After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 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.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:1-10
What a beautiful week celebrating our Savior’s gift to us! We remember the pain, the desperation, the darkness of Friday as our Lamb shed his blood for us. Then came Saturday, the day when all seemed lost and hopeless, the day of silence as we wondered what God could possibly be doing, even how we could have been so wrong about Jesus. On Sunday the grave lost its sting, Jesus overcame the chains that bound him, victory was won! Oh, what a Savior!
As I reflected on the resurrection, I found this little phrase in Matthew 28:9 that captured my heart: the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy. What a response to the news of the empty tomb!
Can you imagine what the women had been through in the previous days? They had spent nearly three years with Jesus, following his ministry. They had been witness to his miracles, to his teachings that went against so many of the traditions of the religious leaders. Everything they saw, everything they heard, solidified the reality that this truly was the promised Messiah.
And now he was dead, their hopes crushed.
I’m sure that they had spent their Saturday discussing the situation. If Jesus was who he said he was, why was he now dead? Did we misunderstand all of the signs we thought were from God? Have we been fooled by the greatest imposter of all times?
And yet, I’m certain they were still convinced of all they had seen and heard. Saturday had to be confusing as they tried to piece together all they had seen and heard and reconcile it with the reality of Christ’s crucifixion.
And then came Sunday.
Perhaps it was finally beginning to make sense. Was it really possible that Jesus was alive? If he had the power to resurrect Lazarus from the dead, could he possibly have power over his own death? Could it be that death was all part of God’s greater plan?
Can’t you hear the women as they left the tomb that day?
Wonder and awe. Could he truly be alive? Could we be eyewitnesses to the greatest event in the history of the world? Could we see the fulfillment of all of the prophecies ever told?
Fear and dread. Did someone steal his body? Could this be the end of everything, every hope we ever had in him?
My heart resonates with the women at the tomb that morning. As I look back over my life, as I see the mighty work he has done in my life, I find myself rejoicing. I often collapse in tears of wonder that my Savior has found me worthy, has chosen me to be a vessel for him. I am overwhelmed with joy as I review God’s blessings and his faithfulness.
And yet, I am often still gripped by fear. I know what he has told me, the dreams that he has planted in my heart. I know that he is faithful, that his promises to me will be fulfilled. And yet, they lie dead and buried. I’ve watched those dreams and promises die in my mind thousands of times.
Then, a glimmer of hope. Could it possibly be that the story isn’t over, that nothing is ever dead when God is involved?
I vacillate between fear and joy. I cling to hope because my Savior is faithful and cannot lie. And yet, in my human condition, I cannot comprehend how there could ever be more.
Isn’t that the story of the walk of faith? Can’t you imagine Peter as he stepped out of the boat. I am certain that he was overwhelmed with excitement. And yet, he was also consumed by fear.
What about Elijah as he stared down 400 of Ahab’s prophets on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18)? He knew he had his orders from God. He knew God would show up. He knew he was about to experience the might of Jehovah himself. And yet, we know that Elijah often cowered in fear when it came to Ahab. We know that he argued with God about being sent before the king who had ordered his death.
Think about Moses as he was called from the burning bush. We know he froze, experienced that moment of fear where he argued with God about why he was not able. And yet, there had to be a sense of excitement that God would consider him worthy. Think about him as he stared down the Red Sea, all of the Israelites watching and waiting for their fearless leader. Fear and joy, the Red Sea in front and the Egyptians behind.
Sometimes I get so upset with myself for doubting, for wondering if God will really come through. And yet, here we see that even the women standing at the empty tomb, eye witnesses to the most amazing events in all of history, walked away from the filled with joy and fear.
Somehow knowing that the women that day experienced the same emotions I do is comforting. Perhaps as God calls me to step out in faith I will find comfort in knowing that it is normal to be filled with fear, as long as it doesn’t prevent me from walking forward in faith. Perhaps God wants us to let our joy be slightly tempered by some fear. Perhaps it is just part of the human experience.
Thank you, Lord, that the women stood at the tomb and experienced very human emotions. Thank you that I don’t have to hide my fear from you, but that instead I can be honest about my fear and trepidation. Thank you that even after experiencing your faithfulness, even after walking with you for years, even after hearing your voice so clearly, you understand that fear happens. And, thank you that ultimately we know that you will triumph!
What does it all mean?
My thoughts jumped to the many times God has called me to walk into the unknown, to take steps of faith and not sight. I reflected on the joy of hearing my Savior’s voice, of knowing that he is calling me forward. There is an eager sense of anticipation as we wonder what mighty work our Savior has in store for us.
But, along with the joy comes a healthy dose of fear.
If you are like me, you find yourself asking the what if questions. What if I heard him wrong? What if I don’t have the ability to do what God is calling me to? What if God doesn’t come through for me? What if I end up looking like a fool?