“For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you…for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

Jesus regularly reminded his followers not to fear their enemies or the uncertainties that lay ahead. He invited the three trembling disciples at his Transfiguration to discard their fear, and to the ruler Jairus at his daughter’s healing, “Do not fear, only believe.” After Jesus crucifixion fear ran rampant among his followers. Joseph of Arimathea, owner of the tomb, asked Pilate for Jesus’ body “secretly, for fear of the Jews.” Nicodemus came with spices to help prepare the body for burial, but only under the safe cover of night. And the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, who had abandoned, and in Peter’s case even denied their Lord, remained hidden behind closed doors. Even the authorities who had put him to death were fearful. Great care was taken to seal the tomb. Against this feat and fraud was the simple faithfulness of the women, who had stood at the cross, watched as the stone was rolled over the tomb, and came at dawn to anoint the body. Their reward was the gift of being witnesses to the Resurrection. “Do not be afraid” were Jesus’ first words to them. The message attended his birth, his ministry, his death and Resurrection. And it comes to us today with the same gentle and compelling clarity with which it was offered on that first Easter morning. There is much around us that is awesome and awful. We know too well the divisions and suffering that plague our world. Many people scheme to play our fear, destroy our hope, and seal off our joy. But we have the confidence of our faith. We have seen the risen Lord! The women loved with such a perfect love that they shed their fear. Empowered by their faith and their encounter with the risen Christ, they ran on to proclaim what they had seen and what they knew to be true. They were among the first to know the truth that John later put into words: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18). They challenge us to love and believe. To love Jesus with a perfect love and to believe in the power of his Resurrection. The women invite us to such faith. Their testimony stands through the ages.

Adapted from “Bread and Wine” (Joyce Hallyday)