This article looks at Matthew 28:5-6 and our fear.

Source: The Outlook, 1989. 2 pages.

Matthew 28:5-6 – Do Not Be Afraid

The angel said to the women,

Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come see the place where he lay. Matt. 28:5-6

Someone once wrote that the Chris­tian really has four Easters. He meant that the Christian has the blessing and benefit of the resurrection of Christ in four different ways. First, there is the resurrection of Christ, basic to all the rest. The second Easter we have when we celebrate the resurrection every year as a day of rejoicing for believers. The third one is the enjoyment and blessings of every Sunday. We have our rest on the first day of the week because that is the day on which Christ arose. We celebrate the resur­rection of Christ every Sunday. During the week we live in a world in which death may overshadow our ex­periences, but every Sunday we are reminded that Christ has conquered death. Finally, there is the resurrec­tion we may celebrate every day of the week. In a sense, every day is resurrec­tion day. In a way, the whole New Testament period can be called the seventh day of the great work of our God. The risen Christ makes His people new creatures by His Spirit, and gives us the blessings of the resur­rection in all of our lives. He con­quered death and arose from the grave! In the light of the Scripture He comes to us every day and in all cir­cumstances, comforting and assuring us that we really never had to be afraid.

Why did the angel at the tomb say first of all, "Do not be afraid?" The older versions have, "Fear not."

First of all, because we live in a world of fear. This pervasive fear is a part of the result of sin. Not surpris­ingly, the women were gripped with fear when they saw something as un­usual as an angel. But they don't have to be afraid, because Jesus arose.

Fear is a common experience which haunts everybody coming into this world.

We are afraid of serious illness, of bad weather, and of an infinite num­ber of other adversities and finally of death. Paul speaks of fear as a power that takes hold of us and enslaves us (Romans 8:15). All of this is the result of sin, and the wicked have special fears. "The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion" (Prov. 28:1). Notice also Heb. 10:26,27, "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment."

The broader and deeper implica­tion of the words to the women is that they never have to be afraid, because Christ arose. "He is not here," the angel says. It means not only that He is no longer in this grave, but also that He is no longer in this world of death. Jesus paid for our sins. Therefore death, which is the result of sin, can no longer hold Him captive. He con­quered death, went through the grave and arose on the other side, the heavenly side. Other people, like Lazarus, who had been raised by Jesus, came back to this side of the grave and later died again. But Jesus didn't arise like that. He "abolished death." Jesus did come back to His side of the grave, taking on the form of a body so that people here could see Him at least ten times. But with every appearance there was also evidence that He was the triumphant risen Lord. After those fleeting ap­pearances to show Himself alive, He soon ascended into heaven to become the heavenly Lord, sitting at the right hand of His Father. He is Lord of the universe and in a special way rules over His church. Each year is called "A.D." ("Anno Domini") "the year of the Lord." Even the world reckons and calculates the age of the world ac­cording to His Lordship! He is in com­plete control of our lives and makes all things work together for good for His people. He keeps His promises. Candidates for offices in our govern­ment, including those of the president in the U.S. and prime minister in Canada, make wonderful promises, many of which they can never keep. Unlike them, the Lord Christ always keeps His promises.

People who belong to Him need have no fear, for He says, "Do not be afraid."

As proof of the resurrection, the angel tells the women to come into the tomb and see where the body of Jesus had lain. There was already the evidence of the stone that had been rolled away, even though it had been sealed by government officials. The women knew that they couldn't have removed the large stone, and the enemies of Christ would not have done it. But a special point is made about the place where the body of Jesus had lain in the tomb. Apparent­ly the strips of cloth that had been wrapped around the body and limbs of Jesus were still in the same form they had been when wrapped around the body, although there was no body in them. And the head napkin was in a place by itself, likely where the head had been. How could anybody leave those bandages in that form? Wouldn't we expect discarded bandages to be laid or thrown aside? But this apparently was not the case. Only by a miracle could anyone leave those bandages still in their original form. This the women and two of the disciples had to see to realize that a miracle had taken place.

To whom does the angel give these glad tidings of the resurrection? Who may receive this "good news of great joy" of Christ's resurrection from the dead? Not everybody! There is an an­tithesis between believers and un­believers. The blessings of salvation through Christ's resurrection are given to believers, but fear and dread remain upon those who do not believe. The soldiers who guarded the tomb had been stricken with fear hard to describe. They had become like dead men, petrified. Possibly the same men just a few days ago had treated Him with mockery and cruelty. If these were not the same men, they were of the same class. Then they thought that they were in control. They had mocked and ridiculed His pretensions to be a king, with a crown of thorns, and a purple robe. How abruptly things had changed.

Why were women the first recipients of this great Gospel news, rather than the disciples who would be the future pillars of the church? These women were showing their faithfulness to the Lord. They did not expect the resurrection to take place, for they brought spices to anoint the body of their beloved Master. Jesus had been buried in a hurry on Friday night just before six o'clock when the Jewish Sabbath would begin. They wanted to do it more thoroughly and thereby show their love for Him. (The men among Jesus' disciples were ab­sent.) Where there is even a small love for the Lord it is recognized by Him. This coming of the women with spices in their hands, but with hearts filled with love for Him suggests the great truth that the Lord always blesses those who seek Him. Those who con­fess their sins, who need the Lord, and want to trust in and serve Him will always be blessed.

Are you afraid because of your sins, your faltering trust and failure to live as a Christian should live? Do you have personal fears and problems, and, perhaps as you get older, fear of death and the grave? All such Chris­tians in all their needs and fears, even in their weaknesses, our sympathizing heavenly Savior reassures, "Don't be afraid!" Christ arose. He is alive and will supply the believer's every need "according to the riches of His grace." To us who are still on this side of the grave, as a mother says to a child that is afraid, He says "let me hold your hand, and I will keep you close by my side." John wrote, "Then He placed his right hand on me and said, 'Do not be afraid, I am the first and the last, I am the living One. I was dead and be­hold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades'" (Rev. 1:17, 18). Is. 41:10. "So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dis­mayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

May the Lord enable us to respond by praying daily for His gracious guidance and thus celebrate His resur­rection every day of the week.

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