“With fear and great joy”

When the Angel of the empty tomb appeared to the Roman guards, those courageous battle-hardened soldiers were so afraid that they passed out.  When the same Angel appeared to the women who came to care for the body of Jesus, they were also afraid, but they left “with fear and great joy.”  What was the difference?  The women had the Word of God proclaimed to them.  So explained our pastor in an illuminating Easter sermon, excerpted and linked after the jump.

From Rev. James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: The Resurrection of Our Lord Sermon:

The women did not tremble and become as dead like the guards. Yes, the guards who were the trained soldiers, who were the brave and hardened ones, who were ready to fight and die for their country, trembled. But we are not told the women did. Why not? What was the difference between the soldiers and the women that caused such different reactions?

The Word of God.

The angel who descended from heaven and caused the earth to quake, whose appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow, came down and sat on the gravestone and said nothing to the guards. He just sat there in His awesomeness and they were terrified.

But to the women – who saw the same thing as the guards – the angel spoke. He spoke the Word of God. Do not be afraid, he said. It’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay! For I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, he has risen, as he said. And though they still have fear – who wouldn’t at such a sight? – it is not the paralyzing fear of the soldiers – it is fear with great joy. For they do not just see what they do not understand – they hear the Word of God. They hear the good news that Christ is risen! They hear the Word of God that gives life and the good news that gives joy.

And so it is for us still today. Without the Word of God, if God were to remain silent, there is only confusion, fear, and death. But with the Word of God, with the good news of a resurrected Saviour and His victory over sin, darkness, death, devil, and all the forces of hell, there is joy and life. It is the Word of God that makes all the difference in the world. The Word of God made flesh that did it. And the Word of God that proclaims that truth now to us. That Jesus has gone before us in the fight, the incarnate God goes through death and to life again, and so you need not be afraid.

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