“From Fear to Courage”
Date: Easter Sunrise April 16, 2017
Scripture: Luke 24:1-12
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells
We are told that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them made their way to the burial place of the body of Jesus. The women are not only afraid, but we are told that they were “terrified.”
Some think the women may have been afraid for their safety. Their beloved teacher, Jesus, had just been killed. Were their lives in danger? Would the soldiers guarding the tomb arrest them?
When a traitor or a rebel was involved in an armed attack on the Roman Empire, the leader and all the followers were killed. In the case of Jesus, only Jesus was killed. His followers were left alone. So we know that his challenge to the authorities was not violent, and his followers were not at risk of being put to death.
We are also told that the women stayed with Jesus during the crucifixion, unlike the men who fled. In Matthew we read: “Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” (Matt. 27:55-56) If the women were wanted by the law, they could have been arrested at the cross. And they weren’t.
Yet we are told the women were afraid. The women were coming to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus with herbs and spices. They were there to carry out the proper burial rites. Even the Romans had respect for the dead. And these were women. No one much cared what they did. The woman were afraid but probably not for their personal safety. It doesn’t appear they were risking their lives by going to the grave to tend to the body of Jesus.
And yet they were afraid; not just grief-stricken and distraught but terrified.
Why were they afraid? Maybe they were afraid that it all was meaningless. That what they had experienced with Jesus was over. That everything would just go back to the old normal. I think they were afraid about the future. They had left home, family, social ties, religious community, to be part of this new experimental movement led by Jesus. The commitment and devotion were all-encompassing. Was it all over? What were they to do? How were they to go on?
It had been so intense. So strong. They had been so sure. And now? Were they afraid because their hopes had been shattered? Were they utterly despairing of the future?
In the story, the women go and tell the other disciples of their experience at the tomb. They tell the disciples that the presence of Jesus is still with them. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Matt. 27:5) It’s not over. But their story is labeled an “idle tale.” Their witness is not taken seriously. Why should they bother? We can imagine that they are afraid – of being laughed at, mocked, ridiculed, ineffectual and ignored.
So, it takes courage for these women to face their fears. To examine their hearts. And then to find the courage within themselves to proceed. The way the resurrection stories are told, if it were not for the courage of the women, going and telling, we might not be here this morning or any Sunday morning. They were very brave making a witness for their truth, for an alternative reality, for a different future for themselves and for the world. They trusted their experience and overcame their fears.
We need the inspiration of these women. We live in fearful times. We know what it is to be afraid. Our faith is calling us to be witnesses to the alternative reality shown to us by Jesus; to live not for ourselves but for the common good. We are needed to embody and enact the commonwealth of God. We are needed to speak the truth of love, compassion, and justice. Our voices are needed to confront greed, ignorance, hatred, fear, lust for power, violence, and self absorption, just as Jesus did. Like the women, we need to speak out in spite of the resistance we encounter. And that takes courage. We need to be brave and take risks so that the realm of heaven may be experienced among us, here on Earth, as it was by the women who went to the tomb.
This morning we reflect on the Easter pilgrimage from fear to courage and new life. We think about our call to share our experience of Jesus. Amen.
A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.