Full of Fear; Full of Joy
Written by Sandy Rothschiller
They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished.
He said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now—on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.”
They got out as fast as they could, beside themselves, their heads swimming. Stunned, they said nothing to anyone.
Mark 16:5-8 MSG
No wonder these women are afraid. And no wonder the angel therefore first speaks words of comfort and courage. “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised.” Of course, it doesn’t stop there; after the fear, and after the words of courage, comes a command: “You can see for yourself that the place is empty. Now on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee.”
They believed and were full of joy, yet they had fear. I wonder if that isn’t also our reality. I mean, don’t we also live lives tinged by both fear and joy. Fear of what may happen to our families in a dangerous world; joy at the blessing they are to us and, we pray, they will be to the world. Fear of whether we will have a job in the year to come; joy at the colleagues who surround us. Fear about the fate of a loved one struggling with illness; joy in the gift that person has been to us. Fear about the future amid problems both national and global; joy in the present moment surrounded by those we love.
The announcement of resurrection doesn’t take away all our fear. Rather, it enables us to keep faith amid our fears, to do their duty and share good news in spite of anxiety. This is the very definition of courage. And, courage is precisely what Easter is about. Some believe that coming to faith in Christ should smooth all the rough places of life and still the tremors of this world. I believe Jesus gives us the ability to keep our feet amid the tremors and enables us not just to persevere but even to flourish when life is difficult.
“Do not be afraid.” This charge—repeated by Jesus when he encounters the women—gives us insight into the very nature of our lives in this world. For there is, indeed, much to fear in our lives. And yet the resurrection of Christ creates the possibility for joy and hope and courage and so much more. Why? Because it changes everything. In the resurrection we have God’s promise that life is stronger than death, that love is greater than hate, that mercy overcomes judgment, and that all the sufferings and difficulties of this life are transient — real and palpable and sometimes painful, for sure, but they do not have the last word and do not represent the final reality.
Fear and joy, despair and hope, doubt and faith — these are the two sides of our lives in this world. But in the end we have heard the resurrection promise that joy, hope and faith will ultimately prevail. It’s a powerful message. And one we get to share not only at Easter, but every day!
Sandy Rothschiller is the Pastor of Spiritual Care at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.