One of the most common phrases in the bible is “Do Not Be Afraid.” When angels bring messages of hope and promise, they begin with this simple phrase. We imagine angels to be gigantic beings with white wings, golden crowns, and carrying swords and harps. When an angel shows up, the sight can be terrifying. But an “angel” is really someone (or something) that brings a message from God. And God’s message to the two Marys is “do not be afraid.”
If anyone had a good reason to be afraid, it was the early disciples of Jesus. They witnessed Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and execution. They saw their friends deny their relationship with Jesus and run away in fear. They felt vulnerable, exposed, and completely confused because Jesus’ death wasn’t what they expected. They expected Jesus to “win” by removing the Roman Empire from Jerusalem. They expected King David’s kingdom to be politically and military re-established. The followers of Jesus didn’t expect Rome to “win” instead.
But the Marys didn’t expect an angel to be in the tomb either when they came to finish the burial rituals for their teacher and friend. The message for the women was simple and profound. Their expectations were being rewritten by a God who rewrote the experience of life and death. Life is no longer defined by the limited time we have on earth. Life, instead, begins and ends in a God who cannot be overcome by violence, pain, or sin. Life is about a love that breaks the bounds we try to give it.
A love that is boundless is an amazing gift. It’s also a gift that scares us. The invitation to love like Jesus is an invitation to change our relationships with the people around us. We’re invited to serve people we do not know. We’re invited to share meals with people who do not look, talk, or believe like us. We’re invited to break the limits we place on our realities. We’re invited to bring new life to our world by participating in what God is already doing: transforming the world so no one is ever afraid again.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for Easter Sunday, 4/16/2017.