Easter “Do Not Be Afraid” Sermon 2020
Alleluia! Christ Is Risen! Christ Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
“Do not be afraid!” What a powerful teaching our Gospel gives to us this morning as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The angel said: “Do not be afraid!” to the women at the tomb. Jesus said: “Do not be afraid!” to the woman as they hurried back to the disciples to tell them that “Jesus has been raised from the dead; and that He will meet them in Galilee; there they will see Him.”
When was the last time you were afraid? Was it years ago, when you were a little child and you were afraid of the dark? Maybe it was not so long ago, when the doctor told you that he or she needed to do some more tests to be sure of what was ailing you?
Fear is a powerful force in our lives. Fear paralyzes us. Fear can even force us to partially shut down so that we are not functioning at our best. Fear interferes with our decision-making ability and fear can drive us insane.
For the past few weeks fear has gripped our nation… and our world. And fear has driven humanity to do things we normally would not do. I think you would agree with me that normally we would not buy up all the toilet paper that we can find in the store. And normally we would not hoard hand sanitizer; or go and aggressively search the retail stores for ground beef, and milk and eggs and a whole list of other items. But for the past few weeks, humanity has done these things.
Fear has dominated our lives. And fear will continue to dominate our lives for the foreseeable future. But this is nothing new. On the first day of the week, the characters in the narrative were also full of fear. Jesus, their Master and Lord, was dead. Filled with grief and fear Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to visit the tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week.
Suddenly the earth moved, and an angel from heaven descended upon them and rolled back the stone and then sat on it. How terrifying this must have been. We are told that the guards were so full of fear that they shook and became like dead men.
Then the angel spoke to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. And the first words out of the angel’s mouth was “Do not be afraid.” And then the angel explained to them that the One they were looking for was not there. He had been raised. He is alive. He is not here in the tomb. He has gone on ahead of you. He will meet you in Galilee.
We are told that the women then left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy. Even though the news that Jesus was alive brought great joy, they were still fearful. They did not understand that they had nothing to be fearful about.
We too have nothing to be fearful about, because Jesus took all our fears upon Himself when He hung on the cross. Scripture informs us that by dying on the cross and then by rising from the grave, Christ rescued us from the darkness of this world and gave us victory over everything that we cannot overcome ourselves.
And this includes fear. Yet fear still exists in our world. And the reason I think fear still exists in our world is that behind all our fears there is a sliver of doubt. Let me tell you what I mean. We doubt the reality of Christ’s resurrection. We doubt Christ’s ongoing presence in our lives. We doubt Christ’s impact on our existence. The sad truth is this - that behind every “ounce of doubt” there is a disconnect from God’s promises.
We forget the Good News “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine… Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” Isaiah 43:1,4
Jesus rose from the dead. And because Jesus rose from the dead we can look forward to the day when fear does not exist in our lives. We can look forward to the day when things like cancer, and war, and hunger, and violence have no power over us.
We can rejoice in the fact that because Christ is alive, we can envision a day when the coronavirus will no longer be able to separate us from each other and cause panic in our world. We can even celebrate because one day we will experience freedom from anxiety and sadness and worry and all the things that trouble us.
Yes… Christ is alive. Christ has power over all things. We may struggle with our fears, but as Moses told the Israelites before he died “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
One event that I love to read at Easter is the account in the Book of Revelation where Saint John the Apostle saw Jesus in heaven in all his power and in all his glory. And as you can probably well imagine, John was scared out of his mind. He was so afraid that he fell to the ground like he was a dead man. But then he felt a hand on his shoulder; and Jesus said to him “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore.” Revelation 1:18
What calm must have filled his heart as Jesus touched him. What joy must have filled his soul when he knew Jesus was near him. Christ the Risen Lord had touched him. And John was able to go and report everything that he had seen and heard.
My friends… Don’t be afraid. Christ Is Risen! And that is why we can sing the old Gospel Hymn “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living, just because He lives.” What a powerful lesson our Gospel gives to us this morning.
“Alleluia! Christ Is Risen! Christ Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!”
Prayer of the Day: O God, you gave your only Son to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, and by his glorious resurrection you delivered us from the power of death. Make us die every day to sin, that we may live with him forever in the joy of the resurrection, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymn of the Day: “Christ Is Risen! Alleluia!” ELW # 382