Afraid for Joy
After the events of the past year, are we afraid to embrace joy?
To try to encapsulate the feelings and emotions of the last year, it is perhaps safe to say it has been one of great contrasts. Alongside the darkness of fear and grief, as the virus took its toll, there have also been many glints of light. Generosity has abounded, hope found in effective vaccines, and many heroic acts of courage with numerous people reaching out to show support for others in need.
In many ways this is reminiscent of the walk toward Easter through Holy Week. Of all the emotions that embody the energy of the first Easter it is one of great contrasts. There was Joy and celebration among the gathered crowds as Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Then fear and confusion filled the air around a table on Maundy Thursday, Jesus sharing a final meal of bread and wine with his friends. Before turning to despair as they looked on from a distance on Good Friday, Jesus breathing his last as he died upon the cross.
Just three days later, it is as Matthew describes “fear and great joy” that captures the mood of that first Easter Sunday as two women, Mary and Mary, rise early to visit Jesus’ tomb. To their amazement, the huge stone is rolled away, Jesus body has gone, a mysterious stranger waiting says do not be afraid all is ok; “he is not here: he is risen”! You can almost feel the heat of their emotions, could it really be true? Scared to believe this extraordinary message, we are told the two women ran with “fear and great joy” to tell all the disciples (Matthew 28:8), carrying this good news but scarcely able to take it in - that Jesus somehow is risen! Afraid for joy?
Do you know that feeling you have when you fall head over heels in love, your heart flutters each time you think of your beloved, but you do not want to get your hopes up too much just in case they do not feel the same; or getting a phone call saying you have got your dream job, your mouth is dry, and you ask the person on the line to repeat themselves just to make sure, feeling scared to believe it! A whole new life-situation is opening, new beginnings, a new life path ahead but maybe at that moment both fear and joy. Good news can sometimes feel like that. Fear and joy sit at the extreme emotions of the human heart.
However, amidst the thrilling drama and emotionally charged first Easter, Mary and Mary encounter the risen Jesus for themselves and he tells them “do not be afraid”, and then what is left when fear is dispelled – true joy found only in Jesus Christ.
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Happy Easter, Justin