Not many of us really understand fear. We know it in part. Certainly those in the bottom floor of the house of America know fear right now. Fear paralyzes mankind. But on the other side of fear is power. But how do we get there? it’s not through pushing through the veil of fear in our own strength and might.
Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ mother, Mary and Salome, all go to Jesus’ tomb to anoint him. Upon arrival they are greeted by a man in white who instructs the woman to, ‘go tell the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee.’
The description of these women who had followed the living word of God for three power filled years, witnessing miracles, and signs and wonders could have been overjoyed , relieved and empowered by these words, but they reacted as follows: they fled, they were trembling, they were astonished, they said nothing to anyone. they were afraid. The account ends.
In the oldest manuscripts there is no verse 9-20. Although our bibles continue on another 10 verses. this struck me as interesting. Why end here in the original account, why end with fear, trembling, fleeing, and silence?
I believe its to show the fragility of humanity. to reveal to us the product and reality of fear. We are not alone in our fears. there are myriads of things to fear on earth. We have not escaped the torments of fear handed down through Adam, because all things have not yet been made new. to be alive is to encounter fear. There is nothing capable of eradicating fear on earth, except the power and presence of the All Mighty One, El Shaddai.
in this gospel account of the first day of a new reality, God through his messengers gives three emotionally, adoring women the first instruction: Go tell and yet it ends with silence. then Jesus shows up. it wasn’t until Jesus appeared to that worship happens , he speaks to Mary and then she reports to the disciples, she is able to break her silence because of Jesus. His presence eradicates her fears, giving her power to obey. His words stills her trembling and overshadows her disabling emotions.
The next 10 verses of chapter 16, which were added later, describe the disciples fears. After Mary finally reports, meet Jesus in Galilee. The disciples refused to believe, and after again hearing that Jesus appeared to two others on the road to Emmaus, they still did not believe. the star pupils of the messiah were afraid, filled with human emotion, man’s frailty and the unknown. Then Jesus showed up.
He rebuked them for their hardness of heart and unbelief, but he offered them grace rather than condemnation, power rather than chastisement.
Only Jesus appearance could still their fears. He is the eye of the hurricane. Once he spoke to them and they witnessed his ascension they then went out and preached everywhere. The presence of the Almighty risen savior is the remedy to our fearful souls and mortal selves.
Fear is man’s most natural and primitive response to the world around him, after the fall of Adam. The account from the garden tells us that Adam hid from the presence of the Lord, and confessed his fear, because I heard you walking in the garden and I was naked. Man had been stripped of that garment which acted as a buffer between flesh and the Holiness of God. it is God’s word which calms both the raging sea and settles the surges in our soul. His word empowers us to do the absolute opposite of what fear intends- open our mouth, preach everywhere, report and, obey; moving in the will of God. Fear keeps us silent and hiding, but Gods presence calls us out and gives us courage and power to cast out demons, speak in new tongues, pick up serpents, even drink poison and heal the sick! no wonder the devil desires to keep us in chains of intimidation.
After their encounter with the risen Lord, we are told that they went out and preached everywhere. Where once they were not even able to believe – the word of God transformed them into men who would change the course and hearts of the world.
fear keeps us silent , but the word of God bids us to use our voice!
we need not to be ashamed of the fear we have; we are natural and susceptible to all the natural elements and weakness’ of the flesh. Even Jesus’ closest friends were afraid and did not believe. But Jesus offered them grace and power to combat the dark order of death and silence. His arrival strengthened them in their faith so they might share their faith. It was not in their own greatness they were able to do this, it was by the power and presence of the word of God appearing to them, and this was not a new thing.
“after these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying: “do not fear Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.” Genesis 15:1
“and God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” and he said, “here I am” and he said, I am god the God of your father; do not be afraid …”genesis 46:2
I do not have the time to write down all the scriptures throughout history that speak of the Lord revealing his word to his instruments to fill them with his noise. It was his purpose since the beginning of time, when he breathed the breath of life, his own breathe into Adam’s nostrils. He fills us with the spirit and breath of his own word, so that we might speak his word.
when God breathes, it might feel like a powerful wind, a hurricane upon us. It might destroy some while preparing others. Preparing for this storm can be frightening, paralyzing, but then the eye shows up, the Lord himself in the midst and there is peace and calm and we weather the remainder of the storm with strength courage and the spirit of the Lord upon us.
I don’t claim to know when the Lord will appear. For many generations it has been the hope of his people that his return would be in their lifetime. We long for him, we ache for his justice, and yes his judgments on a crooked world system. I do not deny that I sense a closeness, I also do not deny that death also brings us closer to his presence. But this I believe, his nearness may not illicit rejoicing or leaping in giddiness at the news – we might fear, we might tremble, we might be silent, while we thought we would shout praise, we might in fact be like dead men. Even those who have been closest to him could be left in a stupor of awe and amazement, and then Jesus will show up.
And his very presence instills courage in those who believe in his Name, and his appearance will be for the purpose of filling us, equipping us, and bringing peace, as his breathe rages around us.
there may be a fearfulness and doubt which accompanies him like the winds before the eye of a hurricane, but his form and attendance will bring the most intriguing peace and calm you’ve ever experienced. and he will give us everything pertaining to life and godliness for the next part of the story. just as he gave the disciples in spite of their flaws, what they needed to accomplish his purpose. This is how we get to the other side of fear, He is how we move beyond fear into faith and power – standing in his presence, worshipping at his feet and touching his hands, hearing his voice. I don’t know what that looks like for me and you. maybe it will be when he returns that it happens maybe before then in the privacy of our own homes and prayer closets, or in the multitude of our congregation worshiping in one accord. but on the other side of fear, there is power. and in the presence of Messiah, the works of the devil will be blown away, and all that will be left is love and obedience. Come Lord Jesus! Come!