What Is More Frightening Than COVID-19?

Text: Mark 16:1-8

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Can we be honest this morning? Yes, let us be honest in this moment right now.  Our culture is filled with fear.  The Coronavirus has taken an emotional toll on all of us, as Americans. 

For example, you have heard the stories of fear in the media – the voice intensity of newscasters: 

“Deaths are so high that portable morgues are being placed next to hospitals.”

“Today, we have had an all-time high for deaths!”

You have also seen the fear in the actions of people, where neighbors are calling authorities to report people for not social distancing.

And let us not forget social media.  Fear is abounding in social media posts with individuals lashing out at others for not following sanitary rules.

“Everyone has to do the right thing. Do it, and don’t ask questions or whine.  My life depends on how responsible you are!”

Dear friends, fear is everywhere right now. It is seductive. It is intoxicating.  People are afraid of being contaminated by the Coronavirus. They are scared of suffering from COVID-19, and possibly dying.  Yes, the Coronavirus is indeed a threat – an invisible threat – that can sneak up on you and me when we least expect it, resulting in possible hospitalization and even death. And as a result, fear sets in.  

Fear is an emotional reaction to dangers and threats. Fear occurs when we are caught off guard. Fear comes about when our worlds are turned upside down. You see, we like to be in control of our lives. We want to know what is going to happen in the future; we want life to be predictable. We like our routines, we like familiar things, and we like security. And so it makes sense that the Coronavirus is bringing about fear in all of us Americans.

Today, this Easter morning, we perhaps want to escape this fear by boldly grabbing ahold of the resurrection truth that Jesus has risen from the dead. In many churches across America today, fear is not even being mentioned in Easter Services.  Of course, we understand that Good Friday should invoke fear with its blood and suffering. However, concerning Easter, many American churches will have triumphant songs making it seem that fear is over – that fear has no part of the story of Easter.  But dear friends, I hate to be a bearer of bad news to you, but Easter is not so easily categorized solely with the emotions of triumph and joy.

In our reading from the Gospel of Mark, the first reaction to the empty tomb was – get this - fear, not triumphant joy. The guards at the empty tomb trembled and became like dead men at the site of the angels. When the women came to the empty tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, they were confronted by an angel who said to them,

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, just as he said.”

And after hearing from the angel and seeing the empty tomb, you would think that the women would have been filled with triumphant joy.  But they were not. They were filled with anxiety – shaking in their boots – with displaced minds, as they ran from the tomb in awe. 

You see, the event of an empty tomb was too much for these women to handle. They left the tomb trembling while bordering on hysteria. The women did not stand with bold confidence before the angel and empty tomb doing a mic drop while saying,

”Ah, we saw this coming. We knew today, when we woke up, that Jesus would be gone.” 

No, they were beside themselves. Their heads were swimming. They were stunned. They were so gripped and paralyzed by fear that they said nothing to anyone. 

To the point - unfortunately dear friends, it seems that we Christians are more fearful and overtaken by the Coronavirus right now than the Resurrection of Christ from the grave.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  We are gripped more by fear from the nightly news than we are with the news of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Now, am I taking a cheap shot at us Christians during this pandemic? You bet I am. It is a deliberate and rough question for us to ponder amid our fear right now.  Are we more fearful and overtaken by Coronavirus news than we are of the news of Christ’s rising from the dead?

I know for myself that I have been gripped in fear by the nightly news, while at the same time casually drawing near to Resurrection Sunday.  Perhaps, our greater fear of the Coronavirus has to do with the fact that we have designated it as being traumatic and unnatural.  But, my friends, please answer this for me!  What is normal and natural with the Resurrection of Christ from the dead? 

Ponder this for a moment with me. The story of Jesus’s Resurrection takes place in a graveyard. Christ had been dead for three days. Christ was made into a bloody sloppy mess through His flogging. 9-inch nails were driven through His flesh. A spear pierced His side, bringing forth blood and water.  And He was laid in a tomb with a large stone blocking the entrance.  As they say, it was over for Christ – the fat lady had sung.  It was the last nail in the coffin for Jesus. The last leaf had fallen.  And yet, right there in that graveyard – the place where everyone ends up at the end of life – the women experienced the most unnatural and traumatic things the world has ever seen, the bodily Resurrection of Christ.

Dear friends, the Resurrection of Jesus is not just an ancient comfortable myth that teaches us about the immortality of human beings. It is not a story that grants us fuzzy feelings that everything works out in the end. But instead, the Resurrection of Jesus is about Christ defying all logic, reversing all human assumptions, mocking all rules of life and death, stomping on the face of the devil, and rendering sin powerless.  There is nothing natural or normal about the Resurrection of Christ from the dead – it defies everything that we know about this life. And that is the reason why the women experienced fear and alarm. 

But what on earth does this have to do with the Coronavirus?  Are we to have a fear of the Coronavirus and now fear the Resurrection at the same time?  We can’t possibly have any more fear than we have right now!

No, my dear friends, the Resurrection of Christ is not an attempt to add more fear to your current fear, but instead, to re-center your minds amid the fears of the world. You see, after the women left the tomb in fear, their fear was slowly calmed.  And once their fear calmed, it gave way to joy.

What this means for you is this, yes, the Coronavirus is indeed fearful. It is unnatural and traumatic.  But Christ’s rising from the dead on the third day is more unnatural and traumatic than any virus, or any event of this life. And so, the Resurrection of Christ demands more attention right now than anything else in this world.  And here is the catch, as we ponder the Resurrection of Jesus, the Resurrection does not leave us in fear but does quite the opposite – it destroys fear. 

The Resurrection of Jesus shows us that despite everything that this world of sin, death, and the devil can give, that there is one who defies it all - Christ Jesus, the resurrected one. And why this matters is because we are given the promise that we too will be resurrected from the dead like Christ.

And so, whatever this world dishes out to you and me, we have a greater fear, love, and trust in Jesus.  We know that we do not belong to the fears of the world, the fears of Coronavirus, because the Lord has redeemed us. You belong to Christ – the resurrected one – therefore, you shall not fear anything from this vale of tears. As the Lord’s possession, His perfect love and Resurrection drives out fear and gives you a godly fear that gives way to hope and assurance amid fearful things around you. 

But keep in mind that this hope and assurance are not the same as recklessness. Hope and assurance are not a negation of the threats around you, but instead, the gifts of hope and assurance allow you to navigate through the calamities of life with a sober mind. You need not fear the events of this world – things that assail you, like the Coronavirus- because you belong to the resurrected Christ and nothing can separate you from Him, neither death nor life, neither the fears of today nor the worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate you.

And so, despite all the sin, calamity, and terror of life, fear not! You have been redeemed! Regardless of good times, bad times, sickness, or health, know that you have been called by name and belong to Another – Christ Jesus, the resurrected one. 

Fear, love, and trust in Christ, above all things – especially the Coronavirus, for Christ is risen this day for your justification.   

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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