But we all experience fear, every day. There’s nothing we can do to stop it. Your brain contains something called the “limbic system” buried deep within it. Its primary job is to ensure your survival. It detects what it perceives to be danger within a tenth of a second, and tells your conscious brain before you can stop the message. That’s why fear is so instantaneous. You cannot stop feeling fear. You can only decide to manage your fear.
Imagine returning to the tomb of someone you love, finding the tomb empty and an angel sitting on the tombstone. You’d be “trembling and bewildered” along with these women. You’d be afraid.
Where is your tombstone today? Where are you “trembling and bewildered” this morning? Complete this sentence: “My number one fear is ___________________.”
I fear for my family’s safety every day. I fear that my life will not fulfill God’s purpose for it. I fear not preaching the Easter message well on this important day. I have other fears too personal to confess to you. What are yours?
Step from fear to faith (Matthew 28:5-10)
How can you turn your fear into faith? Let’s close this morning by learning from Mary and these other women of faith.
First, confront your fear. “Do not be afraid,” the angel tells them (v. 5). Make that same decision. You cannot help the feelings of fear that plague you. But you can decide to respond to them. Name your fear today, and choose to confront it.
Next, believe the word of God. The angel gave them the eleven words of Easter: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (v. 6). Find a promise or principle in God’s word for your fear.
I fear for my family, but I can trust those I love to the Father who said, “I will meet all your needs according my riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). I fear failing God’s purpose for my life, but I can trust the One who will lead me into his “good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). I fear failing this morning, but I can trust this message to the One who said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Name your fear, and find God’s truth to respond to it.
Now (and this is crucial), you must meet the risen Lord personally. The women are still “afraid” after hearing the word of God, though they are also now “filled with joy” as well. Then, “Suddenly Jesus met them” (v. 9). Now everything changes.
The only One who can help you overcome the significant fears of your life is the Lord Jesus. The reason you fear them is that you cannot control them. I cannot guarantee my family’s safety. I cannot know the future and my role in it. I cannot control the effectiveness of this message.
But he can. That’s why you and I need a personal relationship with this God. Not just intellectual affirmation of his resurrection on Easter Sunday, but a daily, living connection with him. Time every morning in prayer and Scripture; time every week in personal and congregational worship. Only he can help you with the fears of your life. You must know him personally.
And when you do, you can step by faith into purpose (v. 10). He will guide you into the future and your purpose in it, despite the fears you face.
These women had a purpose, a calling—to be the first evangelists of Easter, the first in human history to tell the world about the risen Lord. They had much to fear—that the disciples wouldn’t believe them, that their families would reject them, that the authorities would arrest and persecute them.
All these things happened. But they stepped by faith into purpose anyway. And their fears turned to faith.
Emerson was right: “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” Step by faith into God’s purpose, and you will have his power. Then fear will knock, faith will answer, and no one will be there.
So this can be your Easter: you can leave today the way Mary and her friends left the empty tomb: “trembling and bewildered.” You can choose to “say nothing to anyone, because you are afraid” (Mk 16:8). You can leave as you came. With the same fears you brought to church this morning.
Or this can be your Easter: “Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid'” (Matthew 28:9-10). And they were not.
Dr. S.M. Lockridge is one of the most profound orators of our day. Listen to his description of our risen Lord: “He is enduringly strong; he is entirely sincere. He is eternally steadfast; he is immortally gracious. He is imperially powerful; he is impartially merciful. He is the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizons of the globe. He is God’s Son; he is the sinner’s Savior. He is the captive’s Ransom; he is the breath of life. He is the centerpiece of civilization; he stands in the solitude of Himself. He is august and he is unique; he is unparalleled and he is unprecedented. He is undisputed and he is undefiled; he is unsurpassed and he is unshakeable. He is the loftiest idea in philosophy; he is the highest personality in psychology. He is the supreme subject in literature; he is the fundamental doctrine of theology. He is the Cornerstone and the Capstone. He is the miracle of the ages.”
When he says, “Fear not,” he means it.