Easter Week, Year Two[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 97, 99 (morning) // 115 (evening)
1 Corinthians 15:(29)30-41
Sometimes the difference between a living death and a resurrection life boils down to one thing: fear. Our reading from Matthew’s gospel this morning makes this difference very clear. Present at the tomb of Jesus this morning are two women (“Mary Magdalene and the other Mary”) and some guards who are stationed there. These two categories of people–the women and the guards–represent different responses to the new life of Jesus.
The guards respond first. When the earth shakes and an angel who looks like lightening rolls away the stone and sits on it, the guards are terrified. The Scripture tells us, “For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.” In their fear and trembling, these guards begin to live as though they are dead.
The angel has a different message for the women. His first words to them are, “Do not be afraid,” and then he tells them that Jesus has been raised, and that they should go quickly and tell the other disciples. Understandably, they still have some fear, but it doesn’t crush or paralyze them: “they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” As they run, they meet Jesus himself, who greets them with the exact same words as the angel: “Do not be afraid.” When they mingle their fear with joy, and when they run instead of getting stuck, they see Jesus and find more encouragement against their fears.
With the guards, it’s another story. At the end of today’s gospel, they are conspiring with the religious leaders and taking a bribe, agreeing to lie and claim that the disciples of Jesus stole his body. As the priests reassure them, “If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” The guards take the money, do as they’re told, cover things up, save their own skin.
Each day presents us with so many little choices between trembling in fear or running through it, between telling the truth or protecting ourselves. Even when these choices seem small, today’s gospel shows us their ultimate significance as choices between living with deadly fear, or receiving the resurrection life, even when it terrifies us.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.