Don’t Be Afraid!


Matthew 28:5-7 (New Living Translation)
Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

Don’t be afraid!
Μὴ φοβεῖσθε ὑμεῖς
Me phobeisthe humeis

Grieving the death of their leader, their friend, the one they believed was their savior, the women had been holding mournful vigil outside Jesus’ tomb. Then, suddenly, an earthquake shakes the ground beneath them, the large stone blocking the tomb entrance rolls aside, and a dazzling angel appears in front of them.

Had it been me, I would broken the sound barrier running away. How terrifying!! As the earthquake began, the women must have thought “What now? On top of everything else that has happened, now this? My God, my God, why are you torturing us? What more can we stand?”

And the angel tells them:
Me phobeisthe humeis

“Don’t be afraid!” the angel says.

Don’t be afraid? Seriously? Jesus has been killed as a criminal and his body stuck in a borrowed tomb. The guards have blocked the entrance, and aren’t letting anyone near his corpse to pay honor to him. An earthquake has shaken their very foundations, and now a glowing, terrifying angelic being is there, telling the women to not be afraid? How could they be anything but afraid!?

The Greek word used here for “afraid” is phobeó, together with the negative particle me. Fear not. But phobeó also means to withdraw from, to flee. “Don’t run away!” the angel tells the women, “Don’t take off!” Stick around! You’ve been through hell, you’ve been deep in grief without hope or consolation… but everything is about to change.

Me phobeisthe humeis
“Don’t be afraid.”

In the past few years — and in the past few days — we’ve seen abundant reason for fear in our world. We’ve seen the terrible things that one group of human beings can do to another. We’ve seen reports of anger and pain, of disagreements erupting into violence. It is not irrational to be afraid of losing your job, of getting cancer, of your relationships failing, of political uncertainty, of terrorism.

Please hear me: we should not pretend that we’re not afraid. We should not put on a brave face and lie to ourselves and to others, saying that everything is okay. Because, all too often, it is not.

But… when we allow fear to permeate our souls, when we become ensnared by it, when our actions become so deeply influenced by fear of being harmed… then we start to avoid anything that could be perceived as a risk.

We avoid reaching out.
We avoid making ourselves available.
We avoid being honest and open.
We avoid showing love to others.
We avoid fighting against injustice.
We avoid telling the truth in love.
We avoid caring.

When things are difficult and scary, it is all too easy for us to be stuck in Good Friday’s pain and fear and uncertainty, when it feels like the entire world is falling apart around us.

One more translation of phobeó is “to avoid.” To the women, the angel says, “Don’t avoid this!” The angel says  to us: “Don’t miss this! Don’t avert your eyes and walk away!”

Because we were never — never — meant to stay in Good Friday.

In the midst of the chaos,
God gives us Easter.
Not just two millennia ago.
But today.
And tomorrow.
And the day after that.
And forever.

Easter! A promise that the worst of days is not the end of the story. A promise that God’s faithfulness endures forever. A promise that even when we see no way forward, that God is the way forward.

May this Easter be a blessing to you…
and may you know the peace of Christ
which passes all understanding…
not just this day… but always!


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