Last week we worked through the first part of Matthew 28 and saw how Jesus was risen to free us. Since He isn’t dead but alive, we are free from the power of nature since he’s the one who controls it. Since Jesus lives and reigns on heaven’s throne, we’re free from the fear of any authorities since they only serve at his command. And since Jesus did what he promised he would do — pay the price for our sins — and his resurrection proves that it was good, he has freed us from our guilt and shame and worry and stress and feelings of inadequacy. He has risen to free us from absolutely all fear.
So, how is that working out for you? It’s easy enough to get excited on Easter and proclaim that there is no fear, but it’s a whole different thing to actually act on that. It’s not always so easy to live that truth. Look at Matthew 28, at how “freed” the women were even after the angel had proclaimed so powerfully that Christ is risen. Verse 8 records what they did next and more importantly, how they felt about it: “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” “Afraid, yet filled with joy.” That phrase has always intrigued me. They were happy about the news. They had seen the empty tomb, the angels told them it was a good thing, but it hadn’t completely sunk in yet. That joy hadn’t fully consumed them and their fear yet. They weren’t completely free from fear yet. So Jesus takes care of that. Verse 9: Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Even though the message of the angels covered it all, the risen Lord removes any doubt. He appears to them. And it’s interesting; his very first words after finishing his work answer the very first recorded words man spoke after creating the problem in the first place, after the fall into sin. Remember? When Adam and Eve had wrecked their perfect relationship with God, Genesis 3 records Adam answering God’s probing questions (Basically “why?”) with the same words that so often mark our answers, our excuses: “I was afraid.” And now, Jesus, having defeated what wrecked our relationship gives his first resurrection greeting and says, “Do not be afraid.” That’s the accomplished work his resurrection proves.
His power over death has freed us from the power of all that could go wrong — the power of worry, the power of nature, the power of the authorities, the power of fear. And look at what happens next. He has freed us for a wholly different life. Verse 9 describes what this did for the women: “They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.” They were freed for worship. You see, they weren’t freed from fear for apathy. They weren’t freed from the power of death so that they could go about normal, everyday, nonchalant life. Their fear was not replaced with boredom. Seeing Jesus, it was replaced with worship. Falling at his feet and proclaiming by their words and actions that Jesus is God and he is Lord of my life.
Has that happened to you yet? The message of Easter has freed you from fear and has freed you for worship. Are you living that? You haven’t been freed for some “I guess I gotta go to church on Easter,” but for real worship, for a life that worships, that declares God’s worth to you (that’s what that word means). He has freed you to sing with all our hearts — “I know that my Redeemer Lives!” He has risen to free us to shout out the response to the Easter greeting of “Christ is Risen!” — He is risen indeed! Easter frees you for worship, real worship.
And there’s more. Look at what he says next: ”Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Do you see how he has freed them not just from so much, but for so much? They are freed to worship and they are freed to serve. They have a job to do. Just like God has a purpose for you and me, they are freed to share. “Go and tell.” All of that because “Christ is risen!”
It’s true. You’ve been freed by the truth of Easter to do the same. Now don’t just proclaim that silently while you’re reading this in your head — but with your life, with your love, and with all your conversations. May God grant that the truth of his defeat of sin, death and the devil, the truth of Easter free you from fear and free you for everything he has planned for you. And may that show in how you live, in how you love, and in how you worship.
In fact, this Sunday, we’ll have another chance to reinvigorate our lives of worship, to represent our lives of worship and to talk about what it means that Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia. Amen.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday at 8 & 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.