Sermon in a nutshell: Matthew 28:1-7
This is the fifth Sunday of Lent. We are meditating on the Way of the Cross. The way of the Cross gives us (1) a clear self-identity, a sense of calling, (2) the courage to practice sacrificial love, (3) the assurance of the living God, and (4) the faith that can see beyond the visible reality. (5) Today’s Bible passage proclaims that the way of the Cross will drive out our fears.
This is still the Lenten season and we are already reading the resurrection story. We have not even come to Holy Week, which is next week. Are you uncomfortable? Fear comes just from that feeling. When we face something unfamiliar and unsure we have fear. Fear is the emotion that protects us and promotes our survival. When we are faced with unfamiliar situations, our emotions are in the “fight or flight” mode.
So how can we overcome our fears? If we know all the facts we feel better. For example, if we know that Lent is 40 days for repentance and reflection between Ash Wednesday and Easter, (except for Sundays because all the Sundays are called “little Easter” when we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord ) we already feel better because we know about the resurrection even before Easter. Jesus has been alive for more than 2,000 years now!
However, knowing all the facts does not drive out fear completely. Our body, mind, and spirit have to adjust to the new reality before we feel safe. For example, today’s Bible passage says that everyone experienced fear when they saw angels. Also, a violent earthquake is not a daily happening. So, when we have a violent earthquake, we experience fear even though we realize that a violent earthquake was necessary to roll the stone that covered the grave of Jesus. So, if we see an angel who looks like lightening and whose clothes are white as snow, we will fear the angel, even though we know that it is an angel! We are also going to be afraid when we hear that somebody comes back to life even though we believe in resurrection!
I remember the fear that we had when we were students of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education). We learned that AIDS is not contagious unless one comes in contact with the patients in a certain way. Still, only a few students had the courage to go into the patient’s room to pray, to touch their heads or to hold their hands.
The Jewish people held the belief that they lost their country because they had disobeyed the laws of God. In the diaspora community, they decided to keep their laws, even though the Temple was gone and all the laws related to Temple worship were meaningless. So, they clung to the laws that had nothing to do with Temple worship: Sabbath (temporal law) and Kosher (dietary law). (They should have focused on the moral laws but it was harder!) When they saw Jesus violating those laws they were afraid! The Temple was not complete but it was being built. Jesus even said that he would destroy the Temple and rebuild it within three days. They were afraid.
Jesus explained all the laws in the light of these two laws: 1) love God and 2) love thy neighbors. Jesus taught that the laws were for people and not the other way around. To save people, we would violate the Sabbath law and to serve people, we would violate the Kosher law! What makes us alive is not the laws but God’s love for us and our love for God!
Jesus even died on the Cross to show how to love sinners, untouchable people, and ourselves. Then Jesus was resurrected to show that all those laws and regulations were shadows and had no real power upon true love. That is what God means when God says “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” We will respond to God, saying, “Create in me a pure heart O God and renew a steadfast spirit in me.”
Knowing that Jesus was risen is not enough. We will still have fear when hardship hits us in our lives. Loving Jesus will drive out our fears. Loving God and loving our neighbors will guide our actions and drive out our fears when we act. The way of the Cross helps us to love God and our neighbors without fear.
- What or whom do you love most?
- What is the biggest fear that you have?