No Fear

And the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Fear not: for I know that you seek Jesus,
who was crucified.’ –
Matthew 28:5


     The Gospels paint an exquisite picture of what transpired on that first Sunday morning after Jesus was crucified. The painting begins to emerge in our minds as Mark begins the narrative. –

And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came to the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, “Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulcher for us?” (Mark 16:1-3).

      Apparently the women were unaware that soldiers had been appointed to guard the tomb (Matthew 27: 62-66) who certainly would not have permitted the women any entrance into the sepulcher.
      As the women were on their way to the tomb, Jesus’ disciple Matthew describes what happened next. –

And behold, there was a great earthquake…(Matthew 28:2).

      There was an earthquake on the day that Jesus was crucified (Matthew 27:51) and this second earthquake may have been a perfectly timed aftershock. The women must have been startled by the sudden rumbling under their feet and had to stop momentarily until the ground ceased from shaking. In the meantime, we are told that –

…the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightening, and his raiment was as snow; and for fear of him the keepers (guards) did shake, and became as dead men.
      In other words, they passed out.

      The women approached the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed (Mark 16:4, Luke 24:2) and witnessed that first heavenly messenger who said to them; - "Fear not: for I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified, He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come see the place where the Lord lay" (Matthew 28:1-6).

      The Greek word for fear in verse five is phobeo, which can be associated with a fear that is generated by witnessing a startling occurrence, which is the meaning that is conveyed by the context of this passage; but does not convey the terror that is associated with the fear the guards experienced. That word in verse four is phobos which describes the soldiers’ fear of the angelic being. The women who were religious did not have the experience of terror in the comforting presence of one of God’s holy messengers, thus the word phobos is not used to describe their experience. Let’s keep this in mind as we continue with the narrative.
      Luke informs us of what happened next. –

And they entered in, and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they (the women) were afraid, and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

      The word for afraid is emphobos which indicates a fear that is brought on suddenly. The women were obviously startled and yet did not flee in terror, but bowed themselves in reverence knowing that they were in the presence of angels.
      The angels, must have been smiling heartily with joy as they spoke.

He is not here, but is risen; remember how He spoke to you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”

      And we are told that the women remembered His words (verse 8).

      The fear (phobeo) that they experienced before the first heavenly messenger that greeted them at the open door of the tomb, and the sudden fear (emphobos) they felt when they were instantly encompassed by two angels inside the sepulcher, was gradually being replaced by another type of fear as they slowly began to realize that Jesus’ prophecy had been miraculously fulfilled.
      Matthew continues describing the event. –

And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy; and did run to bring His disciples word (verse 8).

      The Greek word for fear that appears in this verse, is phobos, the same word that is used to describe the guard’s abject terror – but this word can also mean a “reverence for one’s husband.” The context of the verse directs us to the proper intended usage of the word. Their beloved Bridegroom has risen from the dead! The Lord they loved was alive! The word fear in this verse is painted with golden awe and thus this fear became a welcomed companion as it raced along with them hand in hand with their joy.

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “All hail!...” (verse 9).

      In the Greek, the word hail is chariro (khah’-ee-ro), which can be used as a greeting, but the word actually means, rejoice!

And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there shall they see Me.”

      The word “afraid” in this verse is actually the Greek word phobeo, which as we have seen was the word that was used to describe the women’s reaction to seeing the first angel at the door of the tomb. It can be also used to mean an actual fear of something. We see the women worshipping at Jesus’ feet and we know that they are not experiencing any fear, other than a great reverence at the moment. But here Jesus is telling them to go and do something. They need to tell what they have seen and experienced, and Jesus is encouraging them not to allow any fear to hinder their testimony, but to proclaim it boldly.

      Today we can put ourselves at the feet of the risen Savior and heed the same advice. Looking up into the face of resurrected victory, we realize we don’t have to be afraid of anything, which is the point of the story.

      When you experience an earthquake in this life, and the fear it injects into your being threatens to possess you, look back over the painting in words we have been viewing and remember that image of an empty tomb. There is hope for every situation that befalls us in this life because this life is not the entire picture. Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid,” and those words of His can be applied to every situation in life, especially when we are making a journey to visit a tomb. Jesus has proven by His resurrection there is life after death and a future that waits for us beyond this world.
      And so my dear friends, it’s time for all of us to remove the word “fear,” from our vocabularies; the version of it that holds all those elements that cause us terror, and replace it with the awe that is compatible with our joy as we run to tell someone why our fear of death is gone.

Copyright 2014 by H.D. Shively

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