GRACE NOTES: Do not be afraid!

The Covington News - - Religion - Jonathan Scharf Colum­nist Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Cov­ing­ton. Full ser­mons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at www. abid­ing­grace. com.

Franklin De­lano Roo­sevelt said that “ The only thing we have to fear is fear it­self.” Yeah right. Try telling that to the man be­ing mauled by a bear, or the woman about to be hit by a car, or any­one fac­ing a life-threat­en­ing dan­ger. Just telling them they don’t have to fear it doesn’t quite do the job.

A cou­ple years ago, my daugh­ter was walk­ing home from the school bus when a neigh­bor’s dog that was at least her size came roar­ing out af­ter her. It charged her, knocked her down and was on top of her barking and snarling. What good do you think it would have done at that time if her brother nicely said to her, “ There’s noth­ing to fear, sis.” I’m guess­ing she wouldn’t re­ally have bought that. In fact, she still doesn’t buy it when she sees a dog she doesn’t know, not un­til that dog is safely out of sight.

The only chance you re­ally have to re­move fear is to re­move what­ever it is that is caus­ing the fear. Thank­fully for my daugh­ter, her mom came down the street to help get that dog away from her. But just telling some­one not to be afraid ac­com­plishes noth­ing.

Peo­ple afraid of what their cancer will do still have cancer even if you tell them not to be afraid. Peo­ple afraid of los­ing their jobs still may still be in jeop­ardy. Peo­ple afraid of lone­li­ness could still be all alone. Say­ing “ Don’t be afraid,” does noth­ing by it­self. You’ve got to re­move the rea­son for fear first, other­wise fear can be par­a­lyz­ing, lit­er­ally.

We see that in our text, Matthew 28: 4: “The guards were so afraid of him ( that an­gel) that they shook and be­came like dead men.” The earth­quake Matthew 28 tells us about would be scary enough, but to see an an­gel? Re­mem­ber what an­gels can do. We’re not talk­ing about chub­by­faced ba­bies with wings. Re­mem­ber, it was an an­gel who took out 70,000 Is­raelites as a re­sult of David’s fool­ish cen­sus; it was an an­gel who killed 185,000 Assyr­ian sol­diers in one night. Imag­ine see- ing some­thing pow­er­ful enough to do that in front of you. It makes sense that the sol­diers dropped un­con­scious. But no­tice some­thing. The women didn’t. Both groups felt the earth­quake and saw the an­gel, but one group be­came like dead men.

The only dif­fer­ence we see in the text is that the an­gel spoke the word to the women: “Do not be afraid.” The sol­diers didn’t even stay con­scious long enough to hear that.

The ap­pear­ance of the an­gel could only make sense to those who knew why the an­gel was say­ing those words. This is ex­actly what Je­sus had promised. Those women had be­come ac­cus­tomed to see­ing God work in their lives so they were ready to be re­minded not to be afraid.

Which group are you in?

Are you the strong, mighty, self-suf­fi­cient sol­diers, or the weep­ing women?

The sol­diers knew some­thing about Je­sus; af­ter all, they had posted a guard. They posted a guard be­cause they knew what he had said. They posted a guard be­cause they were afraid it might be true, that they were wrong.

They had lined up with his en­e­mies. If they were wrong, they were in trou­ble. And see­ing the an­gel proved that they were wrong, that they had rea­son to fear.

But for the women — they heard the mes­sage dif­fer­ently, they saw the an­gel dif­fer­ently. They ex­pe­ri­enced that whole day dif­fer­ently be­cause they ex­pe­ri­enced it through their re­la­tion­ship with Je­sus Christ. How about you? Be­cause you do have earth­quakes, and some of them have more power to shake your life than even that 9.0 on the Richter scale that rocked Ja­pan. You feel earth­quakes. The ques­tion is how you han­dle them.

All of us have things that make our lives shake and our world quake, no mat­ter who you are or whose you are. Think of the fear in­spired by those big words, the C-word: Cancer …The D-words: Di­vorce …Death. The dif­fer­ence be­tween the sol­diers and those women was not what they had been through. It was how they han­dled it. It was how they heard those words: “ Do not be afraid.”

When the junk of life hap­pens, and it does — does it do any good to say to you “ Do not be afraid.”? Please, don’t let these be just some empty words. Hear the word that has ac­tu­ally taken away the rea­son for fear. And the more a part of your life that word is, the more you’re able to han­dle things — be­cause you are ac­cus­tomed to see­ing God work.

Have you seen that play out? Two peo­ple lose the same loved one and one is a wreck while the other seems to be a moun­tain of strength? Why? Be­cause one hears the word.

Here is that word. For now, just read it. Next week, we’ll dig into it and see what it means for our fear.

No mat­ter what your prob­lem, here is the so­lu­tion. Mathew 28: 5 “ 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 and see the place where he lay.”

So we re­ally don’t have any rea­son to fear. Happy Easter.

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