Easter Imperative (Handout)

Easter Imperative: Do Not Fear

Matthew 28:1-10

The most frequent command in the Bible is: ‘Don’t be afraid; fear not.’ Let’s make no mistake about it: until you learn to live without fear you won’t find it easy to follow Jesus. – N.T. Wright

Matthew 28:1–10 (NIV) 1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 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. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 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.” 8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 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.”

All the gospels stress the significance of the women as the first witnesses of the empty tomb. This is hardly likely to be a fictional invention, in a society where women were not generally regarded as credible witnesses, especially as the singling out of the women for this honor detracts from the prestige of the male disciples. We have seen how 27:55-56 and 27:61 have prepared the ground for the women’s role as guarantors of the reality of the resurrection. It is now through them that the male disciples are to hear the news and to receive the instructions of their risen Lord. But in Matthew (and in John with regard to Mary the Magdalene alone) their privilege is even more pronounced, in that it is they who are chosen to be the first to meet with the risen Jesus himself. The male disciples must wait until they get to Galilee (and even then some will “doubt,” v. 17), but he reveals himself to the women even in Jerusalem. – R. T. France

This is the second earthquake after the one following Jesus’ death (27:51, 54), and together they connect the death and resurrection as a single event in salvation history. It is also the third apocalyptic seismos (“earthquake”) scene and links this with the stilling of the storm (8:24) and passion events (27:51) in fulfillment of Zech 14:4-5…Some say the earthquake and angel are apocalyptic symbols expressing the victory of God and drawn from the portrait of the God of Sinai in Exod 19:18; Ps 114:7; Dan 10:5-6, 4 Ezra 10:25-27. – Grant Osborn

Although the guards witnessed God's power, the angel spoke only to the women; often when people fell before a revelation as if they were dead, the revealer declared, "Fear not." But here the angel says "Fear not" to the women, not to the guards who had fainted before him (28:4-5; cf. 28:10; 17:7; Mk 16:6; Dan 10:11-12). Jesus appears directly to the women as well, but not to those who did not believe (28:8-10; cf. Acts 10:41). -Craig Keener

2 Corinthians 1:8–11 (NIV) 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Psalm 116:8–9 (NIV) 8 For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, 9 that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.