Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (verse 10)
Imagine the absolute shock for those involved in that first Resurrection morning. No wonder this passage addresses the issue of fear – indeed four times over.
The dim, pre-dawn light outside Jesus’ tomb would have faintly revealed the heavy stone rolled across its entrance. The grave was shut tight, the Roman seal securing it against any tampering, with a guard of soldiers posted to ensure everything was peacefully calm and uneventful.
But it didn’t stay that way.
The sun would have only just pierced the sky when a violent earthquake suddenly rocked the site, waking any dozing soldiers and setting them alert, hearts pounding, with eyes wide open. Then, beyond anything they could have anticipated, an angelic being fell like lightning from the sky, and went to the tomb, rolling back the stone with ease, and then sitting upon it in triumph. In the process the Roman seal was irretrievably broken, with complete disregard for the soldiers themselves, obliterating any supposed authority and security.
If you had been on guard with the regiment that night, how would you have responded? Probably in exactly the way these soldiers did. They dropped to the ground like dead men! Why? Because they “were so afraid!”
Presumably, the guards shortly came to their senses and ran for their lives. Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary arrived at the tomb and immediately succumbed to their own resurrection-shock. They saw the grave, they found the stone rolled back, and they encountered the angel seated on top.
It was overwhelming. Their response was base fear.
The angel spoke. “Do not be afraid,” he said, clearly speaking to the reality of these women’s emotional state. The message he now brought them birthed a thrill of hope-filled joy in their hearts. But the fear continued. “The women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy.” The shock was intense.
Then Jesus himself appeared. “Greetings,” he said simply, and the women fell at his feet in worship. “Do not be afraid,” were his next words, exactly repeating the angel, for the women were still suffering resurrection-shock, suffused with fear.
It’s the reality of the moment. How could it have been otherwise? Nothing like this had ever occurred in their previous experience, indeed not in the previous experience of all humanity. Death has been overturned. Life has broken through. The Lord, who suffered and died, is victorious. The words of prophecy reverberate: “Behold, I do a new thing!”
May we, too, be shocked afresh with the wonder. We need not respond with fear, but the reality of the resurrection is meant to grip us with equal strength.
May we never recover.
Risen Lord, I stand in awe of your victory. You have triumphed. You have overcome. “O Death, where is your sting?” You, O Lord, have taken that sting away. Praise your name.
May I walk, then, today in the ongoing awareness of your shocking resurrection. May your life fill me. To your glory. Amen.