“Overcome with fear and dread, they fled from the tomb.
They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Mark 16:8 Common English Bible
There are a lot of emotions that we associate with Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus. Joy, celebration, happiness, and awe are just a few that come to my mind.
However, no matter how long my list of Easter emotions gets, I seldom end up with “fear and dread” on it. And yet, that is exactly how Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome are described as feeling when they found the empty tomb and heard the message that Jesus had risen from the dead. They not only felt fear and dread, they were overcome with it.
We know that the women did not keep complete silence about the event as Mark says in his account – how else would Mark have known unless the eye witnesses told him? So perhaps the mention of being overcome by fear and dread was a way for Mark to explain why it took a little while for the report to spread. Truthfully, I don’t know and I am not sure that we can know. The ending here is filled with as much mystery as, well, as the Son of God.
The more I think about it, though, perhaps fear and dread are pretty common emotions when God shows up in a powerful way…
We sat in the sanctuary of the little country church and were just about ready to wrap up our Wednesday evening Bible Study when the doors at the back of the sanctuary opened. Standing in the doorway in a suit jacket three sizes too big and a tie that was older than my twenty-five years was “Jack” – one of the community’s heaviest drinkers and partiers.
I watched as he walked from the back of the church to the front row and swallowed hard as I wondered what was going to happen next. He paused by the front pew and said, “Preacher, I was wondering if you all would be willing to pray for my little boy. He’s four years old and the doctors have found something on his brain and they are doing surgery on him tomorrow. I know I’m not a member or anything, but I wanted to stop by and ask you to pray.”
There was a silence as I tried to figure out what to do with the group of “veteran Christians” watching their young pastor. As I started to ask the group what they would want to do, Miss Virgie, an octogenarian with both moxie and faith stood up and said, “Well, preacher, it looks like we got some praying to do. You get Jack up to that altar and we will gather round and have a good ole fashioned prayer time!”
Yeah…I did what I was told. I didn’t mess with Miss Virgie. That just wouldn’t have gone well.
It did go well for Jack’s son. Surgery was a wonderful success and the next year the little boy headed off to Kindergarten absolutely no different than his peers.
We saw Jack occasionally at the church. He’d sneak in late and sit in the back – or at least as far back as the regular members left empty seats, that is. He wasn’t regular, but people stayed in touch just like they do in small town WV.
I share this story with you because I have to admit that when I first saw Jack framed in the light of the opening door of that little church, the first emotion I felt was something akin to fear. I was afraid about what would happen next. I was afraid of the change that would come to this little congregation. What would transpire when what John Wesley would refer to as a “gross, scandalous transgressor” mixed among the familiar “reputable and decent sinners” (also Wesley’s words) that made up the congregation?
I didn’t know and I was a little afraid.
I also must say that I dreaded this appearance as well. Change is hard. Change is not fun. Change is, well, change! And sometimes we just dread it.
But when God shows up at the tomb of his Son, his only Son, and brings Resurrection to this world – that’s a big change. No wonder the women were afraid. No wonder they were overcome with dread.
When Jesus shows up in the lives of those we, well, aren’t quite comfortable with in our comfortable little lives, there can be fear. There can be dread. All because everything is about to change.
Remember that the next times something gets changed around you. Fear and dread were part of the Resurrection story – and no story could have been better for our world than that one. Its why we call it Good News, you know!