“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” – words from the classic Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth.”
There was definitely something happening at the tomb where Jesus’ dead body had lain. What it was wasn’t exactly clear to the three women in Mark 16. They came to anoint Jesus’ body for burial, not done on Good Friday because Passover Sabbath was near. However, the stone was already rolled away, and the body of Jesus was not there. They were alarmed. They saw an angel in the form of a young man, who told them, “Do not be alarmed,” or in King James English, “Be not affrighted.” In other words, do not be afraid…fear not! Let not your hearts be troubled. Why? The angel explains: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him” (Mark 16:6b).
Nothing made sense to them. Jesus prophesied He would die and rise again, but they grieved because He died. In their grief, that was all they could think about. They were confused and scared. They fled, they trembled, they were amazed, and they were afraid. They saw Him die a most violent death on Good Friday. In their grief, in their despair, in their sadness that was it. Their beloved Jesus was gone. This was too much for them to handle. They feared God, but not perfectly, for they were afraid.
We are a people who live in fear, and not always a healthy one. Martin Luther teaches us under the First Commandment that “we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary gives as one definition of fear as having “profound reverence and awe especially toward God.” This is the fear God calls us to have, but all too often we live in another fear, which Merriam-Webster defines as “anxious concern” and “reason for alarm.” These two types of fear all too often get in the way of the “profound reverence and awe especially toward God” that He commands us to have. These fears keep us from hearing God’s Word because we give in to our fears, placing our fears over our faith. The women in our text were just as guilty of this as we are today. The angel came with a message from God, but they didn’t hear the Word of the Lord. We don’t. We let our fears get in the way when it comes to hearing what God says to us, even when saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” “Fear not!”
What are you afraid of? What fears keep you, O sinner, from hearing God speak to you through His Word? Is it your financial situation? Are you struggling in paying the bills, finding too much month left at the end of the money? Are you facing problems in your relationships at work or at home? Are you fighting with your spouse or your kids? Do you fear whatever health issues you or a loved one may be facing? Are your fears brought on by the coronavirus pandemic? What fears have kept you out of God’s house, away from hearing His Word?
Whatever your fears are, it is more than high time to give them over to Jesus. Listen to the very words of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” “Be still, and know that I am God.” “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest… and you will find rest for your souls.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Why are these words of Jesus so comforting? He comforts us here because of the words He spoke right before He died on the cross: “It is finished!” Jesus died on the cross to defeat sin, death, hell, and your fears. You do not have a fear so great that Jesus didn’t conquer it! Your Savior says to you, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
What wonderful news this is, all on account of the words He through the angel spoke to the women: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here.” Jesus is risen from the dead! We don’t cling to the old, rugged cross, nor do we remain at the empty tomb because Jesus is no longer there! Where is He? Jesus is in His house, coming to you in His Word. He lives to give you eternal life and victory over your fears through His Word. As we sang on Easter: “He lives to silence all my fears; He lives to wipe away my tears; He lives to calm my troubled heart; He lives all blessings to impart.”
So, fellow redeemed, fear not, for Christ is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA! AMEN!
Mark Schlamann is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Tooele.