reading this passage anew, I am struck by the place “fear and being afraid” is mentioned in the passage: four times! Either the folks are in fear or being told: “do not be afraid” again and again. Death has that power over us, and fear is a natural reaction. Not much has changed from the time of Jesus to now, for there is widespread fear across our globe, and leaders are manipulating from the standpoint of fear.
Our global ecological crisis, the rise of intolerance and Neo-Nazism, school shootings, nuclear war, and the possibility of violence in our own neighborhood has created an atmosphere of fear. Because our fears are so great, leaders are using it as a manipulation strategy to election and pushing for their own agendas. Instead of “do not be afraid,” we are being told “be very afraid, and I have the answer that will make you safe.”
Unfortunately, no human being can enable our safety, and the only one who we can turn to who has such power is God. This is why this passage is so striking, for God through an angel and Jesus himself says again and again: “Do not be afraid.”
Why are we not to be afraid? Because Jesus has been resurrected, and in such an act, death itself is conquered and new life awaits for all. This is the good news that we have been waiting for. This is the culmination of our story: Christ lives, and because he lives, we will live also!
Notice the line in verse 8: the women leave the tomb “with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples.” Their fear does not leave them, but they are also filled with great joy. None of us can eliminate fear from our lives, but as Christians we also carry with us the great joy that is Jesus Christ.
What remains for us is to run and tell the world why we are filled with great joy. It remains our mission and our hope.
Prayer: O Loving Lord, as we are filled with both fear and great joy, enable us to love despite our fear, and move us to act because of our great joy. Remind us not be to be afraid, and let us share our great joy to the world. Amen.