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A strange and wondrous fear

Faith in Focus

Last year I went to the doctor for a physical. It was like most other visits to the doctor - somewhat inconvenient, yet simple and straightforward, for I was in good health. That was, until I got the phone call.

It seemed that my blood tests revealed an anomaly that the doctor was concerned about, and he wanted to see me again as soon as possible. Have you ever received a call like this? I hung up the phone, and my mind began to spin with all kinds of horrible scenarios, even though I knew nothing concrete. With one phone call, fear had crept into my thinking.

What scares you? There are many things that can certainly cause our hearts to skip a beat or bring stress and doubt to our minds. These things can be reminders that peace and stability are often outside of our control, that life is not easily categorized and manipulated.

This month Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Reflecting on this wonderful point in history, I was reminded of an interesting dichotomy in the story as it is described in Matthew's gospel. As Jesus rises from the dead, this miracle is accompanied by an earthquake that incapacitates the tomb guards with fear.

Some women who had come to finish preparing the body of Jesus were gripped by this same fear, and an angel told them not to be afraid, that their lord was alive. Perplexed, they headed home, only to find themselves face to face with Jesus. Upon seeing them, Matthew writes that they fell at his feet and worshipped him.

Now here's the intriguing thing: Like the angel, Jesus says to these women, 'Do not be afraid.' Earlier the women had been paralyzed by fear, but now they seem energized by fear as they worship the risen Jesus. In both cases the word fear is used.

What had changed? I think the simplest explanation is that they found themselves face to face with Jesus. They had watched him die an excruciating death on the cross, and now the world had been turned upside down. They were touching him with their own hands, and they saw him with their own eyes. Their fear bordered on wonder and awe; it recognized that in light of this resurrection they were being pulled into the very plans and presence of God.

The fears we all deal with in life can be seen in an entirely different way as we each consider the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Fear can cause us to focus on ourselves, and this can incapacitate us. The resurrection replaces that fear with a sense of awe and wonder that in Jesus we may find true peace. My prayer this Easter season is that you will find true peace.

Gregg Chastain is pastor of Fellowship Bible Church, which meets weekly at the Sandy Cinema.