April 27, 2018
READ: Matthew 28:1-10
The women . . . were very frightened but also filled with great joy (v.8).
After the cross finished its cruel work, Jesus’ bewildered friends laid His ravaged body in a cold tomb. Night fell, and an eerie silence descended. Jesus’ followers huddled in grief and confusion. What do you do when your entire world crumbles with violent implosion? What’s left when everything you thought you knew, everything you’d hoped in, lies smouldering in ashes? What do you do when God has died?
Mary Magdalene and another Mary, compelled by fierce love, went to Jesus’ grave. But nearing the tomb, their upheaval only intensified. A “great earthquake” shook the ground, and a blazing angel whose “face shone like lightning” sat atop the stone rolled from the empty tomb (Matt. 28:2-3). Even the Roman guards “shook with fear when they saw [the angel], and they fell into a dead faint” (v.4).
The angel told the disoriented women shocking news: Jesus was alive. The Saviour, bloodied and lifeless, had been laid in a grave; but then He miraculously left the tomb. Rushing from the grave to announce this impossible fact, the women were simultaneously “very frightened but also filled with great joy” (v.8). Poet and novelist Reynolds Price describes the women as “shuddering and wild”. Fear and joy—isn’t that a strange tandem?
There’s a kind of fear that debilitates and ravages. But when we encounter God, we discover another kind of fear: a holy trembling that evokes humility and awe. This holy fear doesn’t make us cower in terror, but it bends our hearts and hopes towards God. When we encounter the Jesus who rose from the dead and who promises to overwhelm every kind of death for us, it shakes our soul. It shakes away all the false fears, unleashing profound joy and hope.
365-day plan: 2 Kings 22:1–23:3
Read Acts 1:6-11 and think about the fear and joy the disciples probably experienced as Jesus ascended out of view.
When have you encountered God in a way that made you tremble? How have you experienced God in ways that unleashed great joy?