Sunday, April 16, 2017

Do not be afraid!

It’s another Easter morning.  What can we say about the day and its significance?

He is risen.

He is risen indeed!

Death is destroyed.

By his stripes we are healed.

Despair has no home here.  We will have trials and tribulation but despair gets kicked to the curb.

I am crucified with Christ.  Christ lives in me.

He lives!  Maybe we should just give our answers in song.  He lives. He lives.  Christ Jesus lives today.

Up from the grave he arose, with a might triumph o’er his foes.  He arose the victor from the dark domain and he lives forever with his saints to reign.

Let’s get a little more current.  My chains are gone.  I’ve been set free.  My God my Savior has ransomed me.

“I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  Jesus spoke those words to Martha at Bethany shortly before he healed Lazarus, but they should hit home with us this morning.

“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces” Isaiah’s words should ring true this morning.

What else can we say?  What can we add to these words of victory.  Is there anything to add to up from the grave he arose?

How about, “Fear not!”  How about, “Do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid!

Comparing gospel accounts of this morning’s activities, Mark’s version has women receiving this same message of not being afraid.  So the women left the tomb excited and bewildered because they were afraid.

In Matthew’s gospel, the angel told the women not to be afraid and a very short time later, the resurrected Jesus told them the same thing.

Do not be afraid.

Let’s give the women and the disciples a little slack.  Their world had just fallen apart.  Their leader was arrested, convicted, verbally abused, physically abused, and nailed to a cross until he died.  These followers had been in some tough spots before and lived to tell about it, but Jesus had always been there.  Now he was gone.

They were afraid.  Was this special thing that they had been a part of over now?  What came next?  Would they even have time to find out what happened next or were they next in line for the cross?

The man who had preached that the Kingdom of God is near—and had sent these disciples out with the same message—was gone.  The empire of Rome and those religious leaders that Jesus put on the spot so many times seemed to have emerged victorious.

In similar circumstances, we too might have been a little afraid.  We might not have been on our “A-Game.”  Being in the presence of an angel always seems to evoke the words, “Fear not!”

In addition to everything else that goes with this morning’s celebration, let’s make it our goal not to be afraid.  Of all the things that seem to survive the ages, fear is chief among them. 

Jesus lived and died and rose again and that took away the power that sin and death held over us, at least as far as our salvation goes.  That was the once and for all sacrifice that took away our sin.  The Lamb of God took away our sin.

So why do we still deal with fear in this century?  

Specifically, why do Christians fear?

We as followers of Jesus have been told that we will probably do some suffering because we follow him.  We have been told that we will have some trouble in the world because we belong to him and not to the world. 

But fear?  We are people who don’t do fear.  Yes, we fear the Lord.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and as it turns out, wisdom as well.  But we need to understand this fear as a starting point not the ultimate destination. 

The fear of the Lord gets us pointed in the right direction but it is not the destination.  It should, however, release us from all other fear.

See if these words don’t ring a bell.  Perfect love casts out fear.  Fear has to do with punishment and condemnation.  Jesus paid the price for us.  We stood condemned but Jesus paid the price not out of a sense of duty but out of love.  

Should we not respond in love and not fear.

Perfect love casts out fear.

God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Here’s one that always gets me motivated.  Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous?  Do not be afraid.  Do not be discouraged for the Lord, your God will be with you wherever you go.

Fear is real but living in fear is a choice.  God says choose courage over fear.

Here is the rhetorical question for the ages.  If God is for us, who can be against us?

Why is that a rhetorical question?  Because God is for us.  Nothing can stand against us.  No weapon formed against us shall prevail.  Nothing in heaven or on earth or anywhere else can separate us from the love of God that we know in Christ Jesus!

What do we have to fear?  What are we afraid of?

There are 613 commands in the Old Testament.  Jesus added one more while he was here walking the earth in the flesh.  He told those who would follow him that we must love each other.  In so doing people would know that we are his disciples.

That makes 614 commands.  That’s a lot.  Now if we abide in the last one, the others will take care of themselves, but I wish that there were 615 commands.  I so wish that Jesus had added “Fear not” to the list of commands required for those who love God and want to follow him.

We celebrate Easter every year.  We are reminded that the blood of Jesus took way sin’s power over our life.  It took away death being final.  These clay vessels may wear out but our life goes on because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, and in his resurrection, is the promise of ours.

Sin and death have been defeated.  Now it’s time to defeat fear.

Today we celebrate the victory that Jesus gave us over sin—as the Lamb of God sacrificed in our place.  Today we celebrate our victory over death.  When Jesus rose on that third day, this was our victory as well.

Today, let’s not only celebrate victory over sin and death, let’s make our response to the love that gave us these victories loving one another and living without fear.

Today we celebrate the resurrection.  Tomorrow we pick up our own cross, take the yoke of our Master, and we go fearlessly proclaiming the love of God in the world.

May you have a blessed Easter Day!

May you celebrate the victories won.

May you live in strength and courage, not being afraid or discouraged.  The Lord, you God, your resurrected Savior, is with you wherever you go!


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