God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control…" (2 Timothy 1:7)
Alleluia! Christ is risen! What a wonderful celebration Easter is! First and foremost, the festival of the resurrection is joyous because of what it means for Jesus. He is alive! God the Father raised him from the dead, never to die again. He lives and reigns forever! Jesus’ resurrection brings us to celebrate also because of what it means for us. Paul wrote that Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). God the Father raised Jesus for our forgiveness, life, and salvation. In fact, If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins…and we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19). But, Christ is indeed alive, and our sins are forgiven! Even more, we who are in Christ have been baptized not only into his death and burial, but into his resurrection (Romans 6:1-11). This means that, If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (6:5). When Jesus returns, he will raise us from the dead and dwell with us in a new creation. We can indeed sing, "Alleluia!"
This year, though, our resurrection celebration might be a little extra special, if I can say it that way. Last year we did not gather for Easter, since there were so many unknowns at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, there has been a lot of fear – not only of the unknown, but of sickness and death.
Surprisingly, the Gospel reading this Easter ends with fear. While all four Gospels record the resurrection of our Lord, Mark’s is the briefest and perhaps most striking. In all likelihood, his original manuscript ended at 16:8 (see the notes in your Lutheran Study Bible for more info). This means that Mark’s Gospel likely ended originally with the women fleeing from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid (Mark 16:8). It is mindboggling to think that the account of Jesus’ resurrection would end in fear and trembling!
Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised, though. Fear plays a big part in the Scriptures. That’s because fear is a familiar part of the human experience. We are afraid of so many things – spiders, heights, darkness, even other people. Most of all, though, we fear God because of our human nature, which is full of sin, while God is holy and righteous. Almost every encounter with God and his holy angels is met with fear. From Mary, to Isaiah, and all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden, people are afraid in the presence of God and his messengers. But now, from God’s mouth comes the most precious message: Do not be afraid. Why? Because God has atoned for their sin. And he’s done this by more than just touching a coal to the mouth of his people (Isaiah 6:7). He’s sent Jesus to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) and to reign on his Father’s throne forever (Luke 1:32-33).
The fact that Jesus is alive has forever redefined our faith and life. As you see at the top of this letter, Paul reminds Timothy (and us!) that, in Christ, God has given us a Spirit not of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. We need not fear anything any longer – not sin, not the devil, not the world, not even death, because Jesus has overcome them all by his own death and resurrection. I know there will be a temptation to read into this more than I am saying. Please don’t. This is not some passive aggressive message about what we should or should not be doing. In fact, at least twice, Paul warns against "foolish controversies" (2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9), and even more warns against division. This is bigger than that. Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for all that we do, all that we believe, and all that we are. So, when we look at our lives and decisions, what are we basing them on? Fear? If so, we should repent. Instead, we should find comfort and joy in knowing that God has freed us from fear through Jesus’ resurrection and allowed us to love Him and our neighbors in a spirit of power and self-control. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
"He lives to silence all my fears; He lives to wipe away my tears; He lives to calm my troubled heart; He lives all blessings to impart."
("I Know That My Redeemer Lives", LSB 461, v. 5)
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