“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and…rolled back the stone…(Jesus) has risen from the dead and is going ahead of (the women) into Galilee…they were afraid yet filled with joy…” (Matthew 28:1-8)
A colleague of mine showed me an email she wrote as a challenge to a recent management decision. In the letter she spoke up for certain individuals whom she felt didn’t deserve the treatment they were receiving. She voiced a concern that should the decision be accepted, an injustice would’ve been done and that the integrity of the organisation would be in jeopardy.
She signed off with a light-hearted, though paradoxically apt, phrase made famous by Kierkegaard: “Sincerely yours…with fear and trembling.” She meant, of course, to describe her own feelings about having confronted her superiors but the nuances are irresistibly abundant. Was it necessarily fear she was trembling with or could it have been anticipation and excitement? Was the fear meant only for her or also those she was addressing? Who or what would be trembling? Just her, or other people, or the situation as a whole?
In the Bible reading today, Matthew writes about an earthquake, an angel, a miracle involving the supernatural movement of physical matter (what else do you call an angel pushing a large stone away?), an unthinkable, unimaginable announcement: Jesus, the One who when alive embodied symbols, worked miracles and made claims in a way one could only describe – with fear and trembling no doubt – as the Messiah of God, was no longer in the tomb. He was, in the ultimate (trans-)embodied act of Jewish redemption, risen from the dead.
Jesus was right. His enemies were wrong. Jesus was favoured by God. His enemies cursed. Jesus’ message was the true one. His enemies’ were lies. God’s vindicating act is embodied in the man and message of Jesus. No wonder the women at the tomb were afraid yet filled joy – they had just been given news of an act of God. Who wouldn’t tremble with euphoria? Who wouldn’t shudder at the realisation that one is standing at the locus, in the presence, of the divine? Only those who have decided God isn’t worth taking seriously.
In the presence of holiness, awe. In times of shame, stillness. When carnal meets consecrated, trembling. When death meets Jesus – resurrection.
1. If Jesus’ resurrection represented a defeat of evil at its core, how can we manifest this victory in our everyday lives? What specific acts or habits or policies or attitudes must we confront with the power of God?