“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Most of us know the story of Mary Magdalene and Mary going to the tomb and finding the stone rolled away and Jesus was gone. It is a story told almost every Easter Sunday and rightfully so. In Matthew 28, we hear the first conversation Jesus spoke with the women as they left the tomb after the angel of the Lord spoke. What is interesting is within these brief interactions the women had with the angel, and with Jesus, there is a common statement made to the women at the beginning of each interaction. They were simply told to ‘not fear.’ If we are not careful, we can run past this too fast in an attempt to get to the ‘meat’ of Jesus’ response. However, I dare say this first statement may truly be the most powerful part of the response by both Jesus and the angel.
Put yourself in the sandals of these women to better understand why they might have been afraid. Just a few days before this morning, they watched their beloved Jesus tortured and murdered on the cross. They were probably living in fear and confusion since that time not knowing what would happen next and knowing they themselves may meet the same fate as Jesus. Now, they find the tomb open and the body of their beloved Jesus gone! They don’t know what that means, and now, probably for the first time in their lives, they are face to face with not only an angel but now the risen Jesus! I tend to believe that had this been you or me we would have been afraid too. However, neither Jesus nor the angel seems to try to sympathize with the women. They simply command them not to be afraid.
Fear is a debilitating emotion that can paralyze and even destroy people. The effects of chronic fear are well documented. Here are just a few:
- Leads to physical health issues (cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, decreased fertility, etc.)
- Impairs formation of long-term memory and cause damage to the hippocampus causing a person to be even more fearful all the time.
- Interrupts processes in the brain that allow a person to regulate emotions
- Causes chronic fatigue, clinical depression, and PSTD.
That is quite a list! If you have ever tried to talk to someone who was afraid you know calming them down is not easy to do. It is also true it is one thing to be told ‘not to fear,’ but it is another thing ‘not to fear.’ How does a Christian walk a fear-free life? Here are some truths from scripture that will hopefully help us all walk through this life without fear:
- Remember you are not called to fight fear alone – Romans 8:15 states; “The spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoptions to sonship. And by him, we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” This is a sure promise. God is our Daddy, and as a good Father, he fights our battles for us. Psalm 23 is the one Psalm most Christians have memorized. In verse four it states, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.” Too many times we try to shepherd ourselves, and we usually make a mess of it. Fighting your fears alone will only lead to more fear. In scripture, God promises, he will fight our battles and protect us. This is a truth upon which we can stand.
- Identify what causes your fears and give them to God – Psalm 34:4 – “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” This is pretty clearly stated. There is a request made through seeking God, and that request undoubtedly included a request to be freed from the fears the Psalmist had. God answers his request. How about you and me? Are we afraid of not having enough money to live? Are we afraid of sickness and things such as cancer? Are we afraid of people hurting us emotionally or spiritually or even physically? Whatever our fears are, we need to write them down and read them to the Lord and ask for deliverance from them. God is faithful to bring us out of those things.
- Fight fear with the truth of scripture – There are plenty of verses in the Bible that address fear. These scriptures are truth from God. Write down some of those I’ve already quoted and others such as the ones below. Read them prayerfully and ask God to help this truth penetrate deep into our minds and souls. Fear is usually based upon lies, and when lies come up against Scripture, they begin to crumble and lose their hold on us. John 14:27 tells us we can have the peace of God and untroubled hearts. It is a gift however and one from God.
Jesus’ words to the women after his resurrection stand out as a timeless statement of truth. With God, we do not have to fear anything in this world and any fears we do have God is faithful to cast away from us as long as we give them to Him. If you have fears in your life, isn’t it time to stand on the truth contained in scripture? The Lord will promise to delivers us (Psalm 34:4). Fear not!