“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples” (Matthew 28:8).
When inexplicable and divine hope touches the human heart, there is a strange combination of joy and fear within. The fear comes not because there is something wrong with the message that “Jesus lives,” but rather because there is something wrong with the heart of man. The Bible reminds us that perfect love drives out fear, but Scripture does not say that fear does not remain crouching at the door of the heart. In fact, fear will jump back in the window as the Gospel pushes it out the door. You see, the problem with the human heart is that it is intrinsically sinful, wholly and completely.
When the women heard the unbelievable news from the angels — “He is not here. He is risen!” — the news was almost too good for their hearts to contain. All the hopes dashed just two days earlier suddenly came rushing back. Jesus! Alive! Our Rabbi! Messiah! King of Kings! Son of David! Can it be true? And the result in their hearts was joy and fear. Joy was there because of the nature of the news. Fear was there because human sinful hearts cringe in the presence of the divine.
Such good news takes time before it settles comfortably within us. Perhaps that is why Jesus did not ascend immediately after his resurrection. There was really no heavenly purpose for him to remain. His work was done; the mission was accomplished. Nothing left except to take his rightly place at the right hand of the Father. Yet he remained for 40 days — because there was an “earthly” reason to do so. He knew it would take his followers some time to believe the unbelievable, to adjust to the dead rising. In a sense, Jesus was rehabilitating the hearts of his followers from the idea that when people die, they stay dead; that when hope has walked out the door, it never comes back.
The message of Easter does the same today in our hearts. Our hearts, too, need rehabilitation. Each and every one of us. No matter what our station or position, age or experience. We all suffer from the same disease of sin. We all struggle when hope walks out the door, because of someone else’s sin or our own. But the gloriously fearful news is that in Jesus, hope is real. No matter what your sin-stained heart tells you about the future, hope in Jesus is real. May that resurrection message encourage and rehabilitate your fearful heart once again this Easter Sunday as you hear the angels proclaim to you, “He is not here. He is risen! Come and see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:6).
Pastor Dan Schmelzer is a member of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church serving with Capstone Ministries in Kisumu, Kenya.