After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 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. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
I love angels. They make very dramatic appearances all over Scripture. They always come with good news, but before they deliver this news, one of the first things they say is, "Do not be afraid." When an angel appears to Zechariah, he says to the priest: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John" (Luke 1:13).
When an angel appears to Mary, he tells the young girl: "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus" (Luke 1:30-31). When an angel appears to Joseph, he tells the carpenter: "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:20).
When an angel appears to some shepherds, he says to them: "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people" (Luke 2:10). And, in today's passage, when an angel appears to the women who go to Jesus' tomb, he says, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. But he is not here; he has been raised." And of all the good news that angels have delivered, there has been no better news than this.
Why? Because Jesus died and rose again, and through his death and resurrection, we too have died and risen again — to new life, to eternal life. There will truly never be news better than this, yet there is fear in many of our hearts. Why? Why does good news make us fearful? Because it heralds change. And we are afraid of change. I can understand this. Change is terrifying. When we get used to a particular way of living, a certain way of being, we don't want the discomfort that change brings.
But think of the butterfly. Before it can spread its wings and fly, it is a caterpillar: earthbound and crawly sluggishly through life. One day, the caterpillar stops eating, hangs upside down from a twig, and spins a silky cocoon. The caterpillar's body is radically transformed within its protective casing, eventually emerging as a beautiful butterfly that can fly. I imagine how terrifying this experience must be for the caterpillar, but unless it goes through this, it will never fly.
We will only lead the abundant life that Jesus promised if we die to the world and are born again in Christ. It makes many of us fearful. Are you looking for an angel to say something to you? Well, I may not have wings, but I have a message for you. "Do not be afraid. The Lord says, "Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).
May the Spirit be with you.