When the women went to Jesus’ tomb on that first Easter morning they were met by an angel who began with these words to them: “Do not be afraid”, and then later when they suddenly meet the resurrected Jesus He also begins with these same words, “Do not be afraid.”
These women were startled by something unexpected and were offered these reassuring words. Today in our lives there are often things that come upon us that give much greater reason for fear than being startled by the unexpected. It might be something as simple as hearing that someone our age, who may be fitter and healthier than we are, is suddenly diagnosed with an illness that will shorten his/her life, and we can’t help but ask that fear-filled question, “That could be me – what would I do if I was faced with a death sentence like that?”
There is only one person who can offer strength, comfort, security, hope and confidence in all the uncertainties and troubles that we have in this world, even in the face of the greatest fear of all – death, and that person is the One who has risen from the dead and walks with us on our journey through life.
We say to those who are fearful, “Do not be afraid” because Jesus has them in His embrace and will hold them close during their time of trouble.
It is the risen Christ who says, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.” (John 14:1)
“Do not be afraid! I am the first and the last. I am the living One! I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I have authority over death and the world of the dead.” (Revelation 1:18)
“Do not be afraid. Do not worry. Trust Me,” Jesus is saying. “I know you and I know everything that is happening to you and I will walk beside you always and with My help and strength you will be able to endure it all.”
It’s with this kind of confidence that Paul was able to say in the face of all the adversity he faced as a follower of Christ.
“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
In another place, he lists all the things that might frighten him, even the devil and death itself, and then states boldly that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When it comes to our sin and the guilt that goes with it, Jesus also says to us, “Do not be afraid”. He has conquered the power of sin to put us down and overwhelm us.
Even when our guilt is overpowering and death scares us, Jesus says: “I will never forget you – I have written your name on the palm of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15b-16)
All this is saying that what happened that first Easter has an effect in our daily lives. Jesus is alive – risen from the dead and glorified. Since His resurrection and ascension, He is now powerfully present with us whenever and wherever we might be and whatever might be happening in our lives.
Easter has told us that Jesus is alive and His presence affects us profoundly; it changes the way we view the highs and lows of life; it affects the way we view sin and sickness and death; it transforms our thinking about how we are able to cope with the things life throws our way because we no longer think of ourselves as standing alone against all kinds of trouble; the living Christ is with me, before me, behind me, beneath me, above me and in me.
There may be times in our lives when we do not feel Christ’s closeness, but there is absolutely no time when He is not right there with us and in us.
There is nothing that can happen in a day when Christ will not be there to help us through the day. The living Christ changes our world.
Jesus says to you and me, “Do not be afraid.” The same living Lord who gave His fearful disciples strength and assurance through His presence, does the same thing for us today.
Christ gives you the strength of heaven when trouble, sickness and death scare the living daylights out of you. Wherever you lie down – on your bed at home, in a hospital bed, or even in the grave – the powerful living presence of Christ will never leave you.
This is the joy of the season of Easter. This is the real celebration today. Jesus Christ is risen today and He is really present in everything that happens in our lives. We pray that this might become an ever-greater reality in our lives and that we might have an ever-greater trust in him when He says to us, “Do not be afraid!”