In Matthew 28:5-6, when an angel of the Lord appear before a fearful set of guards and the women gathered with Mary, he begins his revelation of Christ’s resurrection with these words: “Do not be afraid.”. The resurrection is a core of the New Testament. In I Corinthians 15, Paul devotes most of that long chapter to the subject of our bodily resurrection, drawing parallels with Christ’s own resurrection. Acts 23:6 and I Peter 1:3 both refer to the resurrection as a hop that we have. Why, then, does the angel admonish those gathered to not be afraid?
In Matthew 26:56, Jesus’ disciples flee after the mob comes to seize Jesus. They are scared for their lives. After the crucifixion, only two – Joseph and Nicodemus – come to claim Jesus’ body. In Mark 16, after Mary and the other women see the angel of God, they flee in fear, and John 20:26-28 finds the disciples gathered together behind locked doors, fearful of the Jews (see verse 19). Jesus’ followers live in fear at this time, but the resurrection brings a reason to end those fears.
Driving Away Fear with Joy
In John 20:11-18, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, and she joyfully tells the other disciples what she has seen. Luke 24:13-35 records Jesus’ encounter with two disciples who are distraught because of recent events. His revelation to them brings them a joy that they begin sharing with others in verses 36-43. In John 20:20-28, Jesus’ appearance to the disciples behind those locked doors brings them gladness, and they bring the news to Thomas. Apart from Jesus, those disciples had many reasons to fear, but His presence brought joy.
We can see this transformation from fear into joy in the life of Peter. In Luke 5, Peter recognizes Jesus’ divinity, and his initial response is one of fear. He falls at Jesus’ feet, asking Jesus to depart from him and his sinful nature. When Pater comes face-to-face with God’s power, he sees his own shortcomings and wants to hide himself from divinity. Jesus response begins with familiar words: “Do not be afraid.” John 21 stands as a contrast to these events when Jesus repeats this sign after His resurrection. This time, instead of cowering from Jesus, Peter jumps into the water and swims to shore, desperately trying to draw closer to his resurrected Lord. He is no longer afraid.
Living without Fear
In Acts 2, this same Peter proclaims Jesus’ resurrection before the Pentecost crowds. In Acts 3:14-15, Acts 4:10-20, and Acts 5:29-32, Peter continues to preach a risen savior before those who should otherwise bring him fear. His actions stand at contrast to the fearful man we see in Luke 5. He preaches in confidence because of the joy he has in Christ’s resurrection. This is the hope Paul writes in I Corinthians 15. Joy overcomes fear; forgiveness overcomes sin; confidence overcomes guilt; and defeat is swallowed up in victory.
When we approach Jesus, how do we react? We can shirk from Him in guilt and fear, or we can draw closer to him. We can be reconciled to Him and obtain a new life, free from guilt sin. We can live joyfully in the hope of resurrection.
lesson by Tim Smelser