When the Joy Is Mixed with Fear

When the Joy Is Mixed with Fear

Here is Easter according to Mark 16:1-8, the joyful proclamation that we hear from the mysterious messenger in the tomb: “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has been raised! He’s not here anymore!” But for as good as this good news is, it’s sandwiched in between a lot of despair and crippling fear. Just because Jesus is risen doesn’t mean our hearts immediately find rest. We don’t immediately experience this good news as good news.

It is faithfulness that bring these women in Mark 16 to the tomb. They’re here to care for the body of Jesus. They’re the only disciples we see at the cross; everyone else is too scared to be seen anywhere near him. And they’re so dedicated to being near Jesus, even in his death, that they come to his tomb knowing there’s going to be a big stone in front of it they can’t move. They know their plans are about to be thwarted, but here they are anyway.

And yet, even in their faithfulness, they’re still not ready for what they discover. They approach the tomb in a state of despair and they leave the tomb in fear, even terror. And when they leave the tomb, they don’t share the good news; fear keeps them tight-lipped. They have no follow up questions, no song to sing. There is only fear.

At Easter time we celebrate the God who is mightier than death. But let’s approach the tomb with these women. As we do, our baggage comes with us – our despair, our defeats, our mistakes, our fear that sin and darkness might be too much to overcome after all. With these women let’s peer into the tomb and see not Jesus but a messenger with the joyful proclamation – He’s been raised, he is not here in this place of death.

What feelings are now swirling about our hearts? These women are experiencing both terror and amazement rolled into one. We wish we could say that we only feel the amazement, the joy. But that’s just not the kind of story the Gospels are telling. Mark wants us to be faced with the questions these faithful women are now faced with: what does it mean for our lives if Jesus really has been raised from the dead? Are we prepared for the world be remade? Are we prepared ourselves to be remade by Jesus? Is there a part of us that doesn’t want to be made new, but wants to remain in the realm of the comfortable and the familiar? These fears and hesitations don’t disappear just because we heard the good news.

It’s as if the Gospel of Mark ends with a question mark. What will we do now that the good news has turned out to be true? We want to feel only joy. But when that joy is mixed in with despair and fear, when old and broken ways fight to keep their grip on us, we’re in good company. The Gospels all show us a resurrected Jesus coming into the midst of fearful and confused disciples. And based on the fact that the news about Jesus did indeed get out and the Gospels got the chance to be written down, I have a feeling the fear these women experience didn’t get the last word after all. The mysterious messenger in the tomb promises us that our adventures with Jesus are not over, that his renewing work in us is just getting started. Fear will win at times, but it will win less and less.


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