Given that the Easter Vigil is the most important service not only for Easter but in the entire liturgical year we will here use the Vigil readings. However, these resurrection thoughts certainly apply for Easter morning as well.
Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 114; Matthew 28:1-10
“If you stand straight, do not fear a crooked shadow.” – Chinese Proverb
A major theme in this resurrection account from Matthew is “fear.” The two women go to the grave early in the morning and encounter a lightening flash of an angel and an empty tomb. They fear. Even the guards are paralyzed by fear. The angel says to the women “Do not be afraid.” They depart from the site “with fear and great joy.” It is interesting that fear and joy can live together, shadow each other. The women then meet Jesus and he says to them “Do not be afraid.” Throughout the bible hundreds of times we hear the line “do not be afraid” usually spoken by angels. Often there is much to fear in life. The baby is sick. What if she dies? I am out of work. My children are hungry. My wife has gone to war. I am scared. I am gay and therefore unjustly persecuted. What do I have to live for? We fear because we do not know where we are going or what is going to happen. Crooked shadows pointing to tomorrow’s unknowns scare us. But the angel and Jesus give us reason not to fear. They tell us that Jesus goes ahead of us (Matthew 28:7 & 10). Jesus goes where we have never gone before, where we could not even imagine going, and awaits us there. And he calls us also to be there for each other. When Mother Teresa went into the dark slums of Calcutta she was afraid. But in the face of the starving poor she saw Jesus. He was there already waiting for her. We can stand straight in our faith that Jesus is waiting for us in an unknown place and we can stand straight for each other. We do not have to know where we are going. However, believing in the resurrection does not mean that we be passive and do nothing and just wait for Jesus. Because of Jesus, because of his empowerment, we also can stand up for each other. So let us go together into the unknown. The first thing Jesus says to the women is rejoice. (See Greek below) Joy replaces fear.
Jesus meets the women and our translations say he said “Greetings.” (Matthew 28:9) However, the Greek word is second person plural imperative and literally means “Rejoice.” In Greek it was the normal way in those days of saying “Hello.”
Have fear no longer.
Scary unknown may lurk dark.
But God shines yet yonder.