Don’t Be Afraid

“Don’t be afraid.” That’s what the angel told the women who had come to Jesus’ tomb only to find it empty.

A few moments later, these same women met Jesus. “Don’t be afraid.” Jesus told them.

Don’t be afraid. The first words after the resurrection.

It’s not really surprising for two reasons. First, in the biblical revelation, this always seem to be the first word: Fear not! Second, we are a fearful people, and so we need this reassuring word.

Two of my daughters both recently bought a guinea pig (read a story about this here). They are adorable and fun to watch, but they are also very nervous. With the slightest movement towards them, they will scurry off into their little house. They are filled with anxiety and fear.

The more I’ve watched these guinea pigs, the more I’ve realized: we’re guinea pigs! We’re just like them.

Anytime anything surprises us, we start worrying, withdrawing, or attacking. Why? We have anxiety. We are afraid.

What happens anytime we get an unexpected tax, car, home, or health bill? Like guinea pigs, we start scurrying. This happens to me all the time. When I think over the past decade, I can think of very few times, if any, where I’ve failed to pay a bill. But as soon as I get a bill that I didn’t plan, what happens? I start to worry and think, Oh no! What am I going to do?

“Don’t be afraid.” Jesus says.

And what do we fear? We fear all kinds of things. We fear all sorts of threats from terrorists, world powers, and armies, like people feared the Roman army in Jesus’ day.

If there are any human beings that didn’t seem guinea piggish, it was Roman soldiers. These guys were the toughest of the tough. These soldiers would not stop in face of the most terrible enemies. One time, the great general Hannibal destroyed 80% of a Roman army at the Battle of Cannae. The soldiers at the front escaped because they would just keep moving forward no matter what. The problem was the tactics. They couldn’t turn well during the battle and so got surrounded and destroyed. Once Scipio Africanus developed new tactics for the Roman army, these tough Roman soldiers crushed the Carthaginian Empire. Roman soldiers were disciplined and tough.

However, when the angel of the Lord came down to roll away the tomb appearing like lightning, these tough Roman soldiers fell to the ground like dead men. The most powerful army of the day faded away before the awesome power of the resurrected Christ and His army.

Don’t be afraid, even of the most powerful army on earth!

And what about death? In many ways, this is the anxiety behind all anxiety. But Christ has defeated it! He appeared before the women having conquered this great enemy. So, when we face our great enemy, we don’t have to fear either. The Christ who is with us has already met death, looked it in the face, and crushed it.

Don’t be afraid.

And what about Jesus Himself? Encountering someone so powerful who conquered death can itself be a scary thing. That’s why the women were full of joy at the news of Christ’s resurrection but also terrified (Mt. 28:8). How can you relate to Him? I think that’s the main reason Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid.” He wanted them to know that as powerful as He was, He was the same Jesus who did not break a bruised reed or put out a smoking wick.

When Jesus talked with the women, He said, “Go, tell my brothers” (Mt. 28:10). It’s a touching term. They are part of Jesus’ family, and we can be, too. We don’t have to be afraid. Jesus welcomes all of us into His family as a free gift. We just have to say “yes” to it. Then, we can be baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19) and be assured that Jesus will always be with us.

That’s the message of Easter. Don’t be afraid. Christ has come. Christ has risen. Christ has conquered. Don’t be afraid.


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